It doesn’t take much money or landscaping to transform an unused space into a community gathering spot. In fact, it can be accomplished with seven trees in colorful planters with flowers.
Recently, Wheaton, Illinois held its annual summer festival that draws around 15,000 people over three days. The event typically has three main sections: an area for carnival rides, an area for entertainment and food and an area featuring a vintage car show. Connecting these areas is a street closed to traffic,Hale Street. Restaurants and shops along Hale Street stay open during the festival, hoping to increase business. In past years, their efforts were not successful. People mainly used the street to walk between the different areas and events. Sales did not increase.
The area, however, had potential to be a popular gathering spot. With a bit of financial assistance from the Downtown Association, Hale Streetwas transformed, without breaking the bank. A local landscape architect created “Park on Hale” – seven maple trees in colorful planters with flowers and benches were placed in the middle of the street.
The simple change made a dramatic difference. This year, the street filled with families. The weather was hot like years past, but festival-goers this year found a new stopping point with sitting areas under the trees. Restaurants were packed. Children began to perform in the street at a small stage. Benches set around the planters were full.
A new festival midway was born.
A few simple trees had made a space come to life. They helped transform an asphalt street into a fun and lively family entertainment park for two days.
by Keven Graham