[May 6 Update: Response to the COVID19 Pandemic and related shut downs: On March 7th, we were preparing to launch bench Consulting, a placemaking advisory service that we created to help main streets, downtowns, property owners and others realize the full extent of the opportunities to build vibrant spaces and places in their commercial centers. What happened over the coming days would change our lives forever and cause the entire world to take a collective pause and revisit our daily routines, our daily interactions and the things that are most important. Businesses and schools were forced to close, our basic services were disrupted and thousands of lives were lost to a vicious virus that rapidly spread across the globe.

As we enter a “new normal,” we face new challenges with physical distancing and how to operate in our spaces safely. These challenges require us to think outside the box and develop creative ways to maximize space on our main streets, downtowns and commercial centers. Every square foot has now increased exponentially in value and will require a re-visioning of how to design them in ways that allow people to gather and interact. We look forward to having the opportunity to support your community’s efforts to come back safely and stronger than ever from the COVID-19 crisis and hope you continue to stay well.]

Our Story

The bench is traditional, it’s universal across the globe. It exists in thousands of forms on bustling boulevards in global cities with millions of people to quiet main streets and small town centers. The bench is where residents wait for the bus, where they sit to meet their neighbors or chat with a friend over a coffee while soaking in the energy of the place.

The local bench is where Tom Hanks narrated the story of one of the most beloved movies, and it served as the setting for one of the most iconic scenes in movie history on the Boston Public Garden, and an eventual memorial to one of the movie’s biggest stars.

Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
Good Will Hunting (1997 credit Fandango)

A Community Seed

The bench is a proverbial seed of which many things sprout. Where new ideas arise and where community is built. Where residents share life lessons with each other, where new business ideas are born and where the support structure for a thriving, connected and strong community is fostered. It’s with this idea in mind that today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of bench Consulting, a placemaking consultancy and advisory firm focused on helping hyper-local projects come to life, supporting vibrant, thriving communities and local economies and inspiring everyone to “think beyond the bench.”

At bench Consulting we’ll help you unlock the potential in the ordinary. We are dedicated to working side by side with residents, businesses, property owners and government officials to take a collective second look at neglected, underused spaces in your main street, downtown, real estate development, or commercial centers like office parks and malls. We’ll engage directly with everyday users, residents, tenants, businesses and other stakeholders to unlock the power of these places.

Powerful community change driven by the intersection of people, place and ideas.

bench is powered by the folks at Patronicity, a leader in civic placemaking activation.

The need we hope to serve

Over the past few years we’ve traveled the country and the globe working in communities of all sizes and we’ve noticed a common theme that continues to repeat itself… there are engaged groups of residents ready to support the rejuvenation and revitalization of their hometowns but the where, the what and the how, are sometimes unclear.

The Corner Spot, Ashland, Massachusetts

For more than six years our team has worked with communities looking to activate vacant downtown lots, revitalize main street corridors, convert parking spaces to vibrant downtown parklets, install large scale public art installations and better connect their community to natural resources like lakes, rivers and oceans. Each of our nearly 500 projects has been completely unique. Each has had it’s own local character, it’s own local flair but each has been inspired by the creativity of others both locally, nationally and internationally. That is our approach to every project we work on.

Why Bench?

Through our years of work with Patronicity, we’ve developed an understanding for not only what’s possible but what works. We’ve learned the types of projects that have the biggest impacts, from alley activations to public art installations, Main Street district branding projects to pop up retail activations in vacant lots and empty storefronts and neighborhood pocket parks. Our wealth of on-the-ground experience and substantial data knowledge not only informs our guidance, but also helps you advocate to your community and funders why they should support this type of intervention.

What This Will Be

We will work with main streets, business improvement districts, cities, towns, commercial property owners, office parks, mall owners and more to;

  1. IDENTIFY “excess capacities” or opportunities where placemaking interventions could have a major impact on the surrounding area.
  2. ENGAGE the surrounding residential and business community through online and offline interventions to uncover what the community at large would want to see in these opportunity spaces.
  3. PLAN: Following stakeholder feedback we’ll identify both the latent opportunities in your built environment and present a number of intervention ideas based on past precedent.
  4. IMPLEMENT: Our team will identify possible roadblocks and help create outcome basted action items to help see the project through, sell the project to powers that be and potential funders. Often funding can hinder implementation, but we’ve got six years of funding strategy expertise to help you make your placemaking project happen.
  5. ITERATE: Through longer term engagements, strategies will be developed for how to implement, learn, and iterate based on continued community feedback and sustained engagement. Our public and communal spaces should be treated as living, breathing and growing entities, just like the people that occupy them adapting as needs and desires change.

What This Will NOT Be

bench WILL NOT be a vehicle to force change on communities. We do not believe that there are uniform solutions and a “plug and play” answers to the issues plaguing our downtowns, commercial centers and main streets. Each city and town is unique and each bench engagement will work to bring out the unique aspects and features of each place.

Our team has spent years developing a deep understanding of communities, both large and small where we work. From dense urban areas like Boston, Toronto, Indianapolis and Detroit to small rural areas like Yeoman, Indiana and Orange, Massachusetts, creativity, ambition and a sense of collaboration abound in communities of all sizes and we view it as our mission to bring out the full potential in each community we serve.

Community development and revitalization are not just our jobs but personal passions and we look forward to having the opportunity to think creatively about your community.

Meet us at the bench and let's start a conversation today.

Best,

The bench Consulting Team

Barbara, Bridget, Ebrahim, Jonathan, Mahala and Tim