Discussion about entry

Community-Led Gathering Place and Child-Directed Play Space - Central Corridor

Great idea!

by Erin Bowley | Apr 03, 2013
 

I think there is a lot of need for this sort of space, given how popular the coffee shops are that offer anything like this. What you've described, however, sounds many times more educational, creative, and child-centered, not to mention not reliant on a for-profit business for its existence.

Thanks!

by Jennifer Strahan | Apr 03, 2013
 

Hi Erin,

Thanks for the feedback! Yes, places such as Ginkgo Coffeehouse, Coffee Grounds, Java Train and Riverview Cafe fill a great need and we can use more gathering places with expanded possibilities for creative exploration -- and we need spaces that can easily accommodate large groups of people and kids!

The idea for the community gathering place first came to me when trying to plan a winter social for my daughter's kindergarten class. The only free gathering place we could come up with that could accommodate 25 kids and their siblings was a fast food play land! No wonder everyone feels trapped at home in the winter. We're going to change that!

Jen

This is a fantastic idea. I

by Karyn Solseng | Apr 03, 2013
 

This is a fantastic idea. I often find that, as a lower income resident, I have a hard time finding cheap/free spaces where my children have the opportunity to enrich their lives with the arts. I believe that educational enrichment should not go hand in hand with wealth. What a service this would be to the community where anyone and everyone are welcome!

place for n-hood kids

by Elizabeth Beckman | Apr 03, 2013
 

This is a terrific idea...a great low-cost cure for cabin fever in winter and a place for families to meet other families with similarly aged kids.

Brilliant Idea

by Carolyn Mazzanti | Apr 04, 2013
 

This is a wonderful idea! I especially like the thought of having a place where kids of all ages can come and explore their creative self through free exploration of materials that allows them endless opportunities to express themselves. The idea about having community groups come together to sponsor events and activities will help to publicize these community based centers as well as the groups who sponsor events.

Brilliant Idea

by Carolyn Mazzanti | Apr 04, 2013
 

This is a wonderful idea! I especially like the thought of having a place where kids of all ages can come and explore their creative self through free exploration of materials that allows them endless opportunities to express themselves. The idea about having community groups come together to sponsor events and activities will help to publicize these community based centers as well as the groups who sponsor events.

There's definitely a need

by Jeremy Prose | Apr 04, 2013
 

I'm very excited about this project. As others have pointed out there is a real need for a space like this.

Wonderful!

by Emily Barnes | Apr 04, 2013
 

I love this idea! Eager to hear more!

another neighborhood rec center?

by Sheldon Gitis | Apr 04, 2013
 

How is this idea different from the neighborhood rec centers that already exist? Is the idea to just fund another rec center, or restore funding to one that's been cut? A million dollars isn't going to get you much of a building, let alone the money to keep it open and operating.

Much more than a rec center

by Jennifer Strahan | Apr 04, 2013
 

Hi Sheldon,
Great questions! Thanks for opening up a useful discussion.

We've spoken with numerous families in St. Paul and also set up a survey to see what people want.

What we’ve heard so far:
St. Paul residents want a fun destination that is regularly available for people of all ages. "Regularly available" and "all ages" are the two big needs that are not currently met by our existing community centers. The rec centers are mostly fully programmed, limiting possibilities for people who are not signed up for those programs/sports.

For example, I called the Merriam Park rec center to ask about winter drop in opportunities for a group of kindergartners to come and play/ run around. I learned there was an open gym after school from 3-5:30, but that it was mostly full of older kids playing basketball. The staff person suggested it was not a good fit for younger kids. I asked about evening hours so we could drop in after work, but the gym is fully booked with organized sports.

I also asked about opportunities for drop in socializing or hosting a neighborhood play date in one of the rooms in the recreation center. I was told I could rent a small room for $14/ hour or large room for $28/hour. Should residents really have to rent a room in order to organize a public gathering?

What people want in a gathering place (taken from the survey):
Arts & crafts, music, community dances, infant, toddler and preschool play space, building blocks, movie nights, family nights, game nights, multi-cultural activities, dancing, tool lending library, social lounge area with refreshments. Most of these are currently available in our rec centers (certainly not on a daily basis).

You bring up a good point about using existing recreation centers, rather than building a new one. We’d love to work directly with St. Paul Parks and Recreation to set up more flexible gathering options within our existing centers. We suggested using a space near the light rail as the pilot location for the twofold benefit of revitalizing the central corridor, but you may be right that we would not get much of a space for the money. Regardless, the key outcome of this project is to establish a sustainable model for encouraging and empowering residents to take ownership of a community gathering place and make it a place that serves anyone, anytime.

To get started, we’ve set up a survey asking people what they’d like to see offered in a community gathering place as well as what they would contribute to help make the vision a reality. 92% of people who responded so far said they would volunteer occasionally, 31% offered to lead activities, 46% offered to donate money, 39% will donate furnishings, 70% will donate art materials/scraps, 31% want to share their heritage and 23% will put on a performance.

Given the tremendous input so far, we feel the community will come together to create an amazing place!

If you are interested in sharing input, please go to:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stpaulgatheringplace

If you have any further thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear them.

