Things to do

Here’s why you’ll find beanbag chairs and a ping pong table outside in uptown this month

The City of Charlotte is throwing down bean bag chairs and a ping pong table to add appeal to an unexpected uptown location: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Plaza.

The resulting GovPorch, envisioned by a seven-person, multidisciplinary team with the City of Charlotte, is one of three Charlotte-based projects that won a grant in the national $1 Million KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge, which was announced late summer 2016. This competition supports projects in cities meant to make play easy and accessible for kids and families in the U.S.

The actual design for GovPorch was conjured up before the KaBOOM! grant application was due. To gauge the plausibility of the project, the City even hosted a one-day demonstration project in June 2016 on the plaza with vendors, plants in fountains, a fake grass carpet with Adirondack chairs and a “bubble guy” creating giant bubbles to float through the space.

Thanks to the $35,000 grant the city received, you’ll start to find furniture and hard materials — like those aforementioned bean bag chairs and ping pong table — on the plaza March 24.

“Things will just start showing up,” said Monica Holmes, Urban Designer for the City of Charlotte.

This project is all about reimagining a space that already exists. GovPorch will enhance the plaza’s four empty fountains with coverings and landscaping. Artwork by local children will embellish the fencing in the area, and most of it will be sourced from Larry King’s Clubhouse, the childcare center at the courthouse.

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There will also be an interactive art feature called “Resonances” by multidisciplinary artist William Lee, which is meant to emphasize communal unity. There will be footprints on the sidewalk to encourage people to move through the space, and a portion of a Wall of Compassion created through the Blessing Boxes campaign, among other features.

April 7 will bring an official kickoff with the unveiling of GovPorch, and all of the fun paraphernalia and programming surrounding the project will be available for use until June 30.

While this project is transient due to limited resources, the organizers want to show the community and city officials what could be, said Holmes, and “that there is actually value in redoing that space with the hope that it does become permanent.”

This could also serve as an opportunity for Charlotte to strengthen its relationship with the community by offering public access to meaningful spaces and experiences.

Aside from people who work around the government plaza, Holmes said, “most people are in this area for the best day of their life or the worst day of their life.”

They may be getting married, or they may be appearing in court for a wrongdoing.

Soon, on the GovPorch, they can come across something unexpected, something light.

Images: Courtesy of Charlotte Urban Design