Community Empowered Design
The act of public space design is a process of listening, interpreting, listening more, and then beginning to turn purpose and program into design. To achieve such success, we intentionally built a relationship with the community based on understanding and trust. Collectively our team believes community engagement enhances the outcomes of a project, educates and empowers community members to participate and shape their future community spaces, and should strive to impart and exhibit the values and intended outcomes of the project during the engagement process.
The Jones Campus Vision was developed entirely during the global pandemic, underscoring the need to push beyond a conventional communications strategy. Social gatherings, the lifeblood of community engagement efforts, were not a viable option due to public safety concerns Through a creative mix of virtual meeting technology, video content, social media platforms, and strategic one-on-one conversations with supportive allies, our team was able to effectively spread the message and calls to action. This approach broadened The Jones Center social network, provided accessible ways for community members to engage, deepened diverse relationships with the community, provided opportunities for small and emerging businesses, and strengthened vital stakeholder feedback loops.
Over the eight-month Visioning process, we adapted our approach to work within the limitations imposed by the global pandemic. We modified our methods, added new techniques, and engaged the community in socially distant and safe ways. Innovative solutions included drive-through dinner events with food prepared by chefs from a variety of minority-owned small businesses as well as virtual meetings for community members and the design team. These techniques created an environment that welcomed every participant and provided them with an opportunity to engage in an inclusive and productive manner. From this tailored approach, we achieved overwhelming success, and a process that is perhaps even more equitable and focused on creating mutually-beneficial events and activities. Ultimately, the Vision for the Jones Campus will enable all community members to create memorable experiences and celebrate the diverse population that makes Springdale unique, bringing them back on Campus and visiting downtown over and over again.
Virtual and Video Based Platforms
Due to the pandemic, having face-to-face community meetings to share information and solicit input was not possible, so the design team bridged this gap by providing two virtual community meetings that offered online discussions, facilitated breakout rooms and real-time surveys. To supplement the feedback received during the virtual meetings and to continue to engage the community, the team crafted a series of affinity group sessions which included brief presentations followed by facilitated discussions. We utilized our various team members and several community allies to develop the invitation list included over 240 active participants, and over 1,500 views of a facilitated multi-lingual Facebook live session. Participant groups included The Jones Center Tenants and staff, Urban Land Institute NWA, LatinX Community Leaders, Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurial Leadership, Marshallese Community and Leaders, Artists and Creatives.
With more than 40 different languages spoken within the Springdale School District, the design team understood that a multi-lingual approach was vital to ensure a broad base of community members felt welcome in the design process. We focused on Spanish and Marshallese due to the significant populations of native speakers in the community Our team diligently offered translations in printed materials, website buttons, various surveys, video narrative and live streaming content. We developed a variety of video content in multiple languages including twelve stakeholder PSA’s, six Dinner Drive Through Sizzle Reels, five Community Zoom recordings and two recorded Facebook Live events. The content told an immersive and powerful story that proved an effective engagement tool on the website and social media platforms.
The robust community-based design model resulted in over 115,000 social media touchpoints, 6,000 website views, approximately 14,000 email communications, and over 3,000 direct touchpoints via virtual meetings, drive-through dinner events, and online surveys.
The Ethos of the Place
Early in the project, we worked hard to build our understanding of the ethos of the place and the common threads that bind the community of Springdale together. Through extensive research, proactive community engagement, and a series of one-on-one and small group interviews it became apparent that in order for the Campus Vision to be successful it must celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of Springdale, while providing the community a place to come together, recreate, celebrate, and build a stronger sense of community. It must expand upon the core mission of Bernice Jones who founded the Jones Center 25 years ago and create a campus where “All are welcome”. The campus vision is an opportunity to make the people of Springdale feel like their voices are heard and that this place is for them. The vision can reflect the many perspectives and qualities of the community and their spirit through design.
A Vision for the Jones Campus
The Vision Plan outlines a series of bold changes intended to expand The Jones Center’s existing recreational amenities; introduce new open spaces and plazas for the community to come together; create an interconnected system of hard and soft-surface trails, walkways, and bicycle trails tying The Jones Campus into downtown and out into the region. The plan also unifies the campus by providing physical and visual connections between all areas of Campus, incorporates art as placemaking experiences to pique the interest of users, and imprints the Campus with culturally inspired design gestures that bring prominence to the diverse communities that make up Springdale.
The Campus Vision creates a layered approach to programming and activation while introducing native plant ecotypes throughout campus to create a more sustainable and experiential landscape. The proposed vision relies on a diverse theme-based programming strategy that includes wellness and recreation, gardens and ecology, community and gathering, and arts and culture.
Wellness and Recreation: The Jones Center has a history of being THE place that the community comes to recreate. The new Campus will expand upon its recreational roots and introduce a more holistic approach to wellness that includes spaces for pause, relaxation, reflection, and observation.
Gardens and Ecology: The 52-acres of the Jones Campus provide a unique opportunity to introduce a more diverse system of both designed and environmentally appropriate landscape systems at a range of scales from intimate garden rooms, to campus-wide landscape systems.
Community and Gathering: To become the place that Springdale will gather, the Campus Vision introduces a variety of flexible spaces and places that can be programmed and activated by families, the existing tenants, and a variety of non-profit and other community groups.
Arts and Culture: Springdale is home to the most ethnically and culturally diverse community in Northwest Arkansas. Celebrating these cultures through the design of the campus creates both a sense of familiarity and an opportunity to educate the greater community on the unique aspects and histories of these cultures. With a rapidly emerging regional art scene, the Jones Campus and Springdale are primed to become regional destinations for recreation, arts, and culture.
After repeated conversations with representatives of the Marshallese, LatinX, southeast Asian, and African American communities, it became apparent that a successful Vision must evolve from the cultural traditions of storytelling, celebration, familial gatherings, and community-based events and activations that are more common from where they grew up. Collectively the communities that the Jones Campus is intended to serve use open space to gather, linger, and enjoy being together as a community. As such the vision proposes a series of community gathering spaces of varying sizes to enable both small and large groups to come together to play, recreate, socialize, realize commonalities. At its core, our Vision provides opportunities to strengthen a sense of community with the diverse populations found in Northwest Arkansas.
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):