Author Archives: Neil Takemoto

Why Tactical Urbanism is Key to Downtown Revitalization

What is Tactical Urbanism?
Tactical Urbanism is a ‘short term action for long term’ approach to downtown revitalization using low-cost and scalable interventions. It is used by citizen groups, businesses, nonprofits and governments, and combines an open development process with the creativity unleashed by social interaction. The result? Better informed decisions in triple-bottom-line (economically, socially, environmentally beneficial) placemaking.


  1. Why Tactical Urbanism?
  2. What are examples of Tactical Urbanism?
  3. What are the benefits of Tactical Urbanism?
  4. Short videos of Tactical Urbanism
  5. What are the most common applications of Tactical Urbanism?
  6. Case Study: Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston
  7. Your tactical urbanism ideas, many supported by NR Future’s Future Five grant program
  8. Where can I learn more about Tactical Urbanism?

Why Tactical Urbanism?
Today’s vacant lots, empty storefronts, overly wide streets, highway underpasses, surface parking lots, and other underused public spaces remain prominent in our towns and cities and have become the targets of entrepreneurs, artists, forward-thinking government officials, and civic-minded “hacktivists.” Such groups increasingly view the city as a laboratory for testing ideas in real time, and their actions have led to a variety of creative and entrepreneurial initiatives.

What are examples of Tactical Urbanism?
See the chart and list below, organized by sanctioned (government partnered) and unsanctioned projects, and whether they are executed by artists/activists, nonprofits/businesses, or government agencies.



  • Site Pre-Vitalization – Temporary activation of a development site, often using shipping containers. Cooltown post.

Underutilized Streets:

Vacant Spaces:

Guerilla Intervention

  • Chair Bombing – Homemade seating in public spaces “to improve comfort, social activity, and sense of place”. DoTank: Chair Bombing.
  • Informal Bike Parking – Non-government installed bike racks that are functional indications of where permanent bike parking is needed.
  • Ad-Busting – Removing and altering of billboards and large advertising signage. Ad busting on Tumblr.
  • Reclaimed Setbacks – Activating front yards to become more community-oriented.
  • Weed Bombing – Converting weed overgrowth into landscaped works of art. Weed bombing on Tumblr.

Entrepreneurial Development

  • Food Carts/Trucks – Essentially pop-up cafes on wheels, prevalent in most every major city. Cooltown post.
  • Mobile Vendors – Aka street vendors, and including bicycle vendors.
  • Micro-Mixing – Mixing multiple businesses in a single retail space, like a cafe, bar, bookstore, theater: Cooltown article.

Social Change

  • Pop-Up Town Hall – A non-government meeting space to discuss the future of one’s city.
  • Camps – Temporary occupying of space with intention of social change (i.e. Occupy movement), disaster relief, or experimentation/prototyping (Burning Man).

What are the benefits of Tactical Urbanism?
Tactical Urbanism is a learned response to the slow and siloed conventional city building process. For citizens, it allows the immediate reclamation, redesign, or reprogramming of public space. For advocacy organizations, it is a way to show what is possible to garner public and political support. For developers or entrepreneurs, it provides a means of collecting design intelligence from the market they intend to serve. And for government, it’s a way to implement best practices with immediacy. These interventions were never anticipated by a master plan, but provide a needed dose of innovation and creativity, helping citizens not only envision a more vibrant downtown, but experience it too. And therein lies the seductive power of Tactical Urbanism: It creates low-cost, tactile proposals for change instead of plans or computer-generated renderings that remain abstract. If the project doesn’t work as planned, the budget is minimally affected, and future designs may be calibrated to absorb the lessons learned. If done well, the small-scale and temporary changes serve as the first step in informing long-term investment. This iterative process not only creates better projects but also continues the momentum established during the conventional planning process.

Short videos of Tactical Urbanism

What are the most common applications of Tactical Urbanism?

  • Initiated by citizens to bypass the conventional project delivery process and cut through municipal bureaucracy by prototyping or visually demonstrating the possibility of change. This is what the NR Future monthly grant program directly supports.
  • As a tool for city government, developers or nonprofits to more broadly engage the public during project planning, delivery, and development processes.
  • As a “phase 0” early implementation tool used by cities or developers to test projects before a long-term investment is made. In the United States, phase 0 applications are popping up from coast to coast. Since 2007, the NYDOT has been partnering with local BIDs and advocacy groups to transform acres of asphalt into temporary plazas, curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges, some of which have already made their way to permanence.

