May 19, 2012 – Gilroy’s “Art and Wine Stroll” keeps our beautiful downtown Gilroy bustling, and Rally Round Downtown Gilroy is there!
The Wine Stroll had over 450 advance ticket sales, with on-site ticket purchases bringing the participation up to about 800 happy imbibers. RRDG (Rally Round Downtown Gilroy) saw this as an opportunity to get community input about what would bring more people to Downtown more often.
Gary Walton heard about the “I Wish This Was …” project, first deployed in New Orleans as they were rebuilding after hurricane Katrina, as a proactive way to get community involvement in planning the future for an area in a city. The concept is simple:
- Print up a lot of stickers (make sure they come off easily) that have the phrase across the top, “I Wish This Was …”, with space below to write an ending for the phrase.
- Hand the stickers out to members of the community, visitors, anyone who is interested in building up the area.
- The participants write what would bring them back to the area in the future.
- They slap the filled-in sticker on an empty building.
- A crew comes along and records all the suggestions (and cleans up the stickers, while they are at it).
Gary asked the simple question: Why not in Gilroy?
Converting the words into action, the RRDG volunteers went to the Gilroy Downtown Business Association, and asked for permission to implement the “I Wish This Was …” in conjunction with the Wine Stroll. Not only was permission granted, but the GDBA endorsed the effort and the activities being performed for the benefit of Gilroy’s downtown businesses.
The RRDG purchased the stickers, developed handout sheets explaining the purpose and the procedures of the project, and had posters printed showing examples from the “I Wish This Was …” projects in other communities. We were ready to go.
On the day of the Wine Stroll, a few blank stickers were placed on each of the currently empty buildings in the Wine Stroll area and marker pens were taped up nearby in little pen holders. The volunteers roamed the streets with more blank stickers and handouts, and the fun started.
The public response was not only positive, people were eager to write up their ideas and slap them on one of the empty buildings. People who didn’t have a blank sticker added their suggestions to stickers that were already posted. Over and over, during the course of the afternoon, people came up to the RRDG volunteers, asking for stickers. Many of them asked if they could have 2, or even 3, because they had several ideas.
Happily, the vast majority of the people who participated wrote serious suggestions for stores, restaurants and services that would enhance our downtown area and draw more people to the heart of our city on a more frequent basis. A comment heard frequently by the volunteers was how much people wanted Downtown to be a more active, vital area. Many consider it to be an attractive place with some outstanding architecture. People are looking for a center where they can enjoy shopping and outings with friends and family.
And, on a side note, something that restores a little of our faith in our fellow humans: only a few of the pens disappeared during the day. Maybe 3 of them. The rest were used by dozens of people, who then carefully returned them to their holder. You know, Gilroy is a pretty nice place with pretty nice people!
RRDG will be providing summaries of the ideas collected from the stickers to the organizations that have a stake in helping Gilroy’s Downtown grow and thrive, and we’ll publish the information here on the RRDG website.
On top of that, it’s not too late to provide your own input, if you weren’t at the Wine Stroll. We’ll be adding some pages showing the empty buildings, and you can fill in the “I Wish This Was …” blank on-line. Just give us a little time to get it organized, then check back in these pages.
If you can’t wait, just fill in a comment on this post, including your idea(s) for what would bring you and others downtown more often.
Let us know your thoughts.
Meanwhile, you can see a few of the entries we collected below. Maybe they will spark an idea that will make all the difference.
Click on a picture to view this as a slide show. (On smart phones, it brings up a larger picture.)