DoMo Partnership hopes to see more whimsy

BY SABRA STAFFORD

There are some basic services a city should provide for its residents and visitors, like functionality and safety. And while some needs, like fixing a pothole, definitely has a place in that functionality, so should the concept of fun. At least that’s the case in the opinion of Peter Kageyama.

Kageyama is the author of “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places” and the follow-up “Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places.” Ha also was the keynote speaker at the second annual State of Downtown Modesto presentation given on March 1 at the Gallo Center for the Arts by the Downtown Modesto Partnership.

Kageyama is a community development consultant who puts the focus on grassroot engagement and actions, rather than relying on city and county government. He is a TED Talks alumnus and a senior fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a nationwide organization of city leaders working to improve local government practices related to development. His presentation in Modesto primarily focused on how other cities have incorporated fun into their community development and what that is an important concept.

“When you ask where is the fun, you change the dynamic in the room,” Kageyama said. “When have you ever seen fun stated as a project goal?”

CANDY PADILLA/209 Business Journal
Things like the musical-themed crosswalk and the painted utility boxes in downtown Modesto are examples of “love notes” that DoMo Partnership hopes to see more of in the area.

One example Kageyama provided on how a city brought in some fun was of Boston and how they turned a three-acre space next to a convention center into an adult playground. They brought in big Adirondack chairs, large swings, wine and beer tastings, yoga and Zumba classes and games like a giant Jenga. Within a short amount of time the park had become a popular attraction and helped book more conventions at the center, Kageyama said.

“This is a small thing, but it has an outsized impact on how people feel about their city,” Kageyama said.

Fun doesn’t always have to be about games or activities. It can also be a touch of whimsy or wonder, like the musical-themed crosswalks in front of the Gallo Arts Center, or the artistic creations on some of the utility boxes around downtown Modesto. Those are examples of what Kageyama calls “love notes” between a city and its residents.

A great example of “love notes” was done by a young man in Greenville, South Carolina, said Kageyama. For $1,200 he made several bronze sculptures of cute little mice and gave them permanent homes around downtown. The art project not only brought some delight to area residents, but became a scavenger hunt for visitors, which in turn led them to places they might not have visited otherwise.

CANDY PADILLA/209 Business Journal
DoMo Partnership has been working to make downtown Modesto a destination that will draw in more visitors and along with them an economic boost for the area.

“When we think about the kind of city we want to build, of course we have goals for that,” Kageyama said. “We talk about sustainability, walkability, livable cities. Those are all good goals, but I think we need to raise the goal a little bit higher. We want to live in a loveable city — the kind of city that grabs you by the heart and refuses to let you go.”

Creating a relationship with the people who work and visit downtown Modesto is the foundation of the Downtown Modesto Partnership. DoMo was formed in 2012 when a group of business owners, property owners and community leaders set a goal of improving the downtown area, both economically and aesthetically.

Over the last year the organization has been responsible for the efforts that removed more than 300,000 pounds of garbage from the region, hundreds of graffiti tags painted over, and thousands of security calls, said Josh Bridegroom, DoMo’s CEO.

They’ve also led efforts to bring more people to downtown Modesto, including the First Friday block parties held on 10th Street between June and October, and the Modesto on Ice skating rink.

For the upcoming years the DoMo Partnership will be working and advocating for greater transportation options in the downtown, like the ACE train and a train connection to the Sacramento International Airport, and a renewed focus on downtown housing options.