30 years ago, the City of Lowell honored its then still controversial native son with the establishment of Kerouac Park on the site of an old warehouse between the Eastern Canal and Bridge Street. Although the park has seen some memorable moments, particularly during festive occasions related to its world-renown namesake, most would agree that the park is an underutilized space in the thick of Lowell’s historic downtown.
Therefore city leaders, particularly in the Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, were thrilled when they heard about MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places campaign and proposed Kerouac Park as one of the projects for the opportunity.
Commonwealth Places provides a creative funding mechanism to advance community placemaking projects throughout Massachusetts. The statewide program helps fund place-based, community-driven projects – art installations, parks, bike trails, markets, and more – that revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. Successful projects must activate a new or underused public or community space, and the program will give preference to permanent physical projects. The program aims to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions through a crowdfunding platform with the incentive of a dollar-for-dollar funding match (up to $50,000) from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached within 60 days.
Kerouac Park was chosen as Lowell’s bid for the crowdfunding project with MassDevelopment pledging a matching donation of $25,000 once the private donations equal that number. The campaign has been active throughout the month of June and with the June 30th deadline approaching, Kerouac Park is under $4000 away from reaching the magic $25000 figure.
As the project’s crowdfunding page describes:
“Spots nearby are bustling many days of the year, especially during our major festivals and events. However, Kerouac Park is often empty. This is a tremendous missed opportunity. In a city with so little park space, we believe investing in Kerouac Park would make it a destination for residents and visitors to relax, play, mingle, laugh, gather, and celebrate Lowell.
With your help, Kerouac Park will be the spark to rediscovering a chunk of worn out greenspace Downtown, while also fostering bigger activities and events. To do so, we’ll need to jazz up the shipping container from the Mill Yard with a vibrant mural, build and buy new all-weather furniture, install concrete table tennis tables, and comfortable seats—Giant Adirondack anyone? “
The improvements to Kerouac Park would be diverse and multifaceted. Some are focused on adding vibrancy to the area as an event space, such as the Friday Nights! food truck series sponsored by Made in Lowell.
But plans for the park also include improvements to its day to day use as well by installing tables, chairs, games, hammocks, swings, stage, Wi-Fi, and even something as simple as electrical power.
Another unique element to the plans for Kerouac Park will be a revolving space for pop-up businesses. Building upon the start up business culture fostered by groups such as Entrepreneurship for All, new businesses would be allowed to reserve the space on a temporary basis for a couple weeks at a time to try out new ideas and get exposure.
The project has received the endorsement of many partners including: CMAA Lowell, COOL, DIY Lowell, EforAll Lowell-Lawrence, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Lowell Heritage Partnership, Lowell Historic Board, Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility, Made in Lowell, The Lowell Plan, City of Lowell Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Lowell Department of Planning and Development, City of Lowell Parks Department, and the City of Lowell Recreation Office.
In return for tax-deductible donations, patrons receive tokens ranging from exclusive commemorative stickers to permanent plaque dedication marking their contributions.
Please visit the campaign page on Patronicity and consider making a donation to help Kerouac Park reach its goal and unlock matching funds for a new vibrant space.
UPDATE: As of July 1st, The Kerouac Park Patronicity campaign raised $29,692 in private crowdfunding donations, enough to qualify for the $25,000 matching contribution from MassDevelopment. The Kerouac Park facebook page will continue to provide updates on the park’s transformation and redevelopment.