I'm interested in this idea -

by Joanna Deer | Apr 04, 2013
 

I'm interested in this idea - it sounds like combining elements from several other offerings; the toddler gyms/rec centers, storytime/activities at public libraries, and coffee shops w play areas. I think something like what is proposed here could work but think it needs to have something to attract parents/caregivers as well - such as the lounge/gathering area, and ideally, a coffee shop. I've been talking with other parents recently about how it would be amazing to have something like a toddler gym or Eagles Nest WITH a small coffee shop - even a kiosk - for parents. Genius.

Fun!

by Hanna Brandt | Apr 04, 2013
 

I think this is a fantastic idea. It is more than a rec center. It is active and artistic all at once. And, it is accessible to many different ages.

Very Necessary!

by teresa romero | Apr 04, 2013
 

Not only is this a great idea for children, but as a parent I would really like to be able to socialize with other adults while my child is playing and being creative! Wonderful!

Survey Monkey? Who are these % people?

by Sheldon Gitis | Apr 05, 2013
 

I glanced at the https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stpaulgatheringplace site. Who are these people you're referring to as "92% of people who responded so far said they would volunteer occasionally, 31% offered to lead activities, 46% offered to donate money, 39% will donate furnishings, 70% will donate art materials/scraps, 31% want to share their heritage and 23% will put on a performance." Do you have any actual names and numbers, or just some alleged surveymonkey.com percentages?

Also, you accurately state: "Arts & crafts, music, community dances, infant, toddler and preschool play space, building blocks, movie nights, family nights, game nights, multi-cultural activities, dancing, tool lending library, social lounge area with refreshments. Most of these are currently available in our rec centers (certainly not on a daily basis).” Sounds to me like you just want to take over the management of a rec center, possibly with more of a focus on young mothers and their young children and less of an emphasis on teen activities.

Opportunities for all residents

by Jennifer Strahan | Apr 22, 2013
 

Hi Sheldon,

We see the gathering space as a place that would offer more opportunities to people of all ages. If we were to work with community centers, we'd supplement offerings by volunteering to lead activities in unused spaces / or help extend hours in centers that are closed during the day and on weekends.

Regarding your question about the survey responses, I posted the survey link on the e-democracy neighborhood forums for St. Paul. The percentages posted were from 20 responses and there have been responses directly to the forums as well.

Jennifer

Room To Play!!

by Carrie Mercer | Apr 08, 2013
 

I love this idea so much! As much as I love our rec centers and all the programming they provide, I have also been frustrated that they never really have free time to just come play, or room to do any of the things you mention in your idea.

I wish I had room to do all this stuff in my home, but even if I did, I wouldn't have the community that a place like this would sustain. I love the idea of having simple materials for kids to play with, as it not only provides them with a place to use their imaginations, but instills in them an understanding and love of reusing/recycling.

I also love the idea of having a place to make crafts and do projects, for kids and adults. I would happily lead/volunteer/contribute materials to be a part of this.

Thanks for the wonderful idea, Jen

An amazing and very practical

by JK Mochinski | Apr 12, 2013
 

An amazing and very practical idea to foster and grow community and neighborhood relationships! This would be a great opportunity for parents and children to share playtime and stretch their creative imaginations.

Pros and Cons

by Katie Nave | Apr 15, 2013
 

I too have found a lack of free or cheap places to take my children to play. Coffee shops and fast food places are ok for unstructured play but expect you to buy things. The rec center near me just got torn down because they used it so badly. If you could find a way to get access to under used places like church basements or various rec centers that might be useful. I want something where my kids can meet others in the community without just wandering up and down nearby streets (which we have done before). I love the idea of having crafts and play for preschoolers and elementary kids.

There will be many obstacles though. Will there be a staff person on hand at all times or will you rely on volunteers that may or may not need background checks? Where will materials come from? Businesses may donate some things like old cardboard boxes and such but it will take man hours to find people willing or money to purchase supplies. I worry that your dreams may be a little too diverse in expectations for such a free form space. Perhaps a system that matches available spaces with people wanting to host something or a more refined initial location with the possibility of tailoring future sites to the community's desires.

The project is not impossible and would be really cool if it works but it will take a lot of work to get going.

Creative Placemaking discussion forum

by Jennifer Strahan | Apr 22, 2013
 

Hi Katie,

Thanks for the input. We'd love to see people work together to set up gatherings in unused spaces across the city!

To discuss solutions to the obstacles you've pointed out, we've set up an online Creative Placemaking forum where people throughout the region can share thoughts and tips on creating community-supported gathering places:

http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/place/

We'll use the space to bring people together, set up planning meetings, find volunteers, find spaces, etc. We've found there is great enthusiasm for the idea, and as you've pointed out, people just need a matchmaking system!

Jen

We're getting started! Here's how to participate:

by Jennifer Strahan | Apr 22, 2013
 

Hi Everyone,

We're working with the St. Anthony Park Community Council/ Creative Enterprise Zone project to test out the idea for a community-supported creative gathering place.

To learn more and get involved go to:
creativestpaul.org

We're seeking volunteers as well as donations to pay for a short term lease on a space in one of the vacant University Ave. storefronts.

Together, we can create an amazing place!

Thus we could greatly use

by Digs Polines | Feb 17, 2014
 

Thus we could greatly use this as something that we should be aware of for anything that we should be doing. - Sandra Dyche