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Journal

New Blog Launched: “The Answer is Community”

I’m excited to announce the launch of my new blog: The Answer is Community.

 

After fifteen years of working directly with communities to craft public spaces, I felt there was a chance others would find valuable what I had to say. The title is based on one of my favorite quotes by Dorothy Day which I feel touches on the deeply human drive for connection that underpins all community-based organizing and practice, no matter the discipline or context:

 

“We have all seen the long loneliness…and we have found that the answer is community.”

 

I’m planning on writing about a bunch of things of interest to me:

 

  • The human-centered drive to connect and belong and the value of place-based communities
  • The power of community driven design to bring people together
  • Best practices of inclusive and decisiveness community engagement
  • Commentary on local and national events vis-a-vis these topics\

 

My goal is to publish a new piece bi-weekly, and I hope this rhythm is the right balance between time and accountability. Writing can be challenging for me, so please bear with me as I give written voice to my observations and the ideas swirling around my head.

 

I hope this blog will eventually expand to include other voices and encompass larger conversations and collaborations. If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to hear from you.

 

If you want to know more, read my first blog posts, or sign-up to receive posts directly to your mailbox, head over to theansweris.community.

 

 

 

 

The Village at Casino Road Virtual “Grand Opening”

This week we were excited to receive this video celebrating the “grand opening” of the Village at Casino Road. Sadly, due to Covid-19 the opening isn’t what was expected and the spaces are still not fulfilling their intended uses. Still, it’s a wonderful milestone and we are happy to see the spaces complete and getting some use. Apparently the courtyard has been a great space to host their Covid-friendly foodbank!

 

We wish their were more shots of the courtyard spaces in this video, but oh well! The drone shots are really fun to see, however, although the contrast between the old and new paving makes the design a bit illegible from the air.

 

Learn more about Convene’s work at Casino Road here.

Out and Under : Outdoor Classroom Study for COVID-19

Convene is proud to release its most recent collaborative effort: Out and Under, a design and feasibility study for the emergency deployment of outdoor covered learning spaces during COVID-19.

 

Some of Convene’s most recent work has focused on re-envisioning and redesigning schoolyard spaces, with an emphasis on natural play and outdoor learning. Consequently, we’ve been really excited about the current local and national discourse about creating outdoor classrooms as a response to COVID-19.  This is a time to think audaciously and boldly about what is possible.

 

Sadly, we have seen logistical, budgetary and design complexities become intimidating barriers to progress. Particularly daunting is the need for shelter – creating safe and comfortable covered outdoor teaching spaces – and the challenge of building enough shelter to serve thousands of students across multiple sites within a district.

 

Convene saw an opportunity to help. As landscape architects our work is the design and feasibility testing of outdoor environments. We are trained to analyze the complexities of human experience, cost, context, weather, and more, to create successful spaces for people.

 

So we teamed up with our long-time collaborator Jason Medeiros of Outdoor Classroom Design to apply our skills to the challenge of quickly and cost effectively creating covered outdoor learning spaces.  The result it Out and Under.

 

We are distributing this document far and wide with the hope that it might bring clarity and confidence to the urgent work of creating outdoor classrooms. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any feedback and questions.

New Holly Youth and Family Garden Featured

We loved seeing our project at the New Holly Youth and Family Garden featured in this video about the Seattle Department of Neighborhood P-Patch Community Garden Program.

 

This was wonderful project within a Seattle Housing Authority Neighborhood involving many different ethnic minorities.  We love the description used in the video: “Inclusion in a P-Patch looks like New Holly Youth and Family Garden…It’s awesome because each neighbor is from a different culture.”

 

After a robust community engagement process involving multiple languages, Convene redesigned and rebuilt this P-Patch with the help of many community work parties. The garden site is under the powerlines managed by Seattle Public Utilities, and we were able to reuse decommission utility poles from SPU in the garden’s new retaining walls. Keep an eye our them in the video!

