Fostering conversation between neighbors by installing Charlotte's signature front porch swings in public spaces.
July 2018 - Housing and Neighborhood Services and Planning, Design and Development were awarded a $15,500 AARP Community Challenge grant to install porch-style swings for public use near bus stops along Belmont Avenue in the Belmont Community. The AARP Community Challenge is a program sponsored by AARP Livable Communities that awards “quick-action" grants to make communities livable for people of all ages. The purpose of the swing project is to create “place” and opportunities for community interaction by installing unique and comfortable features where people gather, while improving the experience of waiting for a bus and the experience of walking to business destinations. Belmont Avenue was identified as a candidate for the swing project due to the community’s continual engagement around the revitalization of the corridor. Thanks to AARP for the generous support for the second phase of the Public Swings possible to help make this community a great place for all ages.
Swing Project Background
Before the advent of air conditioning,
the southern home was not complete without a front porch. Neighbors could easily communicate and, from porch to porch, build community. The Front Porch Swing Project installs porch swings on the Central Avenue corridor: four near bus stops on Central Avenue and one in the Plaza Midwood business district. The swings employ the southern tradition of welcoming front porches to create new conversation centers that connect people, enhance bus stops to improve the waiting experience for transit riders, and help bridge the gap between long time neighborhood residents, businesses, and emerging immigrant and millenial populations. Porch swings create a unifying element,
making the sidewalk and bus stops a new civic front porch.
The Central Avenue corridor was chosen for this project due to it being one of the most
ethnically diverse areas in the City of Charlotte. The CATS Number 9 Bus serving this corridor has one of the highest riderships of any Charlotte line. The porch swing project begins at the Plaza Midwood Business District, a vibrant area serving a diverse set of young creative class singles and families. It continues out Charlotte's east side, one of our most diverse communities with immigrants and houses of faith from Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Five swings have been installed on the Central Avenue corridor: four near bus stops on Central Avenue, and one in the Plaza Midwood Business District. We hope that the swings will inspire residents, neighborhoods and businesses to adopt areas at other local bus stops or to otherwise activate your unique public spaces in ways that you may not have considered before. There are lots of ways that you can do this. For example, you could build and install a Little Free Library near a CATS bus stop or at a CMS school bus stop.
If you have an idea to make your community better, we want to help you find the tools and resources to implement your ideas. Check out the City's neighborhood resources, and if you're still not sure where to get started, contact your NBS Community Engagement Neighborhood Liaison today.
The rendering above shows how public space can be enlivened with swings and other amenities.
Front Porch Swing Partners
The Front Porch Swing project is an innovative public/private partnership. Project partners include:
- AARP Livable Communities
Charlotte Fire Station 8, 1201 The Plaza
- CMPD Eastway Division, 3505 Central Avenue
- Memorial United Methodist Church, 4012 Central Avenue
- Midwood International Cultural Center, 1817 Central Avenue
- Central Pointe Apartments, 4933 Central Avenue
- Sustain Charlotte
- The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The role of Neighborhoods and Businesses
By reenergizing and activating public space such as bus stops with swings and other amenities, neighborhoods and businesses can create places where people enjoy waiting and where new opportunities for community interaction occur. Using the Front Porch Swing project as inspiration, residents, neighborhoods, and businesses can adopt areas near their bus stops or otherwise activate their unique public spaces. The Neighborhood Matching Grants Program can help eligible communities fund their projects. For communities that have a project idea but are unsure how to get started, Neighborhood Liaisons are available to help.
Innovative projects like installing front porch swings near bus stops are a fun and meaningful way to improve community quality of life. Anyone can do it. Working together, we can all move public spaces from lonely places to "porches" where interaction is encouraged and celebrated.