Some Call It Weirdification.
Others Call It Placemaking.
To Us, It’s About Keeping Fremont Weird, Cool, Inclusive, and Economically Resilient.
The “weirdification” movement is picking up steam in cities across the nation. And you know what? We’re on board with that.
Today, economic development extends beyond conversations about urban zoning and mixed development — it’s also about preserving the unique character and ethos of a place, and cultivating cultural intangibles like food festivals, murals, music concerts, and one-of-a-kind stores.
While we aren’t exactly trying to get on the same level as “Portlandia,” Fremont claims its own dose of the unexpected.
For instance, Carole Wang is a fashion designer who uses knits and fabrics made from bamboo. In the '90s, her clothes were sold in high-end retailers, ranging from Nordstrom to boutiques in New York City. Today, Carole prototypes her clothing in Fremont.
Then there’s the whimsical “Dragonfly Market,” tucked away in the heart of the Irvington district that showcases local artists’ handmade goods.
The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is one of the world’s leading curators and preservers of silent film history, memorabilia, and films. Also hiding in Fremont’s Niles District is an abandoned Niles Canyon aqueduct that attracts the curious to an unusual trail known as the “Secret Sidewalk.”
To build on all this, we’ve been cooking up a weirdification strategy for the past few years to attract the brightest millennials to the city. We have a unique opportunity to sprinkle some funky local businesses into new development areas and create an authentically Fremont place.
Here’s what we’re not trying to do: turn the city into an exclusively corporate environment filled with generic buildings and one-too-many national retail chains. On the contrary, we are building on our distinguishing capacity for local makers to incubate and scale retail production spaces.
Our partnership with Recast City to attract and retain small-scale manufacturers is strengthening the community and creating vibrant neighborhoods. These businesses are bringing Fremont’s authentic character into the limelight.
For example, Zeefoods creates Indian-flavored exotic kulfi desserts and ice cream flavors such as pistachio, mango, malai, saffron, and lychee in our Warm Springs District.
A local brewery called Das Brew features wholesale production from kegs to growlers that channels Oktoberfest all year long.
Let’s not forget Fremont’s thriving art scene. Whether it’s events like the Fremont Underground Social Experience, the Pacific Commons Chalk Festival, or rotating art installations like “Space Glow,” Fremont hopes to bring moments of pause to wander into its otherwise frenetic Silicon Valley atmosphere.
To further our weirdification cause, we’re taking a cue from Burning Man — America’s ultimate celebration of wackiness.
Described as an experiment in community, art, and self-expression, there’s a lot that cities can learn from this iconic annual gathering. It’s not the buildings that are important. Burning Man literally begins with an empty desert. It’s a blank canvas. Whatever exists depends solely on the imaginations of its participants, and how they choose to activate that space.
We’re applying that same logic to our Downtown area and putting events and people before buildings. ”Phase Zero” seeks to activate existing Downtown public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, and parking lots to create energy we can “build on.”
What exactly do people want to see on these streets? We’re turning to the Fremont community to find out. Ideas range from chalk art contests, pop-up beer gardens, food truck parks, and on-street chess tournaments to dance mobs, block parties, and community movie nights.
We’re prototyping these events and getting real-time feedback on the kinds of activities and places Fremont locals want to experience. Whether it’s a community garden, makerspace, microbrewery, or ice skating rink, all decisions are up to you.