Made in the Lower East Side: Transforming Vacant Spaces, With Neighbors' Help

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Made in the Lower East Side: Transforming Vacant Spaces, With Neighbors' Help Made in the Lower East Side: Transforming Vacant Spaces, With Neighbors' Help
Design

Made in the Lower East Side: Transforming Vacant Spaces, With Neighbors' Help

by Kristina Drury

May 3, 2013

Following the interviews, TYTHEdesign and miLES co-created an interactive street activity. We wanted to engage people in a process of listening and learning, show that we had already listened to the community through past interviews, tell the story of miLES, and to have fun. Our main goal was to use the activity to simply continue the conversation. We asked community members to tell us what they would want to see in the empty space or storefront, by writing on a small card. In the process of writing on the card, the MiLES team would engage the community member in a conversation, and it would help us understand the context and needs of the community. Through these activities, we learned a lot, including that sometimes our assumptions were wrong. We didn’t get any hard data, but we did understand that people were excited, that they were interested, and that they understood the need.

As a group of outsiders, all this feedback gave us the encouragement to keep moving forward and the knowledge we were somewhat on the right track. In keeping with this process of community engagement and testing before implementing, the miLES project has taken a big step forward. In partnership with Fourth Arts Block, miLES opened their first storefront at FABWORKS starting April 1, 2013 for a three-month period. They will use the space to test out their business model, find the true needs of the community, the types of services they can provide. Over the next few months they will hold classes, event, co-working, community meetings and short-term rentals. They strive to learn from others and turn them into vibrant community hubs for working, learning, connecting, and starting up new projects.

Watch for a new Kickstarter campaign, coming soon, for future spaces. Learn more at madeinLES.org.

First image (cc) Vivenne Gucwa, courtesy of miLES; second image courtesy of TYTHEdesign.

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