Community engagement is best learned in practice, not in a classroom. Thanks to the City of Malden and the MAPC, a class of first year planning students at Harvard Graduate School of Design has been given the opportunity to do just that with “Plan Malden Square”. Plan Malden Square is a semester-long project that involves a series community engagement events, followed by students’ proposals for strategies for improving the urban design, housing, transportation, business development, open space and Malden’s Government Center building in downtown Malden Center. These strategies will then be incorporated in a plan created by the MAPC this summer.
The project began with a field trip to Malden in January, 2013, which gave students a chance to walk around the downtown area; meet with the Mayor’s office, redevelopment authority, and local business owners. Currently, students are in the process of engaging with a variety of different groups in the Malden community—business owners, property owners and developers; members of the Arabic, Haitian, and Chinese communities; seniors and teens. The group is also taking advantage of Malden’s active social media presence to publicize upcoming events that target these groups.
Engagement activities include open houses, group meetings and interviews to garner as much feedback from community members as possible. Additionally, the students are running an online survey (please feel free to participate!) and conducting street interviews in and around Malden Square.
The next step is for students to analyze all the information gathered from their outreach and create recommendations for the city. Finally, the project will culminate in an open house presentation of their findings in Malden in late April. Everyone interested in the event is welcome to attend. For more information on the project, and for updates be sure to visit the Plan Malden Square Facebook page, or contact us at PlanMaldenSquare@gmail.com.
The Online Participation Team: Charlie Brennan, TJ McCourt & Lydia Scott, Masters in Urban Planning, Class of 2014