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miLES - Reinvent Your Hood

miLES - Reinvent Your Hood

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Published by: BoweryBoogie on May 30, 2012
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10/13/2015

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Re-invent (Y )our Hood

a collaboration by | Architecture Commons | Fourth Arts Block | OpenIDEO | Sarah Fathallah | Chloe Tseung | City API | & the community of the Lower East Side

What is miLES?
MiLES is a multi-disciplinary initiative that cultivates the authenticity and creativity of the residents of the Lower East Side. MiLES facilitates and curates an open process of temporary transformations of underutilized sites by listening, co-creating, prototyping and operating with a blend of digital and physical platforms.

©Vivienne Gucwa, nythroughthelens.com

Why the Lower East Side?

The Lower East Side of Manhattan is a historic magnet for newcomers, and one of the mostculturally diverse neighborhoods in the city.

“At that time it was all immigrants. (.. ) All working-class people starting a new life.”
Anna Sokolow (1910-2010), dancer & choreographer

“Everybody ought to have a Lower East Side in their life.”
Irving Berlin (1888-1989), composer & lyricist

“The median income in the LES is roughly half that of Manhattan”*
Income levels in the Lower East Side are amongst the lowest in Manhattan. In the last decade, real estate prices have risen significantly in some specific neighborhoods of the Lower East Side, leading to a distortion of the market. As a consequence, landlords hold off waiting to fill the space, but the tenants that would meet their high expectations don’t arrive.
*LES median income: $35,600 / Manhattan median income: $70,800 (2006 figures)

212 vacant stores & lots = est 250,000 square feet of potential for change
How can we transform these underutilized spaces into valuable resources for local residents?

Common ground for action
To succeed, this project needs to balance the interests of competing groups. Landlords have different goals than long-time residents, and active community groups don’t share the same aspirations as business owners. We want to create a common ground to identify local inadequacies, collect local talents, channel local capacities and synthesize relevant potentials into systematic and sustained actions for a neighborhood where residents take ownership of changes.

Two prototype blocks
Our goal is to create a proof-of-concept that shows the potential of community-driven action to revitalize unused spaces. We have started with two very different blocks: Orchard Street, and East Fourth Street.

We selected these two intersections primarily because of their high concentration of unused space, but also due to the presence of existing partners and an active base of community groups and organizations.

Our Approach

“Business isn’t always good, but at least I know I can count on the folks in this neighborhood.”
Michael, Entrepreneur / Resident

“Art galleries sell photographs for $20,000. It’s not art for everyone, and it doesn’t benefit the community.”
Vivienne, Artist / Resident

Listening
Our approach is fundamentally grounded in dialogue with the community by listening to a wide range of viewpoints and conducting deep dive interviews to surface latent needs and aspirations.

“There was a landlord who owned six storefronts in this block and didn’t fill half of them for three years. He’s not invested in the neighborhood, all he cares about is money.”
Sarah & Jamie, Small Business Owners

Meryl, Storefront Space Owner

“Lower East Side has a strongup-and coming art scene with more affordable spaces.”

“I love the Hester Street Fair. I don’t always sell a ton of jewelry, most people come here for food, but everybody seems to have a good time and I can tell more people about my Etsy store.”
Esther, Street Fair Vendor

“We need organizations that can support the development of the community in the long run.”
Tamara, Community Organizer

Co-Creating
We will run co-creating workshops with communities of the Lower East Side to tap into their local knowledge and create concepts that are ambitious yet locally appropriate.

Prototyping
In this phase, prototypes will be built based on concepts selected during the co-creating phase. This is where actual designs and business plans will be taken back to the communities to be iterated.

©Vivienne Gucwa, nythroughthelens.com

Operating & Scaling
We distill lessons learned throughout the project into toolkits that will facilitate the replication of similar projects in other contexts and locations. “Listening Toolkit” focusing on community engagement methods. “Co-creating Toolkit” focusing on inclusive idea generation. “Prototyping Toolkit” focusing on taking ideas to life and usability testing. “Operating Toolkit” focusing on implementation and execution.

Defining Success
We define our metrics for success as: “Diversity” a wide range of viewpoints from diverse participants in the neighborhood “Authenticity” a spirit of community feedback without forcing pre-conceived ideas “Empowerment” empower not only residents, but partners and institutions in the neighborhood “Sustainability” create a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable solution beyond our involvement

©Vivienne Gucwa, nythroughthelens.com

Towards open planning
Ultimately we want to build a movement for user-centric developments in our cities parallel to capital-centric developments, one neighborhood at a time. Instead of relying on capital investments from acquisition of properties as the only model of development, we believe in the collective creative power from the bottom-up, and we aspire to facilitate this process by building social capital, trust, and venues for sustained dialogue among diverse stakeholders and inspire a new model for urban development.

Who we are
We are an interdisciplinary group of individuals inspired by the potential for open collaboration.

We need your help!
We’re looking for partners, If you live/work in the LES, us, info@madeinles.org! We would love to hear from you, and learn from you. And spread the word! #miLES Join us: www.MadeInLES.org @MadeInLES Facebook.com/MadeInLES

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