Montpelier, VT

Contact Name
Ward Joyce
Project Dates
2016 & 2017
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2017
Langdon Street Alive is a multi-year creative placemaking project transforming an under-appreciated street into a public arts and events space. In 2016 we commissioned site-specific art and streetscape installations from one end of the street to the other, and engaged many community members in the project’s design, installation and maintenance. The project seeks to highlight the value of our public spaces and streets, and gives local artists the chance to use their creativity to inspire these conversations. Because Langdon Street is a compact street of one long block, this project has managed to redefine the historic street into a unique space.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The starting point of Langdon Street Alive is an unexceptional single-block street that is lined with vibrant businesses, but lacks pedestrian amenities of any kind. We will redefine the character of the street by creating artistic gateway pieces at both ends, and by infusing the block with creative streetscaping, murals, sculptures and floral arts to make it more pedestrian-friendly. Langdon Street Alive will be a low-cost, high impact Tactical Urbanism project with the same objectives as last year’s Montpelier Pocket Park, which transformed an ugly vacant lot into a dynamic and beautiful public space.

Our Build a Better Block project will illustrate what more vibrant down towns look like by creating a dynamic public space in what was a poorly-defined city block. Tactical Urbanism projects like this are small and agile ways to stimulate the community’s imagination by demonstrating change more readily than infrequent, large scale projects can. These projects are especially valuable because they bring people together to create a more healthy community, one space at a time.

While Montpelier is a great place to live, its down town is overwhelmed by cars like most American cities. Montpelier’s City Council set the goal of becoming a nationally recognized bike and pedestrian friendly city, which requires re-configuring our downtown for people of all ages on foot and bike. Langdon Street is an ideal setting for pedestrian improvements and community festivals due to its compactness and existing charm, but also because its central location means the project can impact the entire downtown. We expect this project to inspire more projects of this type in other communities. To this end we will invite community planners from around the region to learn from the project.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
We started in 2014 with a parklet, transformed it into a pocket park, and then moved up to the transformation of an entire street. Each of our projects has been larger and more challenging than the last.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Team members:
Project Director:
Ward Joyce, public space architect and artist
Steering Committee Members:
Stephen Frey, architect and artist
Sarah Jarvis, President Montpelier Alive, Attorney at VT League of Cities and Towns
John Snell, Montpelier Tree and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, local artist
Kevin Ellis, Public Affairs Consultant and urban activist
Paul Boffa, Musician and local school teacher
Rob Hitzig, Montpelier Alive Board, local artist
Jenn Gordon, Montpelier Bicycle Advisory Committee
Marni Leikin, Director of Graduate Studies in Art and Design Education at Vermont College of Fine Arts, local artist
Gary Holloway, Downtown Program Coordinator, State of Vermont
Xavier Jimenez, Owner Buchspeiler Records, Langdon Street
Sarah DeFelice, Owner Bailey Road, Clothing Boutique, Main Street
Ben Cheney, sculptor

Partners: the following made financial or in-kind contributions last year, and we hope to have their support again:
National Life Group Foundation, Montpelier Alive, Community Engagement Lab, City of Montpelier, New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Technical College, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier High School, City of Mplr. Transportation Committee, Drawing Board
Myles Barbershop, Bailey Road, Pyralisk Arts Center, Ward Joyce Design, Arocordis Design, Rogen Design/Build, Watershed Construction, Blue and Green Gardens, DeWolfe Engineering, Casella Resource Solutions, Onion River Sports, NES Rentals, River Street Associates, Susan Ritz, Kevin Ellis, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, Artisan’s Hand, Ondine Salon, Vintage Trailer Supply, Capitol Cab, DeGeorge Builders, Clar Construction, Washington County Courts, Fontaine Lumber + 45 individuals.

Additional project supporters: the following City officials supported the project from the start:
Ashely Witzenberger, E.D. Montpelier Alive
John Hollar, Mayor of Mplr.
Jessie Baker, Assist. City Manager
City Council, Design Review & Development Review Boards
Public Works
Tony Facos, Police Chief
Montpelier Downtown Business Association
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Tactical Placemaking is done to test ideas, to illustrate potential permanent improvements. Our work is temporary, but seeks to change the city's sense of itself.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We have studied carefully Tactical Urbanism around the country, but of particular interest is the work by NY City planners to make the city more pedestrian and bike oriented. Our PowerPoint will show best examples from around the country.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
Project was defined, a Steering Committee of 12 was formed, fundraising for the plan to transform a street with public art began. We then went through permitting with to hope that we would raise enough funds. We succeeded in both and proceeded with a Call to Artists and then commissioned and cultivated 20 pieces of site-specific art and architecture designed to change the street.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Probably the most important steps were 100+ conversations in the community. We invited everyone that we could imagine to review our ideas and either add, join or at least make comments about our project ideas.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The beauty is that there weren't any difficult obstacles. Good project leadership and a great idea made our projects easy to accomplish, as long as we could raise enough funds.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The tenacity of the project designer, and the support of the steering Committee. We also had background support from the city though they did not provide much funding.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Come up with a great idea
Find a local organization or enthusiast for whom this work really matters.
Engage the community so that it gets done together, and is maintained by them.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Our three projects have changed the city of Montpelier. People have said they moved here because of them. We have provided some of the most important public spaces built in the last 20 years to the city.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Very successful, and we'll show you why!
How did you measure this success or progress?
By the engagement of neighbors, by volunteer hours, by the parties we had on the street, by word of mouth appreciation of the work. Also the quality of art and the artists' enthusiasm is a testament to the effort.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
We were approached by a Fortune 1000 company asking how they can help make our projects sustainable - how they can contribute. The city has also asked how they can support our work, which had been done outside of city involvement and donated to the citizens.
CCX Workshop Handout