 

More information about this project here:

 

https://www.convenepllc.com/portfolio_page/new-holly-youth-and-family-garden/

 

A Drive on Ladybug Lane

I love this image of the “Wallybug” that the Seattle Times published today. The Wallybug was my first real community organizing and placemaking project, completed right after grad-school on the intersection where I lived. It was also the first intersection painting in Seattle (inspired by City Repair in Portland).

 

It is wonderful to see its graphic elegance and character from this vantage.

 

I have since moved away, but after 14 years it is still getting an annual refresh from the neighbors, many of whom first got to know each other through this project. Long live the Wallybug!

 

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/out-for-a-drive-on-ladybug-lane/

Save the UpGarden!

Eight years ago, Nicole Kistler and I facilitated the design and construction of the UpGarden – the county’s first rooftop community garden. It has since blossomed into amazing community hub and ecological oasis admist a rapidly densifying neighborhood. It won an Honor Award from WASLA in 2014, and is featured in a “Innovators” museum display at MOHAI.

 

And now it’s future is uncertain. As part the deal to renovate the nearby Key Arena, Seattle Center has given management of the garage over to the Arena’s corporate developers, the Oakview Group, who have decided that they need the 80 parking spots under the garden. This is outrageous, considering that the Oakview group’s own study claims that there are 13,000 spots within walking distance of Seattle Center – twice the amount needed for sold out Arena events. What gives?

 

In this age of climate crisis, tearing down a vibrant, innovative, and beloved community garden for more parking is shameful.

 

Here’s a great article in the Seattle Times about what is happening:

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/p-patch-atop-mercer-street-garage-evicted-to-make-way-for-hockey-fans/

 

UPDATE 1/1/20 : THE UPGARDEN IS SAVED! Check out more here:

 

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-to-let-p-patch-remain-atop-mercer-street-garage-wont-replace-it-with-parking-spots/

 

On the Boards: Casino Road Community Hub

A new Community Hub takes shape

 

We are excited to share with you one of the current projects in our office – the Casino Road Community Hub.

 

The Casino Road neighborhood, located in South Everett (and not having anything to do with a casino),  is one of the most densely and diversely populated area of Snohomish County. For years, the local community has been asking for a safe, shared community space where people can gather, build community, and access essential services and resources to support strong families. Connect Casino Road, a collaborative of local stakeholders, is seeking to meet this need by transforming an existing  building complex into a Community Hub.

 

Convene’s role, initially begun while Convene founder Eric Higbee was Executive Director of Pomegranate Center,  has been to help facilitate a community visioning process and then translate the community’s vision into vibrant community space. With collaborators Environmental Works spearheading the interior renovation, Convene has been working to design and detail a courtyard renovation focused around playful spaces and community gatherings.

 

We are in the midst of permitting and construction documentation, and are looking forward to the first phase of construction later this year.

 

Learn more at this KIRO Newscast: https://www.kiro7.com/news/north-sound-news/everett-is-one-step-closer-to-opening-community-hub-on-casino-road/764525859

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UpGarden at MOHAI!

“Innovators Turn Ideas into Reality”

 

How cool is this? This week I chaperoned my son’s field trip to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle.  In the “Innovation” display on the first floor, I stumbled across an image of the UpGarden, highlighted as the countries first publicly accessible rooftop garden!

Welcome to Convene PLLC!

Welcome to Convene PLLC!  Convene is the current vehicle for my community-driven placemaking practice (formally Higbee Design Collaborative) and I hope you enjoy the new name and new website. Please excuse the website hiccups as I get everything up and running smoothly. Things sure have changed a lot from when I first started designing websites in 1997!

 

From time to time I will be posting here project updates and various reflections on community and community driven design. Please check back often.

 

In Community – Eric

 

Hawthorne Workparty = Over 170 volunteers!

The energy and passion of parents, students, and staff at our Hawthorne Elementary Project continues to blow us away. On October 20th, 2018, we helped lead an “Early Success” community work party, a way for community members to get their hands involved in the project while the slow-turning machinations of the larger work (read:permitting) take their time. For our Early Success we planted thirteen new trees, refurbished the vegetable garden, and performed around a weeding and trash-pickup. More then 170 parents, staff and students turned out. Fun for all ages!

 

Learn more about out project at Hawthorne Elementary School here.