An Action Plan in Action

Holly Moskerintz

By Holly Moskerintz

Idaho Smart Growth partnered with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and the Ada County Association of REALTORS (ACAR) in an effort to create a game plan around a shared vision for what downtown Meridian could become. Participants included the Meridian Development Corporation, the Arts and Culture Council, the Downtown Business Association (DBA), various business owners, the library, the food bank, the Chamber of Commerce, COMPASS representatives, Valley Regional Transit representatives, citizens and city staff.

During a two-day planning process, city staff was briefed on placemaking; one-on-one interviews were conducted; and participants were led on a walkabout of the focus areas, engaged in placemapping exercises and conducted place audits. All of this led to the creation of an action plan.

Participants Engaged in Placemapping Participants discussed their vision for downtown Meridian. The group observed that while downtown has some strong assets, they are spread out and disconnected by parking lots, streets and other factors.

Participants agreed on the following:

  • City Hall Plaza is underutilized as a public space and is disconnected from the rest of downtown.
  • Downtown needs more places to sit and hang outside.
  • Need to bring more millennials downtown.
  • Downtown needs more night life.
  • Need more places to go downtown.
  • Need places to display art and culture.
  • Improve opportunities to show art.
  • Promote free Wi-Fi.
  • Bring the library back downtown.

Overall the businesses were supportive of events as long as they don’t block access to their businesses.

Fourteen sites were identified for potential lighter quicker cheaper (LQC) placemaking activities. Each site analysis included a team leader, team players and potential activities. Here are a few of those sites and ideas as to what can be done at each of them.

City Hall Plaza City Hall Plaza is an underutilized public space and is disconnected the rest of downtown. There are currently some programed activities here; however, it was felt by all the plaza should be used more.

The group agreed on several action plans, including adding tables and umbrellas as well as flower planters in the plaza and introducing food vendors. They also agreed on hosting periodic social events like book readings, open mikes, CableOne movie nights and Live After Five.

Parking Lot Between City Hall and Main Street The parking lot creates a visual and physical barrier between City Hall and the Plaza and the rest of downtown. Long-term plans are to move the parking behind City Hall. This plan proposes lighter quicker cheaper (LQC) actions to tie City Hall and its plaza back to the activity on the street and invite people into the plaza.

These plans include removing a handful of parking spaces at the corner of Main and Broadway to incorporate and utilize the open space facing downtown. They will also create a public space to be programmed by MAC and the library. The addition of tables and umbrellas will give a place for people to eat and regular food trucks will invite people in.

Parking Lot and Alley Between Bank of Cascades, MDC Buildings and Treasure Valley Children’s Theater This property is public property and as such has significant potential for LQC activities. There has been some effort to create a public space in the alley next to the children’s theater.

Potential activities discussed include creating a public space programmed by MAC and the library; night activities tied into the programming at City Hall plaza. They’d also like to add small scale – potentially local eateries – food and coffee vendors in addition to farmers market style fruit and veggie stands. With the installation of free Wi-Fi and seating, the area will invite people to linger.

Generations Plaza Generations Plaza is viewed by many as the center of downtown and the strongest place to connect with the DBA and downtown businesses. It already has some level of activity around the fountain during the summer months and a tree during the holiday season but, as at City Hall Plaza, there is little casual daily use.

The team agreed that some programming by the DBA, the library and the Children’s Theater will enhance daily use. They will use the grassy area as a natural outdoor theater and setting for story hours. They recommended connected Flatbread’s outdoor seating with the activities on the plaza, including adding more seating and colorful umbrellas that can be rearranged. They have also discussed adding shading for better use during summer and lunch deliveries from nearby restaurants. The large utility box will also be transformed into a multiuse art installation by converting it into either a chalk board, a large scale tic-tac-toe, a magnetic word wall or painted on boards games.

To read about the rest of the sites, see the action plan for lighter quicker cheaper approaches for the city of Meridian, Idaho by visiting http://www.idahosmartgrowth. org/app/uploads/2014/04/Meridian-Placemaking-report.pdf.

So, do you think your downtown could benefit from a planning process to identify and analyze sites to come up with ideas to make downtown a destination and encourage more people to go there? If so, your REALTOR Association may want to apply for NAR’s Smart Growth ( html) grant to help with the planning process and the NAR’s Placemaking Microgrant ( to create a place identified in the planning process.

Holly Moskerintz is the community programs outreach manager for the National Association of REALTORS. Holly markets and promotes NAR’s community outreach programs to encourage the REALTOR community to use these programs to help their communities become better places to live and work. She works on NAR’s housing opportunity and smart growth programs where she plans and manages community outreach programs and provides technical assistance to state and local REALTOR associations. Holly developed and manages NAR’s placemaking, workforce housing forums and employer-assistant housing initiatives. Holly also works in partnerships with national and regional organizations to advance these initiatives.