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AARP Livable Communities Placemaking Workshop: Breakout Sessions

The sessions listed below occurred on Tuesday, November 12, and Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The breakout sessions are listed alphabetically. The presentation summaries were provided by the presenters. Click here to return to the workshop's main page.


Bridging Bureaucracies to Boost Bicycling 

  • James Wilson, Executive Director, Bike Delaware
A gathering of bicyclists in Delaware

An image from the presentation "Bridging Bureaucracies to Boost Bicycling."

How can we effectively advocate for the transportation infrastructure we need so that people of every age and ability can safely bicycle in our communities? Bike Delaware shared a fun story about an AARP-sponsored conference that brought together  international experts on cycling from the Netherlands and put the right government officials on bicycles. A tiny, but surprisingly effective, grant program for bicycle infrastructure illustrated the importance of creative advocacy in the genesis of transportation capital projects.

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Collaborate and Advocate: Tips From Local Government

  • Erin Fisher, Director, Alpine Area Agency on Aging
  • Lorie Williams, Manager, Summit County Community and Senior Center

Summit County in Colorado and the Alpine Area Agency on Aging work well together at supplying residents of the County and its nine towns with senior services, information, and resources. The presentation explained how the effectiveness of advocacy increased when two aging services providers worked together to make it easier for older residents to age comfortably and safely. 

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Moderator: Gayle Langley, Main Street Coordinator, Colorado Department of Local Affairs

The Montrose Model

  • Barbara Bynum, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of Montrose
  • Bill Bell, City Manager, City of Montrose

It all starts with an idea ... but that is often where it ends. Montrose, Colorado, is a community that has led the way in creating equity by taking action. Many successful projects have come to life in Montrose including a state-of-the-art community recreation center, a senior housing project, a community health clinic, and a north/south trail that connects all these amenities. 

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For the Love of Winter: How Leadville is Reactivating a Public Park for All Users in All Seasons

A community suggestions board in Leadville, Colorado

An image from the presentation "For the Love of Winter: How Leadville is Reactivating a Public Park for All Users in All Seasons."

  • Sarah Dallas, Administrative Services Manager, City of Leadville
  • Bethany Maher, Main Street Manager, Leadville Main Street

At 10,200 feet, Leadville is no stranger to winter. In 2019, Leadville was selected by 880 Cities as one of three vanguard communities to pilot a "wintermission" plan which aims to target social isolation and combat traditional difficulties of winter living by implementing new techniques, better built environments, and more activities to bring all ages together. Learn how Wintermission Leadville is working with the Leadville Main Street Program to reactivate an underutilized park to create a truly inclusive, healthy, and connected space for all seasons.

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Choice Aging: La Junta

  • Cynthia Nieb, Director of Economic Development, City of La Junta

La Junta, Colorado, represents a small rural city on the Santa Fe Trail that loves all of its citizens. Through economic and community planning — as driven by Main Street concepts — the city is instituting safe, fun, innovative, and economically-viable places for all of our people, while challenging the concept of what seniors want and who they are!

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Connecting People to Places in the Virgin Islands

  • Barbara Walsh, Secretary/Treasurer, Virgin Islands Trail Alliance
Three photos of outdoor furniture created in the U.S. Virgin Islands

An image from the presentation "Connecting People to Places in the Virgin Islands."

The Virgin Islands Trail Alliance (VITAL) was organized in 2016 to create multi-use pathways connecting people to the places they want to go across St. Croix and the Territory. After two major hurricanes in 2017, the needs of residents and opportunities to make change, have multiplied. The presentation stresses the important role of partners, including AARP Virgin Islands, to implement changes. 

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Lyons Flood Recovery

  • Paul Glasgow, Director of Community Development/Town Planner, City of Lyons

In 2013, a devastating flood impacted nearly every aspect of the Lyons, Colorado, community. This presentation highlighted the resources and strategies that helped the town re-build. 

Presentation not available


Street Lab DSM

  • Mike Armstrong, Director of Planning and Communications, Street Collective
A Pop-Up Parklet on a wide roadway

An image from "Street Lab DSM."

Street Lab is a Des Moines, Iowa-based program providing a materials library, expertise, and guidance for temporary demonstration projects run by cities and community organizations. From economic activation, to health and safety initiatives, this program is supporting neighborhood efforts for better places.

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Pop-Up Demonstrations: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  • Ben Ehreth, Community Development Director City of Bismarck, North Dakota

Pop-up demonstrations, or tactical urbanism, offer powerful means to engage the public to envision place. Over the past few years, North Dakota communities, large and small, have pursued pop-up demonstrations on the local and state transportation systems to initiate conversations about how place could be reimagined. There are, however, both positive and negative aspects of pop-up demonstrations of which a community should be aware, which can make the difference in the success of your efforts. 

