Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

140 West Plaza: An Experiment

From Town of Chapel Hill:

On 9/30 and 10/1, the Town and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership conducted an experiment to activate the 140 West Plaza using the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) methodology that uses simple, short-term, and low-cost solutions to improve public spaces.  In an effort to address the perception that the space does not have elements that attract them to stay, the test added colorful benches, shaded table seating, wifi, signage and greenery to send the message that the plaza is welcoming to public use.  Data collected during the experiment reflected a slight increase in usage but did not provide strong evidence that all the space needs is some additional seating elements, greenery and vibrant color. 

So the next question is what purpose do people have to be in the space?  Other than events, the space does not currently have an active and engaging retail presence.  In addition, there continues to be a concern that the sculpture is a deterrent to using the space because it looks dangerous and sharp.  The Town and the Downtown Partnership will continue the dialogue about the 140 West Plaza and other places downtown that could be better utilized as public gathering spaces.

This experiment was based on graduate student report, ‘Just Passing Through: Activating 140 West Franklin through Environmental Design’ – which found that the space functions primarily as a thoroughfare, with very few elements attracting people to the space and encouraging them to stay.

So, what did we learn? Experiment results...