A Vision of More Connected Communities
We had a vision of giving community members more say in their surroundings. Over the course of three years, What Would You Like to See? helped community members share hundreds of unique suggestion and thousands of votes on what they would like to see in vacant locations in their neighborhood.
The drivers of this project were Mike Caputo, Joey Tomlinson, and Elle Kelsheimer.
This is their story.
In 2010, after some of the worst effects of the Great Recession, storefronts were shuttered everywhere. Like a great fire scorching a forest underbrush, many smaller and independent business had closed up. Jobs were scarcer. But the empty storefronts that now dotted the streets were not merely a sign of the economic times: they also heralded new opportunities for entrepreneurs and those businesses that were looking to expand.
The standard line was that consumer demand had evaporated. But people still needed food, clothing, shops, places to gather, and jobs for themselves as well - none of this had changed. For all of the existing expanding businesses and new entrepreneurs looking to get started, how could this demand be demonstrated? This is where Mike Caputo had his idea. If there were some way to drive community members to a central place to share what they would like to see, then that demand could be demonstrated.
By placing posters in the empty storefronts, he realized that he could help people bring their inputs together and centralize them. This input would be easier to share with others, and would be of greater value to realtors and the property managers who are looking for tenants to fill their spaces. Additionally, potential tenants looking at the spaces would have some sense of the demand for their services they might be bringing to an area.
Although a capable web developer, Mike needed extra muscle to help him build a full-featured application to make this idea a reality. He got Joey Tomlinson involved, an experienced engineer and software developer, to help build the website and related tools. He also had Elle Kelsheimer, a graphic designer and illustrator, design the logo and help with much of the branding.
Through 2012-2014, we worked to gather input from 8 locations across Portland. We gathered hundreds of unique suggestions and thousands of votes on what people would like to see in empty storefronts and lots. Mike met with realtors, neighborhood associations, the PDC (Portland Development Commission), community leaders, low-income advocates, property managers, and local businesses to gague their needs and see how this service could help them improve their neighborhoods.
By interacting with these many varied people, we hope that we have inspired people to be more active in their surroundings. Neighbors know that they have a voice, and community leaders have a better sense of what their community's needs are. We also received a significant amount from those in the the Lents neighborhood, that they would welcome the relocation of the Belmont Goats to an empty lot near Lents town center. This input was heard by the PDC and may have played a role in helping this move become a reality in 2014, helping Portland to retain a small but iconic group of four-legged community members.
Meet the Team Who Made it all Happen
Mike Caputo - Co-Founder & CEO
Mike began work on What Would You Like to See? in 2011. After seeing the ongoing effects of the recession on Portland's streetscapes, he wanted to create some mechanism through which brokers, property managers, neighbors, and prospective tenants could interact for the betterment of all groups involved. With a background in both social sciences and technology, he aims both to create opportunities and make better communities by bringing people together.
Joey Tomlinson - Co-Founder & CTO
Joey is an engineer and programmer who joined Mike as a co-founder of What Would You Like to See? in 2012. He is responsible for developing and maintaining the service's back-end and works with Mike and Elle on the front end functionality and design of the website.
Aerayelle Kelsheimer - Graphic Designer & Branding
Elle Kelsheimer is a web developer/ interface designer by trade and a comic artist by hobby. With What Would You Like To See?, she found the opportunity to design for a wide audience, which was both challenging and fulfilling. More of her art and interface design can be seen on her portfolio site (aerayelleellekelsheimer.com) or at her ongoing webcomic about World War I (Christmastrucecomic.com)