Community Driven Design | Arts and culture | Weekly style
Asia Goode and her Groundwork RVA team imagined a mini-farm at Hillside Court in the southern quarter of the city. The idea started as an effort to provide his community with the means to produce their own food, spend time outdoors, and understand the health benefits that entails.
Although Goode came up with the idea of designing a mini-farm for her community, she didn’t know where to begin to come up with a plan. Inspired but without a roadmap, she and Groundwork RVA contacted Storefront for Community Design for design assistance.
Storefront connected Goode with Chloe Hawkins, a volunteer landscape architect, so they could collaborate to bring Goode’s vision to life by creating a living conceptual rendering to be used for future community engagement and fundraising efforts.
Storefront for Community Design, a non-profit design center, was founded to make design programs and resources accessible to everyone. Over the past decade, Storefront has contributed to over 350 low-cost design and planning assistance projects and over 15 design education initiatives for community members, young adults , local businesses, non-profit organizations and neighborhoods. These are donated services worth an estimated $1 million, a significant helping hand for people trying to improve lives and neighborhoods.
Many Richmond residents do not have the opportunity to participate in urban planning or to understand the complex forces that shape designs. Because historical inequalities have been integrated into the physical environment in both obvious and hidden ways, Storefront is committed to increasing resources city-wide while engaging the next generation of designers by equipping young people to professional success, civic engagement and creative expression.
All Storefront programs are publicly available.
“Community is at the heart of our work,” says Shawn Balon, Executive Director of Storefront for Community Design. “At Storefront, we act as conveners to listen to community members, connect them with the right people, and inspire fair, community-driven design.”
In 2017, Kelli Lemon was looking for ways to make his dream of opening a cafe on Broad Street a reality. Although she secured a building, it was not at all what she envisioned to create a third space that would attract people.
Looking for help, Lemon signed up for Storefront’s Design Session Program, a one-on-one, low-cost design and planning assistance program. Their help helped Lemon through a concept design study that ultimately helped bring his passion and vision to life.
Once Lemon explained her needs to Storefront, they connected her with a team of volunteer architects, Citizen HKS, who walked her through the design session process. Storefront volunteers developed concept sketches and mood boards that would kickstart his process of bringing his idea to fruition. The result, Urban Hang Suite, has become a staple and destination in the downtown arts district.
In addition to the intimate one-on-one design sessions that Lemon has undertaken, low-cost design and planning assistance is also offered at the community level through Community Visioning. Services that include consultation, concept sketches and blueprints from the Storefront team and volunteer design and planning professionals.
Another aspect of Storefront’s work is design education, facilitated by a semester-long program called City Builders design workshop and aimed at teenagers aged 13-18. City Builders provides project-based learning opportunities that focus on real-world issues in the built environment and encourage young people to discover and design solutions that create effective change in their own lives and communities.
To celebrate Storefront for Community Design’s 10th anniversary, the Board and Team reflected on ten years of community impact and selected some of their favorite projects, programs and events. The ’10 Years, 10 Stories of Impact’ exhibit will be launched at Storefront’s 10th Anniversary Block Party on the first Friday of this month.
“Whether you’ve been with Storefront since the beginning or are discovering us for the first time, there are so many good reasons to stop by for our block party,” says Balon. “One of the best reasons is the ability to mingle with neighbors and community partners while listening to live music, enjoying dishes from food trucks and indulging in festive desserts from local businesses.”
Balon adds that their design and planning tools help strengthen community organization.
“Our job is to help community partners come up with ideas that advance the areas of environmental and food justice, health and well-being, economic development, and place-making and conservation,” says Balloon.
The Storefront for Community Design 10th Anniversary Party and Expo will be held Friday, May 6 from 5:30-9 p.m. at 205 E. Broad St. Visit storefrontrichmond.org for more information.