The Lowline Community Visioning & Stakeholder Engagement: Strategy & Implementation
New York City, NY
The Lowline is a proposal to create a unique below-ground public space using design and solar technology. Sited in the former Williamsburg Trolley Station in the heart of the Lower East Side (LES), this one-acre space below Delancey St., spanning between Clinton St. and Norfolk St., has sat unused and inaccessible since 1948. The Lowline proposes to reactivate this underutilized space, creating green space, providing a cultural and educational hub, and preserving the LES’s vibrant history while simultaneously showcasing future solar technologies. After eight years of preliminary research, the non-profit organization managing the Lowline received conditional designation from the City of New York to move forward with schematic design and community engagement to envision the space’s design and programming. Karp Strategies led the Lowline’s community visioning and stakeholder engagement process. The firm developed and implemented a holistic strategy to understand and reflect community needs, soliciting input from a wide range of community members, accurately communicating the Lowline’s vision to the community, and coordinating community recommendations on various aspects of the project - ranging from design to programming to governance - with the ongoing design efforts. In partnership with the Lowline, Karp Strategies developed an outreach strategy using a variety of techniques. Outreach methods included focus groups, one-on-one meetings, listening circles, design workshops, and art-based visioning sessions, in addition to more formal Community Advisory Board and Task Force meetings. These strategies, in conjunction with the use of an online engagement platform, coUrbanize, facilitated a deeply embedded outreach process that reached beyond the confines of traditional public meetings. Karp Strategies worked to ensure that there were opportunities for residents throughout the district to provide input by accommodating diverse schedules, mobility, interests, learning-styles, and languages. Additionally, Karp Strategies trained the Lowline’s Young Ambassadors, a group of rising high school juniors from the surrounding community, in stakeholder engagement and facilitation.