PPS offers customized workshops to help communities develop improvement agendas that encourage collaboration and provide a head start toward positive change. Structured around a participatory process in which issues of concern are identified and solutions from other communities are demonstrated and discussed, these workshops provide a forum for the public and private sectors to work together cooperatively on creating useful programs and setting up a groundwork for effective implementation.
Since 1975 PPS has been conducting special custom-designed, community-based workshops throughout the United States and abroad. We have found them to be successful in bringing diverse interests together to share their ideas and concerns, and in producing high quality, workable recommendations that lead to action and results.
A Typical PPS Community Workshop Procedure
Although every community has different needs, PPS customarily includes the following components as part of a community workshop:
- Review of Existing Plans and Materials. Prior to the visit, PPS reviews all relevant background information, for example, existing planning reports, historic data, previous streetscape plans, graphic materials, other local studies and recent newspaper articles. Major points of discussion are outlined in preparation for the workshop.
- On-Site Tour. As part of the visit, PPS conducts on-site observations and discussions of the area of concern with business and civic leaders, as well as other key community people, to become familiar with the environs and observe current uses and activity.
- Meetings. To further clarify salient issues, PPS may meet with key stakeholders before the workshop. Depending on the nature of the project, the meeting may include public officials, city staff, property owners, retailers, other local business people, residents and representatives from cultural and other institutions. These people are contacted and meetings are set up by the group that has arranged for PPS to conduct the workshop.
- Community Workshop. The actual workshop is conducted as an open public forum for interested members of the larger community (residents, business interests, employees, property owners, merchants, visitors, civic leaders, etc.). Issues are pinpointed and then discussed more extensively in small focussed groups. Within the small focussed groups, problems are further defined, and ideas for potential improvements and programs are “brainstormed” and discussed. Particular emphasis is given to projects that can be accomplished in the short term as part of longer range objectives. Strategies are discussed concerning how to implement these projects and the structure that would be needed for their accomplishment.
- To facilitate this process, PPS gives a slide presentation illustrating examples of what other cities and towns have done in similar situations that might have an application to the area of concern. The presentation of actual visual examples that relate to community issues furnishes a point of reference that stimulates discussion and kindles ideas.
- “Place Performance Evaluation.” PPS has devised a special “place performance evaluation” exercise that is used in many PPS workshops. This performance exercise incorporates PPS observation, interview and analysis techniques in the format of a game that allows workshop participants to evaluate sites themselves and enables them to gain insights and develop different ideas by looking at the sites from a user-oriented point of view. While the “game” can take various forms depending on the audience, equally dramatic results are achieved whether the participants are schoolchildren or professionals.
- Short Report. Following up the workshop visit, PPS further reviews and analyzes the information collected from on-site tour observations, interviews, meetings and the public forum and prepares a memo summarizing problems, opportunities and recommendations for an overall direction and implementation strategy, based on community comments and conclusions.
Topics Addressed in PPS Community Workshops
PPS community workshops focus on improvements to a wide variety of public spaces, including downtown streets and sidewalks, parks, squares, waterfronts, vacant lots and transit facilities. Among the topics addressed are:
- opportunities for small-scale design changes and special amenities
- activities and events
- retail improvements, including storefronts, signage, window displays
- building facade improvements
- signage and information
- community entrepreneurial opportunities, including public markets and farmers markets
- land use mix, particularly absent uses
- traffic, parking and pedestrian circulation
- enhancement of transit facilities and the areas around them
- tourist attractions
- preservation and reinforcement of historical character
- community oriented implementation strategies