Client North 5th Street Revitalization Project
Can community benches that are design-built by neighborhood youth in partnership with local businesses strengthen a business corridor? Public Workshop worked with our client, The North 5th Street Revitalization Project, and local youth through Education Works to design-build four temporary, prototype benches with four businesses along North 5th Street. Due to limited time, Public Workshop developed initial prototypes with North 5th staff, the Philadelphia Streets Department and small business owners along the corridor. Based off of the basic prototype, each business owner was given the opportunity to choose one amenity that they wanted incorporated into their bench. One chose a trashcan (to help keep his sidewalk clean), another a planter, one chose a bike rack and another wanted a slide. Initially, we weren’t quite sure if the project would have the same empowering outcomes for participants or result in the massive community engagement that occurs when there is more time for participatory design. However, this worry was quickly proven off-base as the assembly of the benches in public by the local youth team members still resulted in them learning legitimate building skills; through reflection it became clear that it was no less meaningful to them; and community engagement was just as rich. We also quickly realized that there was an additional bottom line that we had overlooked: all of the prefab of the benches had been done by our Building Hero Project team members and not only did they earn money through this fabrication but it required them to raise the building skills to a whole new level and they also realized they were having a community impact, which proved emotionally valuable to the entire team. Public Workshop also provided activity branding, design and engagement strategy for this and subsequent events.