Case Study: Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston
Tactical Urbanism can be used to initiate new places or help repair existing ones. For example, when Boston’s $22 billion “Big Dig” buried the Central Artery expressway and made room for the 15-acre Rose Kennedy Greenway, the new public green space needed to be activated. In a 2010 editorial, the Boston Globe asserted, “What could be a monument to Boston’s collective spirit is instead a victim of the region’s parochial rhythms.” Architecture critic Robert Campbell put it this way: “There are things to look at but nothing to do.” In response to his critique, and many others, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy began activating the forlorn spaces. Demonstration gardens, street art, food trucks, and low-cost movable tables and chairs have breathed new life into the greenway. These low-cost modifications were never part of the master plan per se but demonstrate that improving otherwise lifeless public spaces need not cost millions of dollars.

Your tactical urbanism ideas, many supported by NR Future’s Future Five grant program:
[bubbly-entries tag=tactical recently=”rated”]

Winter/Spring 2016 Recap of Crowdsourced Placemaking in Hempstead

rh_meetup_2016_marchRenew Hempstead, the crowdsourced placemaking initiative in the Village of Hempstead, managed by CSPM Group, continues to work with the local community to define and invest in their downtown as new development is set to occur in the summer of 2016.

Renew Hempstead hosts the Hempstead Six (H6) initiative, where residents define downtown revitalization in their own terms through six areas of focus: Cultural Business District, Village Beautiful, Public Safety, Young People + Education, Jobs + Career Training, Entrepreneur Development. Renew Hempstead has provided monthly grants to programs or events that best support the H6: $250 grant for each of the six initiatives and one $500 grant overall. See newsletter at very bottom of this post. Below are the winners from the last several months of the program:

April 2016

  • $500 Hempstead Six Grant: Mother and Daughter Project (Women’s Opportunity Rehabilitation Center, WORC)
  • $250 Young People + Education: Girls Talk Workshop/Girls Empowerment (ABGS Middle School)
  • $250 Public Safety: Women In Need (WIN) (Women In Need of Discovering Own Worth)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Cooperative Mural (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: Visions to Opportunity Middle School Outreach (Visions to Opportunity)
  • $250 Jobs + Career Training: Construction Industry Workshop (Sam’s Welding)

  March 2016

  • $500 Hempstead Six Grant: 3’s for Kay Night at the Barclays (3’s for Kay Foundation)
  • $250 Young People + Education: BPM (Beats Production Music Educational Program) (BPM (Beats Production Music)
  • $250 Young People + Education: Dinner Theater (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Terrace Avenue Senior Program (100 Percent)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Diabetes Health and Wellness Academy of N.Y.C., Health Fair with Retro Fitness (Diabetes Health and Wellness Academy of N.Y.C./Schools for Diabetes Health and Wellness)
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: Young Entrepreneurs Training Program Business Boot Camp (Hempstead High School)
  • $250 Jobs + Career Training: Hempstead Adult Education Career Night (Hempstead Adult and Community Education Program)

  February 2016

  • $500 Hempstead Six Grant:
    Museum of Movement & Sound (African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead)
  • $250 Young People + Education: Middle School Youth Night (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)
  • $250 Public Safety: Community Center Round Table (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Hempstead Community Newspaper and/or Website (Melissa Brabham)
  • $250 Cultural Business District: ESL & Latino Caribbean Cross Cultural Exchange (Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association)
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: Female Life Skills Workshop (Embrace Your Hand)
  • $250 Jobs + Career Training: HBGC TV (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)

  January 2016

  • $500 Hempstead Six Grant: Cradle of Aviation Museum Trip for Alternative school students (Hempstead High School Annex ): Recap
  • $250 Young People + Education: Community Arts Program (TAAGS)
  • $250 Public Safety: Community Patrol and Crime Prevention Program (Tina Shuford): February 6, 2016
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Yoga on and Off the Mat (S.H.I.N.E Inc.)
  • $250 Cultural Business District: Jazz and Soul Experience (Brimstone Music Prods. Corp.): Held on February 6, 2016
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: The ABCC Incubator Kitchen + Culinary Arts Educational + Events Center research trip (ABCC/IKCAEEC) (Quilla’s Catering): Recap

