Legos: More Than a Childhood Toy, a Tool in Community Development

A popular childhood toy has proven itself to be a powerful tool in envisioning community development. For MiKen’s Robertson Road Project in The Nations, Legos served as a way to engage community members and visualize the change they want to see in their backyards.

Spring 2016, community members were invited to join MiKen Development, Centric Architecture, The Nashville Civic Design Center (NCDC), and Councilperson Mary Carolyn Roberts in MiKen’s second Robertson Road neighborhood charette. The event, Robertson Road Community Design Charette: ‘Placemaking and Growing Neighborhood Assets'”, took place April 6th, 2016 at the West Police Precinct on Charlotte Avenue and was open to the public.

In the meeting with Robertson Road community members, neighbors and developers used Legos to express their visions and formulate a collaborative plan for the project. Throughout the event, attendees maneuvered Legos to map out a development plan that would pose solutions to their expressed needs. The simplicity and tangibility of the legos helped bring the plans to life and allowed attendees from various backgrounds to express their unique visions. The initial plan that MiKen brought in went through various phases of change throughout the meeting. The result was the creation of a vibrant, mixed-use anchor for the Robertson Road community and The Nations.

MiKen’s upcoming development combines five centrally located properties into a comprehensive community development plan in the heart of the The Nations’ Robertson Road Community.  The project will introduce mixed-use retail, commercial and residential components with an emphasis on green space and a boulevard feel. Included in this master plan will be the redevelopment of the land which The Mulch Company currently occupies. This change came at the request of community members who hope to see improvement in air quality, noise, and truck traffic.

Since MiKen’s founding in 2012, the development team has maintained a willingness to stay dynamic and responsive to the communities in which the company works. By soliciting resident feedback and engaging the community early in the development process, their input can have greater implications in the final development plans.

The result is a collaborative community vision that better serves the intricate needs of a neighborhood; in this case, the residents of the Robertson Road community.