Pop-up Space Planned for Vacant Main Street Lot

Mural Square site in March 2017 (photo credit — Stephanie Jones)

A vacant site on Main Street called “Mural Square” is going to be developed fairly soon — except it won’t be permanent.

As part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown area, the City of Poughkeepsie, Scenic Hudson Inc., and the Poughkeepsie Alliance have come together to turn the virtually dead space into a temporary city square.

“Pop-up public spaces are temporary gardens, parks or public plazas that occur on vacant sites,” Scenic Hudson urban designer Peter Barnard said. “They usually run for one year or a couple of years and they are much less expensive than doing a permanent public space.”

Building a pop-up space is like a trial run to see whether a permanent public space can work on the designated property in the future. It serves more than one purpose, though: a pop-up space can be a short-term fix for an empty lot that serves as a “blight” on the downtown landscape, at least until something permanent is planned there.

As for Mural Square in Poughkeepsie, all parties involved see it serving both of these purposes.

“[Mural Square] is currently a vacant lot owned by the City of Poughkeepsie and we want to turn it into a multi-purpose pop-up park,” Paul Calogerakis from the Poughkeepsie Alliance said. “It will have pathways, a performance space, it will have trailers at the end of it for storage for benches and tables. We see it being used for farmers’ markets, craft fairs, live music — anything you would use a public space for.”

Mural Square Pop-Up Plaza Conceptual Design, courtesy of Peter Barnard

The site was cleared for urban renewal years ago, but only now is the City beginning to see progress on their empty Main Street parcels; across the street is another vacant lot that is intended to be a public square in the future.

“Having those sites across the street from each other drains activity and discourages walking up the street, so we thought we would build a temporary public space on Mural Square to bring more activity to downtown,” Barnard said.

Walkability is an issue that many urban cities like Poughkeepsie are trying to fix. In the wake of car and traffic-centric urban design by mid-to late-1900’s urban planners, cities are now trending in a different direction. Planners are focusing more on pedestrian traffic in, and visual aesthetic of, a downtown area and how to make it feel like a true community.

Mural Square site in March 2017 (photo credit — Robert Nasso)

“We want to create a place where office workers can go outside and eat lunch and also draw people into downtown Poughkeepsie on the weekends,” Barnard said. “It is a very empty area on the weekends.

“The City, Poughkeepsie Alliance and Scenic Hudson are currently looking for a fourth partner to operate it — schedule programming, ensure that is stays clean and maintained throughout the year.”

The purpose of the City’s Request for Proposal (RFP) was to search for that final partner. The deadline was March 22 and according to Calogerakis, it was successful.

“We did get one response from the RFP,” Calogerakis said. “We will continue to work with that and refine it. Our original plan was to have [Mural Square] open by Earth Day, but that’s probably not going to happen.

“We are committed to getting this done this spring.”