OLD CREAMERY – On Super Bowl Sunday, a dream team of Arcata’s MVPs huddled in the Arcata Playhouse to come up with a game plan to develop the Creamery District.
Quarterbacked by Arcata Playhouse Executive Director Jacqueline Dandeneau, the meeting brought together some 30 of Arcata’s heavy hitters: City Council members and staff, Playhouse members, property owners, architects and designers and a smattering of local business owners.
Over the course of three hours on Sunday, Feb. 5, the group created “a shared view for developing a community arts district in the vicinity of the Old Creamery Building,” a goal set by meeting moderators from Greenway Partners, CAFF and Humboldt Area Foundation.
The district was roughly defined as bordered by Eighth and 10th streets to the south and north and by K and N streets to the west and east, with the Old Creamery building – which houses the Arcata Playhouse, two dance studios, Sun Frost and numerous art studios, among other businesses - at its heart.
While visioning future development for the area is not new, this round of communal dream-building was spurred by Dandeneau’s plans to apply for an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Originally, explained the Playhouse’s David Ferney, the grant-writing process focused on enhancing the Ninth St. façade of the Playhouse. However, the concept soon grew to encompass a larger vision, and local stakeholders were invited to build this vision together.
Some 30 civic leaders therefore eschewed pre-football festivities to walk the neighborhood, discuss what they saw as the current state of affairs in the area, brainstorm about what they would like to see and finally reach a consensus about major visions to develop the district.
In small groups, they identified a number of existing neighborhood assets and liabilities. They described the Creamery District’s qualities as including the mixed uses of the area, which include light manufacturing, arts, retail and residential uses.
They also highlighted the view of Arcata from Ninth Street, the affordability of the area and the architectural features not only of the Old Creamery Building itself, but also of the surrounding buildings, especially in the consistency of their architecture.
Identified drawbacks were more numerous and included the lack of green space and sidewalks, the differences of scale in industrial versus residential or commercial buildings, poor street lighting leading to safety concerns, a dearth of food venues and uncertainty regarding the future usage of the newly closed Arcata Community Recycling Center.
Participants then engaged in a consensus process to determine which elements should form part of the physical nature of the Creamery District, and which activities, services and other functions should be included in the re-design.
As a result, the participants decided that the Creamery District should include spaces that provide a “whimsical, distinctive journey through public open space,” envisioned as pocket parks, paths, a dog park, water features (encompassing some part of Jolly Giant Creek) and performance spaces. They also called for indoor/outdoor spaces for creative endeavors such as festivals and street fairs year-round.
The stakeholders further supported the continued maintenance and encouragement of the diversity of uses of the area, especially to encourage activities and human presence throughout the day and night. Such usages were also envisioned as including intergenerational community engagement opportunities (such as youth and kids’ activities), support for creative commerce (such as galleries, crafting and research and development) as well as opening up to culinary arts and services, such as food carts, eateries and even a drop-off point for Community Supported Agriculture deliveries.
All this would be facilitated by the installation of safe and inviting lighting, as well as an emphasis on establishing a clear visual identity for the district through signage, public kinetic art and highlighting the historical value of the area and of the Old Creamery itself.
Lest this plan sound somewhat dry, it should be noted that the term “whimsical” was bandied about quite freely throughout the meeting – only sometimes ironically – and that the group finally informally adopted the term “hip-storical” to describe the overall feel of the future Creamery District.
In the end, concrete plans for furthering discussion, development and implementation of these ideas were offered. Dandeneau will integrate these ideas into the grant proposal, and encouraged others to take “a strong hand at the helm” in order to “steer forward and keep steering forward.”
Several in attendance offered to champion aspects of the developed vision.
In addition, councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Alex Stillman suggested generating a City Council resolution which would direct city staff to act on plans as they were proposed.
Architect Kash Boodjeh, in attendance with a handful of his staff, volunteered to generate a visual survey of the proposed Creamery District, which will be posted on a planning website.
Local business owners likewise left energized. Following the meeting, Paul “Yashi” Lubitz of Holly Yashi was overheard to exclaim as he crossed Ninth Street towards his storefront, “I agree with everything. Let’s get going!”
For further information on the ongoing planning for the Creamery District, contact Jacqueline Dandeneau at (707) 822-1575 or [email protected]