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Buffalo Better Block: Lessons Learned

  • Randy Hoak, Associate State Director of Community Outreach, AARP New York

Resources are just the beginning when it comes to engaging a community in a pop-up placemaking demonstration. Formal and informal space ownership, outreach, and community leadership buy-in are all important factors to consider during the planning phases.

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Tactical Urbanism in Park Projects

  • Christine Newman, Director of Community Outreach and Volunteer Engagement
    AARP New Jersey
A scene from a New Jersey placemaking event

An image from the presentation "Tactical Urbanism in Park Projects."

This presentation explored how volunteers and communities can use low cost/no cost temporary interventions as a demonstration tactic to enhance livability of parks and public spaces. Three project examples from New Jersey highlighted key elements including: community support and buy in, keeping a focus on long term change and looking at non-traditional park spaces as important community features.

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Building a Park for All Ages

  • Kameelah Alexander, Community Services Representative, City of Wichita, Kansas
  • Andrea Bozarth, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Kansas

Developing the Grandparents Park in Wichita, Kansas, required bringing partners and the community together to develop and implement a shared goal. AARP Kansas and the City of Witchita described who was involved in planning and advocating for the park, how the team was able to move the plan forward, and shared some of the lessons learned — from pitfalls to peaks.

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SeniorScapes Park at Monocacy Village Park

  • Sue Paul, Executive Director, SeniorScapes, Inc.

SeniorScapes, Inc. is developing an accessible, senior-centric and dementia-friendly area inside an existing public park in Frederick, Maryland. The idea is to provide older people with an outdoor space designed to promote physical, cognitive and psychosocial health, as well as provide caregivers and families a safe, fun and multigenerational destination. Features include fitness equipment, brain games, sensory integrative activities, balance and community mobility and exposure to nature.

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Using Paint to Create a 24/7/365 District

  • Elizabeth Brodek, Executive Director, The East Side Business Improvement District
A colorfully painted outdoor piano

An image from the presentation "Using Paint to Create a 24/7/365 District."

As we look to build 24/7/365 economies, simple projects can give people a reason to visit a district at any hour of the day or night, whether or not businesses are open. Infill development results when people want to stay in an interesting place.

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The Pueblo Riverwalk: A Story of Community Revitalization and Beauty

  • Lynn Clark, Executive Director, Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo

For years, various members of the Pueblo community talked about beautifying central Pueblo in the area where the historic Arkansas River flowed. That area consisted of cooling ponds, parking lots, a ditch, weeds and debris. What once was originally home to Native Americans, trappers, adventurers, and, eventually a thriving business district, deteriorated after the devastating flood of 1921 and the subsequent relocation of the river outside of the city. Pueblo citizens led the way to reclaim the original river channel and revive, as well as beautify, the historic tract.

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There’s a Hole in Our City: Creating a Vision for a Vacant Lot in the
Heart of Asheville

  • Chris Joyell, Director, Asheville Design Center

For 15 years, Asheville, North Carolina, disagreed over what to do with a city-owned acre of vacant land in the center of the downtown. The city asked the Asheville Design Center to work with the community to define a vision for the site, incorporating input from over 300 senior residents that live on either side of the vacant lot. ADC shares the tools and techniques it used to reach a consensus for the future of the site, ending more than a decade of squabbling.

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DRCOG’s Boomer Bond Assessment Tool

  • Brad Calvert, Regional Planning and Development Director, Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG)
A scene from a Philly Free Streets event

An image from "Philly Free Streets: Piloting Placemaking in Car-Free Streets."

The Boomer Bond, a program of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, helps prepare the region and local communities for the dramatic increase in the region’s older adult population. The Boomer Bond assessment tool helps the region’s local governments identify challenges and gaps, and equips them with strategies and tools to support healthy, independent aging, so older residents can safely and successfully remain in their homes and communities.

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Philly Free Streets: Piloting Placemaking in Car-Free Streets

  • Charlotte Castle, Director of Special Projects, Office of the Managing Director
    City of Philadelphia
  • Yocasta Lora, Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach, AARP Pennsylvania

Philly Free Streets is a people-powered initiative of the City of Philadelphia that temporarily closes streets to cars, inviting people to walk, bike, roll, and play. With AARP Pennsylvania’s support, Philly Free Streets has developed into a program that invites neighbors to pilot creative placemaking, igniting imaginations and possibility.

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Maplewood Re-Leaf

  • Sheila Holm, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Missouri

The redesign of a bus stop can turn an ordinary space into an interactive and fun place for people of all ages that integrates with the community. A complex collaboration of partners, residents, elected officials and others led to great results for the community.

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Planning and Cultural Connections: The Makings of Vibrant Communities

  • Kaitlin Bundy, Manager, Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission
  • Walter C. Lane, Director, Somerset County Planning Division
Scenes from small towns in Vermont

An image from "Creating Places People Love."

