The Power of Community Engagement
Anthony J. D’Angelo once said that “without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” This statement is especially true when professionals consider the redevelopment of a community landmark that has played a significant role in thousands of peoples’ lives.
Communities around the country experience this scenario all too often: a once bustling shopping center or entertainment complex that was a community hub slowly loses its edge and becomes a blighted eyesore. The property remains untouched for years. New developments pop up and are the hip, new place to be. Residents reluctantly accept that their community landmark has perished.
What can we do to make these types of developments popular attractions again? I believe it starts with engaging the community.
Residents are passionate about their communities and they want their voice heard if a landmark is being repurposed. Over the years I have learned that individuals are generally afraid of the unknown. Regularly communication about the plan, design and overall goal of the redevelopment can help overcome this fear. The more residents are engaged in the redevelopment process, the more supportive they are of the plan.
Engaging community members can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Community meetings provide passionate individuals an avenue to offer feedback and share their aspirations for the redevelopment. Public open houses allow curious residents the opportunity to review information regarding the project and offer their input. Social media outlets and custom websites give community members a voice in the planning and design through online feedback forms and conversations.
Many community members who offer input are future customers, shoppers or tenants. These individuals are crucial to the future success of a redevelopment and developers cannot afford to ignore them.
As a lifelong resident of Overland Park, Kan., I have fond memories of Metcalf South Shopping Center, a staple of the community in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately the center faded over the years and until recently sat nearly empty. In 2014, LANE4 Property Group and The Kroenke Group purchased the property and hired DLR Group to design the redevelopment. This is a double victory for me. Not only is my firm designing the project, as a community member I have the opportunity to share my ideas and offer input as the project progresses.
Have you been involved in a redevelopment project in your local community? I would love to hear about your experience.