ReSurfaced is coming back to Liberty and Shelby streets for another round of pop-up events and experiences this summer. The experiment in creating place from thin air has adjusted course after last year’s iteration and is ready for a new season with an updated look.
“One of the things we learned is the space is two times as big as the first one [on Main Street],” explained Patrick Piuma, director of City Collaborative (CC), the parent nonprofit that oversees the project. “With a space that big you can have 50 or 60 people walking around and it feels empty. We’re working on strategies to make it more like a good spot to enjoy the summer or fall—condensing the space down to make it more intimate. But be flexible to open up for large events.”
The first iteration of Liberty Build centered around a communal beer garden space filled with wood chips, Piuma said. “We made it too flexible last year.” As a remedy, ReSurfaced plans smaller seating areas and a revised layout.
City Collaborative is working with landscape architects Patrick Henry and Louis Johnson (both CC board members) and land-arch students from the University of Kentucky on the details. Mark Renz and Pat Strehl from Luckett & Farley have also volunteered structural engineering technical assistance.
“We’re working right now on a greening plan,” Piuma said. “We want to create a space where families can walk in and feel like a pop-up community center.” Already, volunteers helped install several large trees, but Piuma hopes for more. “We’d like to get some donations for plant material.” Ideas include building a rainwater catchment area to store runoff, adding a “no-mow” demonstration garden, and breaking up asphalt on the lot.
One design update that’s sure to add to the industrial chic of the space is manhole-cover paving in the beer garden. LG&E donated roughly 300 iron discs challenging designers to come up with a creative use. There’s been some learning along the way. “When it gets hot those things heat up,” Piuma said. Original plans to pave the entire area with the iron covers were scaled back. “We’re using them as a border treatment and at the entry garden.”
Another addition this year are two shipping containers sponsored by Brown-Forman’s Coopers’ Craft bourbon. The blue containers, matching the bottles’ labels, include a bar and retail space surrounded by a wooden deck.
For Piuma, the 2016 edition of Liberty Build was about getting the infrastructure in place. This year is all about the details. “We spent a lot of resources getting the soccer field and everything built,” he said. “Now we’re focusing on creating a unique experience.”
As demonstrated in previous years, programming at ReSurfaced goes a long way towards driving crowds. And Piuma expects this year to be no different. Not every event will focus on beer, but food is a different story. “There’s always going to be food there,” Piuma said. “I think we’re going to work more with food trucks to get augmented food.” The familiar taco challenge and fried chicken throwdown will also make a return.
If last year was about testing ideas and putting infrastructure in place, this year is about making those ideas pop. “Now we’ve got a platform and we want to activate it,” Piuma said. “We want to try to bring in different partners and let them think about how they would like to use the space. Curating experiences is what we’re looking for. We’re looking for themes—bikes, design, sustainability.”
To that end, the team hopes to add signage and visibility that draw more people from crowded East Market Street south to ReSurfaced.
“We picked this site partly because the sites we’ve had in the past have come ready with a historic facade or the river and views of downtown,” Piuma said. “We wanted a site that was more indicative of the vacant land around the community. It was a way bigger challenge than we thought it would be. We wanted to pick a really ugly site and make it into a place people wanted to come down to.”
ReSurfaced pledges to be open to the public on the first and third weekends of each month beginning in June. It will also take part in First Friday Gallery Hops with shows inside Forest Giant’s gallery shipping containers.
Besides adding signage on Market Street directing pedestrians to the pop-up, Piuma plans to paint some shipping containers and make the perimeter more appealing. “The hope is that we can take down as much construction fencing as possible and replace with a wooden fence,” Piuma said. “We want the outside appearance to look a little more finished and not so much a construction zone.”
ReSurfaced’s main entrance is also moving back to its originally designed location on the corner of Shelby and Liberty. Visitors will pass between double-decker shipping container megaliths marking the entry point. “The whole idea is that this was the front porch of the space,” Piuma said. “We want to invite the neighborhood in.”
There’s still plenty of work left at ReSurfaced: The Liberty Build. If you’d like to get involved, there are several Community Build Days coming up where you can help shape the city’s summer pop-up. The first is this Saturday, April 29 from 10:00a.m. till 2:00p.m. Additional Community Build dates have been set for Saturdays on May 13 and May 20. If you’d like to attend, wear work clothes and sturdy shoes—and drop Patrick a line so he can plan the work load.
So when’s the grand opening? It’s coming up fast. Piuma said ReSurfaced will throw open its gates to the public on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3. ReSurfaced has the Liberty Build site until the end of the year, and Piuma said they plan to be open at least through October.