New Jersey's Somerset County Planning Division and Cultural and Heritage Commission shared how the organization has worked to develop vibrant communities through physical accessibility and the utilization of the arts and to help move local and county initiatives and projects forward.

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Creating Places People Love

  • Michele Bailey, Senior Program Manager and ADA/504 Coordinator, Vermont Arts Council
  • Kelly Stoddard Poor, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Vermont

The Vermont Arts Council and AARP Vermont showcased the power of placemaking in small communities in Vermont through workshops, hands-on testing, recipe books and mini-grants, weaving the arts and economic development together.

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From Faded to Fabulous

  • Patricia Brown, Co-facilitator, Old Orchard Beach Community Friendly Connection
  • Patricia Pinto, Volunteer State President, AARP Maine

The age-friendly committee in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, partnered with AARP Maine and Team Better Block to transform an area of the city that had seen better days. Knowing the power of food, the process started when the team opened two four-hour pop-up shops — one serving sweets and one serving barbecue. More than 240 residents of the neighborhood attended. 

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Placemaking: A Tool for Community-Driven Development

  • Deanna Smith, Program Coordinator, Idaho Smart Growth
An outdoor, downtown ice rink

An image from "Placemaking: A Tool for Community-Driven Deveopment."

As a planning tool, placemaking calls on community expertise and results in outcomes supported by the people living there. Creating temporary places can be empowering and help drive desirable change. Idaho Smart Growth shared how the utilization of placemaking has helped communities transform abstract concepts into community-driven plans.

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Belmar Redevelopment

  • Bob Murphy, State Director, AARP Colorado

Lakewood, Colorado, faced a rapidly deteriorating regional mall in the city's core, with declining sales tax revenue, loss of tenants, and increase in crime. The city's answer was a public-private partnership that turned increasing decay into a new urbanist downtown that is now an international model for suburban redevelopment. 

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Retrofitting Density for Transit

  • Megan Walker, Transportation Planner, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency
    Omaha, Nebraska

Creative ways to bring density to already built neighborhoods include housing options like auxiliary dwelling units, small apartment complexes, housing subdivisions, housing expansions and denser lots. These small scale infill projects allow for more resilient, vibrant neighborhoods that keep people in their homes longer and allow for transit service to subdivisions.

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Planning Parks for Health

  • Matthew Dixit Moffa, Conservation Planning Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land
A scene of a walkable street

An image from "Walkable Communities."

Parks provide a ton of physical, mental, and environmental health benefits. They create opportunities for physical activity, bring communities together, help combat stress, improve air and water quality, cool developed areas, and even reduce the risk of flooding.  It can be easy to access the range of health benefits provided by parks, and make a plan for healthier parks in your own community.

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Walkable Communities

  • Mitali Ganguly, Associate, Opticos Design

Recent years have seen a growing demand for walkable communities that support an active lifestyle, where owning a car is a choice, not a necessity. Such communities are designed to be safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. The design of the buildings, streets and public spaces influences walkability and helps to create vibrant, healthy and inclusive communities.

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Inclusive Engagement in Public Spaces

  • Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director, 8 80 Cities

Placemaking is about employing a community’s strengths to create a presence in public spaces that reflects that community’s identity, health, and well-being. Creating inclusive places means being intentional about engaging diverse audiences and reaching voices that are often underrepresented. Through the stories of some 8 80 Cities public space projects, these underrepresented voices are reached and elevated. 

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Failing Up: Bringing a Mural to Life Through Collaboration

  • Christina Smith, Executive Director, Groundwork Bridgeport
  • Tanner Burgdorf, Program Lead, Groundwork Bridgeport
Scenes from an art project in Bridgeport, Connecticut

An image from "Failing Up: Bring a Mural to Life Through Collaboration."

The positive end results of a project often hide the challenges that were encountered in bringing a project to life. Groundwork Bridgeport will talk about what inspired the project, initial challenges faced, and how collaboration with other organizations helped make a mural project in Bridgeport Connecticut succeed.

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Using Art to Connect and Engage the Community with Outcomes

  • Eva Bonilla, Lead Volunteer, AARP Texas
  • Shondra Wygal, Associate State Director for Outreach and Advocacy, AARP Texas

Public art leaves an indelible artistic mark on neighborhoods, cultivates culture and creativity throughout the community, enhances neighborhood vibrancy, and brings diverse croups together to share a common experience. AARP Texas shared examples of public art and placemaking installations in Fort Worth that honored the cultural traditions of the neighborhoods where they were installed. The goal of the projects was to connect and engage the community with outcomes that have transformational power. 

