This afternoon, Mayor Greg Fischer hosted a panel of the City Collaborative founders to discuss the success of this fall’s inaugural ReSurfaced project. ReSurfaced was a pop-up plaza, food and beer garden, performance space and more that enjoyed six weeks of programming in the vacant lot that was to be Museum Plaza. City Collaborative and a slew of volunteers and partners brought this idea to fruition in around six weeks.
The space hosted diverse events ranging from live music to a Pecha Kucha night, from the Louisville Ballet to a Makermobile, from business luncheons to staged readings of Shakespeare by candlelight. Wild and Woolly showed vintage movies. The Kentucky Center for the Arts brought in artists from other cities. And during the day, downtown workers dined al fresco at food trucks.
City Collaborative is a local nonprofit dedicated to engaging public spaces and the community through tactical urbanism. Previous projects have included Parking Day and CycLOUvia. Co-founder and community planner Pat Smith described tactical urbanism as “the process by which citizens can make rapid improvement to public spaces.”
City Collaborative co-founder Patrick Piuma said the project was kicked off when Chis Poynter asked what they were going to do to “take it to another level from Parking Day.” That’s when the duo decided they wanted to do something that lasted longer than previous “pop-up” events.
It was Smith who first mentioned the site and found out it was a city-owned property. “And we decided to make that the first place we wanted to activate,” Piuma said.
ReSurfaced was partially modeled on the “Untapped” project in Memphis that was a community effort to save a brewery set for demolition. They decided to activate the first floor of the building and turn it into a beer garden. There was little else available in additional programming. Despite that, the event turned a profit, but the community was unable to save the building from demolition.
Insider asked, “Did ReSurfaced turn a profit?”
Co-founder Rebecca Matheny of the Louisville Downtown Partnership extolled the tremendous amount of profit it brought to the vibrancy and diversity of downtown. Forest Giant’s Dave Durand, the final co-founder of City Collaborative, added that while the project did make some money, it was far more valuable as a test and prototype for future events.
Durand said City Collaborative works a lot like a tech company in that “speed to delivery” is a critical part of any project. Matheny said working on the event was beneficial to the staff of the LDP because it “gave our staff the experience to participate in something fast and long-lasting.”
Smith was in charge of programming the event, which he said was easy. “We started with a really fantastic idea. So when we brought this out, it wasn’t a tough sell. We didn’t have to cajole anyone.”
So what’s the future of ReSurfaced?
Smith said ReSurfaced is not the name of this event but the name of an ongoing project, and we can expect more activations in the first space and in other vacant spaces around the city. Matheny said she really wants to show “It’s A Wonderful Life” in the original space during the holidays. She also suggested the public could rent it out for private events. Much of the infrastructure remains and some is in storage for future use.
Durand reminded the audience that ReSurfaced is just one of many projects City Collaborative has gotten behind and that they’re not all about activating vacant spaces. “Louisville Love” was an iPhone app that City Collaborative released.
Mayor Fischer noted he was able to take mayors from all over the country to ReSurfaced during the Kaufman Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship, and he was proud they came away impressed and enthused to promote similar events in their home cities.
One night, Piuma recalled, he was standing by the Main Street entrance to ReSurfaced and watched a vacationing couple walk over from 21c and peer inside. The man said, “This officially makes Louisville a cool city,” and they entered.