Civic Innovation


​No Barriers Proje​​ct Overview and Next Steps​

In Charlotte, like many cities, underused or vacant spaces can act as physical barriers that divide neighborhoods. When situated at the “seams” of neighborhoods they have the potential to bring people together and build a stronger community, but instead they may be underused or perceived as dangerous – especially at night.  We know that these types of divides between neighborhoods reduce community cohesion and restrict opportunity. 

When people who are socially, racially, generationally or economically divided are invited to claim these spaces and work together to make them safe and fun, it may begin to break down negative perceptions that neighborhoods have about each other and the space itself. 

In Charlotte one such space is the Anita Stroud Park, located between the neighborhoods of Genesis Park, Park at Oaklawn and Brightwalk. This project provides an opportunity for learning and testing a new type of engagement framework around a subject urban areas struggle with, bringing neighborhoods together.  

The framework includes:
  • Inviting residents who live in the neighborhoods abutting the park to work together and reimagine their public space
  • Using light, sound, and play as an engagement ingredients to create a dynamic place
  • Supporting resident-led events and engagement activities in the space itself to test ideas
  • Facilitating efforts to translate residents’ ideas into ongoing programming or permanent installations

Project Engagement Activities to Date​

1. Friday Night Lights
In the spring, Neighbors from Genesis Park, Park at Oaklawn, and Brightwalk were invited to come together in Anita Stroud Park for an evening event called Friday Night Lights. It was an opportunity for residents in neighborhoods surrounding the park to connect with each other and enjoy an evening filled with fun, food, and glowing light boxes they could sit on, draw on, and move around. (Resident Participants: Approx. 100)

2. Community Idea Session
At the end of September, neighbors from all three neighborhoods gathered to look back over the pictures, videos, and feedback from Friday Night Lights event and watch how the glow in the dark experience, music, and games, transformed their park. The question discussed at the Idea Session - how might we continue to reimagine the park? How can light, sound, and play build community during the next No Barriers event and in the future? Residents’ ideas ranged from glow in the dark benches, to life sized tic-tac toe, to programming for kids.  They discussed LED wind chimes that could paint the park an iridescent color, and talked about a light up platform that could be used for dancing, plays and other activities. As the brainstorming wrapped up, residents honed in on ideas they want to pursue first. (Resident Participants: Approx. 100) They were:
  • SOUND - Music in the Park  (representing different cultures and various styles of music) 
  • LIGHT- Different colored sensory activated lights on and around the bridge (an underutilized space)
  • PLAY- Dance in the park (e.g. Zumba, dance related exercise or classes in the park)

3. Baseline Data Collection (ongoing)
Our team collected some information about how residents felt about their park space and what types of features or programs would make them more likely to use the park. We collected this information through open-ended feedback at Friday Night Lights and the Harvest Fest where we asked people to react to the prompt. “I like… I wish…” We also handed out a mini survey at two community events, our Idea session and also a McColl Center for the Arts event in another part of the neighborhood. We coded the open-ended feedback.

Here are the themes that emerged. People want 
  • Feeling of Community/Working Together
  • Events/Games
  • Play Opportunities/Programming and Equipment
  • Nature/Cleanliness/Respect for Space
  • Connectivity and Access to the space
  • Lighting features to create a safer environment

4. Volunteer Planning Sessions
A group of participants, including community leaders planned how we would test the three concepts in the park. Residents found a local DJ from the Genesis Park Neighborhood to provide music, determined the best time and space for zumba, and mapped out some of the logistics of the evening. (Resident Participants Approx. 15)

5. Harvest Fest
The Harvest Fest was designed to further test the residents’ concepts from the idea session. As planned, The “Harvest Fest” cookout brought together residents in the area for a fun celebration of their best ideas for Anita Stroud Park! These ideas were developed based on the last park event, Friday Night Lights, by residents who attended the Neighborhood Idea Session, and executed by leaders in the community. They included, an hour long zumba dance party for all ages, a live local DJ, interactive lighting features  (the light pulsated to the sound and movement), and a mobile art unit, The Mobile Mural Lab, brought to us by Artists-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. The Mobile Mural lab explored the theme  “Connections.” (Resident Participants: Approx. 200)

6. In 2016, residents participating in the No Barriers Project will decide on options for permanent programming and/or installations (based on their ideas and experiences so far) that will continue to enhance the space, make it fun, and provide opportunities for getting together with the neighbors in the area.  Our City design experts have developing renderings for making the staircase (the connection between neighborhoods) more vibrant, and residents have narrowed their planning to dance, music in the park, colorful birdhouses, and vibrant well lit staircase.