OpenIDEO: Vibrancy Inspirations 3

So far in the OpenIDEO Vibrant Cities challenge, I’ve focused on two themes that could help restore vibrancy to cities: art and nature. Today I’d like to add a third: mobility. I appreciate that cities are fixed spaces, and that real solutions take time and need to grow in a specific area. But as a way of incubating that regrowth, mobile solutions make all the sense in the world – they can come in to an area that’s struggling, provide some temporary boost, and then move on. This reduces the investment required, while temporarily providing something new to the area. It also works as something of a “people trap” – like a good mouse trap, you can keep moving them until you find the mice. You keep moving these mobile interventions until you find the hotspots where people congregate and growth might occur more easily or quickly, and only then and there invest more seriously in a long-term, brick and mortar solution.

Two mobile ideas are described below:

Mobile: The Food Truck

Mobile food trucks provide community, good food, and jobs via a small business. More importantly, being mobile, they can be used to suss out areas that might be ripe for redevelopment.

The idea of the food truck has definitely come up in past challenges (#IDEOFOODREV and #oi_localfood), but I think it’s also very relevant to this one. In the past five years, I’ve lived in and around two cities: Boston and Miami. Both have a growing food truck population, where even fancy restaurants go mobile to bring their wares to a lunchtime crowd, a student crowd, or an area without many dining options. In Boston, this has been going on for years, with the food trucks primarily serving colleges. In Miami, this recent effort has brought gourmet food along with fast food to many parts of the city, including outdoor events. Good food is a wonderful way to bring people together, and perhaps if subsidized, these trucks could provide rotating types of cuisine to many areas and populations that otherwise wouldn’t experience or couldn’t afford anything like it.

Mobile: The Mobile Concert (“Concerts a Emporter”, or “Take-Away (Take-Out) Shows”)

Back in 2006, Chryde and Vincent Moon launched a series of web videos (linked here) that showed popular musical acts interacting with their cities and their environments: in one, showing up and playing a tune in a random pub, using the piano that was already there. In another, REM drives around Athens, GA, playing concerts in the street, on bridges, and around town. There are now 323 concerts and counting, each one a very interesting take on an artist and an environment. This kind of ad hoc / semi-secret concert could very easily bring people into parts of town that they might not otherwise visit, and could provide a real boon to an area, at least for a short time.

The video is one of the earliest of their 323, this one of Dean & Britta performing “Knives from Bavaria” on the platform of Prince Street subway station in Manhattan.


Again, the point of these efforts would be as a low investment method for sussing out hot spots that could bear further development and be the beginning of the rejuvenation of an area.  These are low cost solutions, quick on the uptake, and potential indicators of areas that could bear heavier investment.

Categories: Urban Planning

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