  December 2015

  • $500 Hempstead Six: Hempstead High School Black Box Theater (Rachel Blackburn)
  • $250 Young People + Education: The Art Experience by The Creative Collages by MEJ (Mary Jones): To be held on…
  • $250 Public Safety: Community Patrol and Crime Prevention Program (Tina Shuford): Held on December 19, 2015
  • $250 Young People + Education: Youth Programming in Hempstead Holiday Talent Showcase (Shalana Smith): February 27, 2015
  • $250 Jobs + Career Training: Trolydia Testing & Inspections Training (ABBA Leadership Center): Held on January 20, 21, 2016

Renew Hempstead Quarterly Newsletter (Winter 2016)

Wall Street Journal: New Rochelle Bets on Its Downtown for Growth

In New Rochelle, RXR and Renaissance Downtowns set up an office downtown, created a website and used social media to solicit ideas and gauge their popularity. City officials and developers hosted meetings in restaurants, auditoriums and even residents’ living rooms.

Fall 2015 recap of crowdsourced placemaking effort in New Rochelle, NY


In the last few months, NR Future, the crowdsourced placemaking community in New Rochelle managed by CSPM Group, outreached at various events: In October, they attended a Columbus Elementary School mother’s meeting, a meeting for the school children’s parents where the parents are all Spanish speaking. These conversations and meetings between NR Future and the community help to humanize the downtown revitalization and dispel inaccuracies. Later, they held a Halloween costume happy hour, supporting a local downtown business while conversing about the future of downtown New Rochelle. They then hosted a table at the final Farmers Market, offering free goody bags and face painting.

NR Future also attended the City’s Arts & Cultural District Forum to be involved in the conversation surrounding this effort and to hear from the artists and organizations also aiming to carve out what this district should look like in the very near future.

On October 13, 2015 the first public hearing for the downtown development project was held, with many speaking in favor of the project. It was one of the most widely attended and positive hearings that New Rochelle had ever seen.

In September NR Future networked millennials at a Student Involvement Fair at both Iona College and The College of New Rochelle. They also participated in The City of New Rochelle’s Street Fair where we were one of the event sponsors and hosted a tactical urbanism open streets activity zone, which was the City’s first. The open street consisted of several classes and activities for the community to participate in, free of charge. They had children draw on the street with sidewalk chalk, play games with hula hoops and bubbles that we also witnessed adults participating in.

NR Future also launched a monthly ‘Action Grant’ program, awarding their first recipient, The New Rochelle Arts Collective. They utilized this grant to bring an installation to life, as a part of Arts Fest, entitled Living Room Inside Out. This installation was a wonderful demonstration of what this grant program can provide and ultimately received press attention, speaking to NR Future’s mission.

Fall 2015 recap of the crowdsourced placemaking effort in Hempstead, NY


Renew Hempstead, the crowdsourced placemaking initiative in the Village of Hempstead, managed by CSPM Group, conducted one of the community’s first downtown evening outdoor events, titled Hempstead Nights: Music in the Street. Showcasing local artists, they had a great turnout and demonstrated that people can feel safe in the downtown at night.

As part of the Hempstead Six (H6) initiative, where residents define downtown revitalization in their own terms through six areas of focus, Renew Hempstead has provided monthly grants to programs or events that best support the H6. Each month Renew Hempstead will provide a Hempstead Six grant of $500 to a winning proposal. They are also providing one $250 grant every month for each of the six initiatives. Below are the winners from the first two months of the program:

November 2015 Grant Winners

  • $500 Hempstead Six: Community public safety program (Shelton Munlin, SJR Security)
  • $250 Cultural Business District: Poetry slam (Jerome Hall, RAWW/Renowned Artists Worldwide)
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: Entrepreneurs Collective (Wanda Jones)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: Diabetes and wellness educational collateral (Diabetes Health and Wellness Academy of N.Y.C.)
  • $250 Young People + Education: Holiday Talent Showcase (Youth Empowerment Institute)
  • $250 Village Beautiful: It’s Your Tribe! Creative Community Chat event (Alicia Evans)

October 2015 Grant Winners

  • $500 Hempstead Six: Young People Network Mixer (Shalana Smith)
  • $250 Entrepreneurial Development: Monthly Entrepreneurs Roundtables for New and Aspiring Entrepreneurs (Wanda Jones)
  • $250 Young People + Education: College Campus Tours for Young People (Hempstead Boys & Girls Club)
  • $250 Young People + Education: “Think Like a Scientist” STEM program for kids (Donna Febres, STEM Institute)
  • $250 Job + Career Training: Jobs Summit (ABBA Leadership Center)