The Make Your Mark Plan: Community Engagement at Its Best

This abandoned church was temporarily converted into an “open house” for this year-long community planning process.

Last month, driving around West Philadelphia to find Clark Park, I noticed this unique store front and snapped a picture, not thinking much more of it until today. Today’s PlanPhilly newsletter alerted me to the new Make Your Mark Plan for the Lancaster Avenue Commercial Corridor and the adjacent neighborhoods. It turns out this building is an abandoned church and was the site of the plan’s open house in October of 2011 – hence the unique, eye-catching facade. The first floor was filled with maps and plans for five community open house events and the bright green paint on the outside is actually chalkboard paint Interestingly, the innovative facade is still there.

The Make Your Mark plan (the Executive Summary can be downloaded from Interface Studio here) is the result of a year-long collaborative planning process and is presented with a plethora of innovative graphics — two of the hallmarks of Interface Studio. The plan was commissioned by the People’s Emergency Center, a non-profit focusing on aiding homeless mothers and children but with an active community development program that supports park planning, facade improvements and neighborhood revitalization.

My favorite [well, one of them] element of the plan is the results of a community photo booth “suggestion box” where people wrote their suggestions for Lancaster Avenue on a chalkboard thought bubble and took their picture in front of a photo of the Avenue. There were calls for more jobs, more art, more trees, more fresh food outlets, cleaner streets and safer parks. This innovative outlet got all ages involved in the process but my favorite suggestion [of course] has to be “A string of parklets, pocket spaces, and public art installations strung together into a “Lancaster Walk.” This community member obviously has a clear vision of a green and pedestrian-friendly corridor. Check out the rest of the community’s big ideas: http://makeyourmarkplan.wordpress.com/big-ideas/.

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