• Rehanna Azimi, Monique Baena-Tan

  • Anchoring the City of Orange: Reinvigorating the institutional intermediaries that are vital to maintaining a flourishing public realm

    Residents of Orange, NJ face a situation that is characterized by the agglomeration of powerful regional political and private sector development interests. Through an analysis of community organizations and development plans, we have come to see that the future of the city depends on regional power dynamics which are shaping the way space is produced by undermining, ignoring and fragmenting local community based institutions and residents.To counter this, we have identified key institutions we have defined as Social Anchors, which can be activated to become the vital intermediary bodies to bring people together and amplify their voices in the face of rapid urban change. Social anchoring institutions anchor people in a community, staying when other institutions go and helping people situate themselves in a constantly changing environment. They can be community centers, churches, libraries, etc. They provide the capacity for introducing new possibilities and serve as intermediaries between the micro level tacit knowledge and amorphous macro policies.The project of activating Orange’s Anchoring Institutions requires reframing their role from that of isolated community organizations to one that highlights their interdependencies in a larger system. This brought us to design processes that foster collaboration and change the narrative that Orange is empty.Through our praxis we created a series of community reports and conducted workshops with local leadership to show that the anchors in Orange have the capacity to shape the urban fabric in a way that is equitable and responsive to people’s needs and desires. Activating existing local support institutions into vibrant spaces will empower the people to learn the tools by which they can together reframe and redirect the future course of their city.
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