This is really a contemporary topic as of this writing. It would seem that all around the country, people are feeling left out, disenfranchised and excluded. I learned something this spring that may be of benefit to us all.
When we think about our own lives, do we ever think about the people that we leave out or disenfranchise? I had occasion to hear that message from a group of young people that opened my eyes in a way that still has me shaking my head. The conversation was initiated during the community review when I repeatedly heard, “Cody lacks a nightlife for young people!” As this discussion progressed, I asked, “So what does a nightlife look like?” And thus, challenged this individual to assemble a group of people to explain it to me.
Again, I’m still shaking my head as that group relayed their thoughts for the better part of an hour and half. Mind you, I was expecting to hear a litany of requests for expensive infrastructure and huge carrying costs. But I didn’t. Rather, I heard the suggestion of things that are near-term and doable. The young people articulated three things that they feel would increase the community vibrancy and vitality as it relates to a younger generation, namely more street events, gathering spaces and workspace that is attainable.
So, we began the process of thinking out loud about these matters! While COVID interrupted the Summer 2020 plans … we are making progress on activity this fall. I’ve coined this group as Making Space and will seek their engagement as these three concepts begin to take shape.
The vibrancy of the community has a direct correlation to the way people gather. The daily Gunfights at the Irma draw a crowd and the crowd attracts attention. The same is true for the Concerts in the Park on Thursdays during the summer. But what would happen if different groups throughout town organized a Friday evening side street closure in conjunction with local restaurants, food trucks and perhaps some local musicians? It would become a place to go at 5 o’clock, spend some time with friends and neighbors to simply socialize. We all need some of that after the lockdown! And yes, we can gather safely. The location of the event could vary, and the responsible entity could change as well. It would be great if local service clubs and businesses sponsored a night and provide manpower to set it up and take it down. Would residents see this as a place to go after work on Friday nights? I’d like to think so.
These are all questions that need to be discussed as this strategy takes shape.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place to go to spend time with friends and not spend a lot of money?” That was a question posed by one person in the group. Young people like to hang out and socialize. While we know this happens at coffee shops, bars, and other establishments, when you look around Cody, other than city parks, there are not a lot of places where people can gather.
Gathering areas don’t take much – a table or two, and open space and perhaps some lighting. This suggestion brought to mind a number of places within the community that could be inexpensively developed. We need to identify good spaces, where people want to meet, not just where people like me think they should be. The group will be seeking input on locations that would make sense and that people would use. There is no “build it and they will come” magic for this item. The key is to identify a spot and put a team together to make it happen.
Over the past several years, the idea of coworking space has been raised several times. As a background, coworking space is a shared working environment where people can pay to use office space in a shared facility. The facility often offers Internet, mail service and a physical place to work for a reasonable fee. People who seek out coworking space have graduated from the spare bedroom in the house and the coffee shop workspace but are not quite ready for the monthly commitment of a permanent brick and mortar space. Coworking space gives emerging businesses the opportunity to grow themselves into a permanent location.
In early 2021 a new coworking space will become available in downtown Cody. It becomes the second coworking space in the community. Privately owned and operated, Wild West Studio is located at 2904 Big Horn Avenue (https://www.kayleighrust.com/wild-west-studio) and provides a great package of services to tenants. Sponsored by Forward Cody, @the Square will be a new coworking space located in the Bank of the West building at 1130 Sheridan Avenue and will provide yet another opportunity for growing companies. The space is being developed under the guidance of Wiley Reid, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who will be in Cody over the next 12 months. His work will shape the facility, its design, and function. Wiley will also be working with the Making Space group to address the ideas that came out of the initial discussions.
We are fortunate to have a growing population of young people who have chosen Cody to live, work, and be part of the community. Making space for them and their enjoyment of the community will be of benefit to us all!
If you are interested in being a part of any of these Making Space opportunities and would like to volunteer your input, time, and talents please call the Forward Cody office at 307-587-3136.