Demand Discovery comes to life


In late 2016, we launched The Neighborhood Playbook in partnership with People’s Liberty. The Playbook is a field guide designed to help both community members and entrepreneurs activate overlooked spaces with an eye towards uncovering and creating demand for real estate and infrastructure investment. At the time of the book’s launch, we weren’t sure how it would be received. This motivated us to find some energetic volunteers that would be willing to test the methodology in their neighborhood. Fortunately, we didn’t have to look beyond our own backyard. Several community members in Bellevue, Kentucky, were immediately interested in how the Playbook might help bring an evening food and beverage scene back to a sleepy corner of their Fairfield Avenue main street. This goal, coupled with a key building that was for sale, created the perfect activation opportunity.

The chosen building, a historic former bank, had been long occupied by a social service agency and included a surface parking lot tucked to the side. The team identified this lot and the adjacent alley as the ‘place’ to program. Once both the problem and the space were identified, they developed an idea for a Kentucky-centric market that became known as the Old Kentucky Maker’s Market (OKMM). With several local makers, Kentucky beer, food and bluegrass music, a movement was born. Over the next 12 months, OKMM’s were held monthly with growing attendance and excitement. The event uncovered demand for evening activities, local makers and a local spending power from young families, residents of nearby communities and long-time residents. More importantly the process attracted two young entrepreneurs to purchase the building and begin developing a tenanting strategy based, in part, on what they were seeing each month at the markets.

At the final event, the future tenant tested their new business concept in the undeveloped ground floor retail space. This was both a test and a smart and inclusive way to announce the future use of the building. 

Earlier this summer, The Fairfield Market had its official grand opening. It has already hosted several community events and opened a mini-shop for local makers. This was all on full display during a recent First Friday event where they threw a party in their parking lot that was very reminiscent of the days of that first OKMM, bringing the process of demand discovery and creation full circle. Demand building, like community building, really doesn’t have an end. It is constantly engaging the community and shaping physical outcomes. 

This strategic activation of a surface parking lot helped do the following:

  • Uncover a hidden demand for food/beverage spending in an underutilized district

  • Show the market that young families with spending power lived within walking distance

  • Helped the future property owner understand that the parking lot wasn’t only valuable as a parking lot