Summer of Downtown Placemaking Demonstration


Summer of Downtown was a 2-month placemaking demonstration using tactical urbanism to test different strategies for making Downtown Waco more walkable and connected by creating a Pedestrian Plaza and Pedestrian Walkway.

Project Background

Downtown Waco has no shortage of visitors checking out the famous Magnolia Market at the Silos. While approximately 500,000 people visit the Silos each year most visitors weren’t aware of what to see beyond Magnolia. While Austin Avenue, Downtown Waco’s main street and ample parking, was just 6 blocks many visitors were never aware that there was anything to do or anywhere to park outside of the Silos. They scoured for parking close to the Silos, visited Magnolia Market for a couple hours and then left.

City Center Waco intially asked CivicBrand to create parking signage and activate parking lots that Silo visitors currently perceived as too far away. However, CivicBrand quickly identified there was a connection and placemaking issue rather than a parking issue. By conducting a parking study place brand audit, we realized two things:

Visitors weren’t aware of what to see beyond Magnolia, because there was no feeling or sense of activity leading them to naturally explore other areas.

Locals weren’t willing to park further away from their destination because they thought they knew what to expect from a visit downtown and weren’t looking to explore.

30
%

Increase in
Pedestrian Counts

-23
%

Decrease in Traffic Speeds

35

Volunteers

200

Gallons of Temporary Paint

Recap Video

See how we made Downtown Waco a more vibrant, connected, walkable place

CivicBrand identified a block of 7th Street as a potential connection point for pedestrians walking in the downtown area. The scale of the street and the lack of vehicular traffic made it a perfect place to give prioritization to pedestrians. For the demonstration, one block of 7th Street was closed and turned into a pedestrian plaza. The installation included a street mural, games, seating, lights, and a space for programming and activities. This space has been activated for the entire summer through different organized events, a space for downtown dwellers to relax, and a place to meet and gather with friends.

"This is awesome,
it really brings some color
and art to downtown Waco!"

- Downtown Resident

6th Street connects the popular Silo District to Austin Avenue, which is Downtown Waco’s Main Street. Unfortunately, this street lacked a completed sidewalk in areas between the two districts and with four blocks between districts there was no visual cue that another district with things to do was nearby. For the demonstration, we removed street parking along one side of 6th Street, and created a colorful walkway complete with painted sidewalks and protective barricade to keep users safe. The addition of wayfinding signage helped both pedestrians and drivers become aware of more attractions and parking in downtown Waco.

"I feel safer
walking with my dog
on the protected pathway."

-Local Resident

CONNECTING THE DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE

Downtown Waco had a strong digital brand, but the brand didn’t have a presence in the built environment. We knew we needed to bring the brand into the physical space in order to generate brand awareness, connect the online experience of Downtown Waco to the in-person experience, and freshen up some vacancies to show the potential of downtown.

We took inspiration from the brand colors and shapes to create street murals, signage, banners, vacant storefront graphics windows, walkway signage, and parking signage.

Results

The results from the demonstration were overwhelmingly positive. Pedestrian counts were up, traffic speeds were down, businesses saw an increase in business. Visitors to Magnolia were now discovering Austin Ave, and locals now had a brand new public space in the heart of Downtown Waco. A yoga instructor that lead free classes in the plaza has now opened a permanent studio in Downtown Waco.

One of the biggest impacts of the project is simply the message it sends – Waco is willing to try new things and is interested in creating authentic spaces for people. Additionally, this project created a space for important life moments. It served as a backdrop for countless photographers and artists, senior photos were taken there, a couple even got engaged there. The activation had multiple press features, and was nominated for in-state and international awards.

"People are here
from morning to evening.
Not one negative thing to say."

- Business Owner

"This project communicates to the world that Waco is ready to be quick, innovative, and ready to move."

Waco Mayor, Dillon Meek

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