An important milestone of the Central Hercules Plan Initiative was the Design Charrette, held June 20-29, 2000 in Hercules. After months of gathering information, the professional planning team descended on Hercules for an intense, week-long design effort called a "charrette." The essential features of the Central Hercules Plan were created in that week.
The former Wells Fargo branch in Creekside Center was converted to an ad-hoc design studio and conference facility. The public was encouraged to visit the studio all day long—and well into the night! Citizens could meet and bring their concerns to a team of nationally-recognized planners, architects, economists, illustrators, and other experts. Many individuals put their lives on "hold" and focused for the entire week on preparing the right response to all the challenges and opportunities in building the next version of Hercules.
Prior to the charette week, a Town Meeting was convened on May 31, 2000, at the former Wells Fargo branch. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the community to the charrette process and introduce the principles of urban design. Great citizen interest was indicated by the overflow turnout. Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl & Partners presented examples of streets and buildings that create places worth caring about. He also charged the community with the responsibility to participate in the upcoming charrette process. Burning questions about current development projects were deferred to the kickoff session.
Next, the planning team received professional research and analysis on the housing, retail, commercial, and transportation conditions in Hercules.
After arriving on site in late June, the planning team joined City staff and leaders for a day-long tour of best-loved buildings and streets in West Contra Costa and the northern Bay region. Team members took photos of vernacular architecture and measurements of streets and public spaces.
On June 23, a Friday evening, citizens joined the planning team and learned how to be "citizen planners". Answers were given to the burning questions about current development projects, and the City's planning and approval process. Citizens were encouraged to "argue with their pencils" at the following day's "Hands On" session.
"Hands On" Session
On Saturday, June 24, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, again at the Swim Center on Refugio Road, nearly two hundred citizen planners, aided by twenty professional design facilitators, drew their visions of Hercules. Citizens "argued with their pencils" in small groups at tables equipped with base maps, tracing paper, markers and sticky notes. (insert 245_CitizenPlanners7.jpg align=right)
Ideas, shared with neighbors and the planning team, became an important part of the planning process. Citizens were able to see the "big picture. ((insert 245_Citizen_Planners8.jpg align=right)"
To conclude, each table reported their vision to the entire room.
The key points were recorded; then the maps and notes on large boards were transported to the temporary design studio at the former Wells Fargo building.
With a solid understanding of the current conditions and possible futures, the planning team got underway with meetings, sketches, and drawing in the design studio. The studio was open to the public at all times, all week long. Citzens could see the plan taking shape, participate in meetings, and make comments at any time. The press was kept apprised of events with daily press releases.
As the week wore on, and the plan changed shape many times, the team's pace quickened in anticipation of the interim report on Thursday. Computer images were prepared to communicate the essential results.
Interim Results Presentation
On Thursday evening, June 29, the planning team again met the citizens at the Swim Center. This time, the team presented the results of the week’s intensive work in a multimedia presentation. Citizens "walked through" an illustrated guidebook to the future Town Center of Hercules. Key stakeholders and the City leaders were on hand to share and celebrate this historic event.