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The Power of 10

breaking down city planning to one number

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by Thom Fountain

MAIN STREET, COLFAX. Attractions to an area can range from shops to benches, but they all work together to make a space work.
MAIN STREET, COLFAX. Attractions to an area can range from shops to benches,
but they all work together to make a space work.

I think Harry Nilsson really hit into some deeper truth when he wrote, “one is the loneliest number.” Also, I doubt he’d ever have guessed his line would be used to open an article on urban planning and development.

But it’s true that one attraction – one thing to do – isn’t enough to create a vibrant space, whether that be a downtown, a community or an entire region. It takes a number of different niceties and amenities to keep people coming back and staying longer, which in turn enhances everything around those attractions. 

The Project For Public Spaces – a nonprofit that focuses on planning, developing and educating on public spaces – has decided that number is ten. Ten reasons for people to be there. Ten parks, shops, restaurants, public art displays, live music spaces, places to sit or historical structures. And the Power of 10 expands out. Ten attractions in one block make a vibrant block, and ten vibrant blocks in one neighborhood makes a vibrant neighborhood and so on and so forth. 

It takes a number of different niceties and amenities to keep people coming back and staying longer, which in turn enhances everything around those attractions.

PPS will be bringing their theory of The Power of 10 to the region thanks to a grant awarded to the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. On July 10, representatives from PPS will be coming to the communities of Colfax and Owen to conduct their own assessments of those downtowns. 

Eric Anderson, a senior planner at WCWRPC, said they applied for the Building Blocks For Sustainable Communities grant with the intent of helping the smaller communities in the area who may not have the resources to orchestrate their own city planning studies. 

“We thought a lot of [PPS studies] happen in big cities, in a Boston or a Philadelphia where they are focusing on this one big plaza or a couple blocks, but we were thinking (of) these rural communities that need to think about their downtown – a lot of them are struggling.”

Anderson said the grant has provided a true win-win scenario for the area. Not only will the communities of Owen and Colfax benefit from the assessments, but the PPS representatives will be going over their findings and processes in learning sessions in those communities and in Eau Claire on July 11. 

But these events aren’t just for the pros. A major tenet of Power of 10 is that it’s often the community members – the ones who live and work in the area – who have the best ideas of what is and isn’t bringing people to an area and keeping them there, as well as providing ideas for what would be beneficial. That means you. 

Having PPS show their methods will allow community planners, business owners and organizations like WCWRPC to continue to use the Power of 10 process in the area for years to come.

“They can come in for two days, do the two community ones and the regional exercise and what they leave is… knowledge here. And we’re able to take that knowledge and work with the communities in our region and do Power of 10 exercises for them.”

PPS will be conducting two workshops on July 10, in Owen from 9am-noon at the Owen Public Library and in Colfax from 6pm-9pm at Little Slice of Italy. They will also be in Eau Claire on July 11 at Banbury Place from 9am-1pm. Please RSVP to 836-2918.

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