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Creative District Wilmington

  • Carlos de los Ramos, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Delaware
  • Renata Kowalczyk, CEO, Wilmington Alliance

Wilmington's Creative District is part of a national wave of creative placemaking initiatives that seek to transform urban areas. The Creative District is focused on creative production and consumption. It's a place where creative entrepreneurs — artists, musicians, designers, tech innovators, makers and manufacturers — and neighborhood residents thrive, and where locally-designed goods and original works are made and consumed.

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Learn how Colorado communities put AARP Community Challenge grant funds to work.

A mural by RKY MTN Walls

An image from the presentation "RKY MTN WALLS Mural Festival."

Age-Friendly Historic Polous Park

  • Elaine Brett, Project Coordinator, Town of Paonia, Colorado

Paonia’s efforts to engage town elders and better serve residents of all ages include improvements to historic Polous Park, an underutilized pocket park near the center of town. Additional lighting and a conversation circle will provide a new social space for residents, including those with mobility differences. 

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RKY MTN WALLS Mural Festival

  • Ali Williams, Executive Director, Granby Chamber of Commerce

Drawing from the beauty of the Colorado mountains,  unique wildlife and the state’s colorful art scene, RKY MTN WALLS was the first ever street art festival in Grand County, with the goal of bringing the thriving local and national art scene to the mountains. Through the creation of permanent large-scale public murals, the orojct provided a platform for Colorado's diverse art scene to contribute to the county’s cultural legacy for years to come. 

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Mesa County Public Library: Discovery Gardens

  • Nicole Fitzgerald, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Mesa County Public Library

The Discovery Garden at Mesa County Libraries was created to provide food and opportunities for the community to discover, learn, create and connect. The permaculture-inspired garden is surrounded by a senior center, a church, the central library, Meals on Wheels, individual homes and an apartment complex, and it serves many needs in the center of town. Garden volunteers of all ages work with the local schools and the community to create educational programming and opportunities to plant and harvest foods and flowers.  

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A Walking Summit Can Open the Eyes of City Leaders

  • Anne Hails, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Alabama
A scene from a Walk Denver destination

An image from "Multicultural Placemaking: WalkDenver’s Little Saigon Initiative."

A well-planned walking summit has the ability to open the eyes of city officials to the benefits of a walkable city with vibrant spaces. Walkability can transform a city, but the benefits aren’t always apparent or a priority. AARP Alabama brought home that message by inviting mayors, developers, planners, community partners and advocates to a walking summit that included demonstration walk audits and a sample street improvement project.

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Age-Friendly Metro Atlanta: Walk Up to a Pop-Up

  • Sonya Isaac, Special Projects Manager, City of Norcross, Georgia
  • Ian Sansom, Senior Planner, Alta Planning + Design
  • Kay Sibetta, Associate State Director for Community Outreach, AARP Georgia

GA Walks Summit is an annual statewide gathering of transit and public health professionals, elected officials and community advocates committed to making our streets and communities great places to walk. WalkUP to a Pop-up, a mobile demonstration, showed that a temporary project activated in an alley in downtown historic Norcross could become a permanent asset. Learn about other examples of successful pop-ups around Metro Atlanta that are multigenerational, collaborative and making an impact.

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Multicultural Placemaking: WalkDenver’s Little Saigon Initiative

  • Jill Locantore, Executive Director, WalkDenver

The Little Saigon District on South Federal Boulevard is not only one of the most culturally diverse parts of Denver, it is also located along one of the most deadly streets in Denver, which has a traffic fatality rate twenty times the average for urban streets in Colorado.  Through the Friends of Little Saigon Initiative, WalkDenver is working with Asian and Latinx residents, businesses, and property owners along the corridor to not only increase safety, but also celebrate the local culture and support a thriving international main street through creative placemaking. 

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Housing Through an Equity Lens

  • Sue Ballou, Housing Priority Group Co-chair, Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities
Missing Middle-style housing in Florida

An image from "Helping Florida's Low-Income Populations Find the Right Housing."

Larimer County’s housing stock doesn’t reflect the changing demographics of the region. To create more housing choices for people of all ages, the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities is working with local governments and residents to create more "missing middle housing" and a broader range of affordability and accessibility options. 

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Helping Florida’s Low-Income Populations Find the Right Housing

  • Laura Cantwell, Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach, AARP Florida

The aging population in the United States, and Florida specifically, has called for an increased focus on accessibility and livability. Many older adults struggle to find affordable housing options, with over 1.1 million low-income households in Florida spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. AARP Florida is working with communities across the state as an advocate on the importance of appropriate housing options for people of all ages. 

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Creating Space for Everyone

  • LaKeeshia Fox, Legislative Representative, AARP Government Affairs

AARP is working in towns, cities, and states nationwide to help make communities livable for people of all ages, including advocating for better housing options and a more diverse housing stock. 

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Creating Places That Pop!

Learn how to download and/or order The Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kit, free publication by AARP and Team Better Block.

Page published November 2019

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