West Harlem Tourism Visioning Workshop Takes off
August 14, 2013
The West Harlem Community Preservation Organization (WHCPO) hosted a visioning workshop on promoting tourism in West Harlem for 26 specially-invited participants on Monday, August 12 2013. The five-hour event was held at the Manhattan Pentecostal Church. Invited participants represented a wide range of stakeholders that included: West Harlem Development Corporation, Harlem Community Development Corporation, Malcolm X & Betty Shabaaz Education Center, Church of the Intervention, National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, National Parks Service, Maison de Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, Morris Jumel Mansion, Community Board 9, A-Loft Hotel, Morningside Alliance, Bed & Breakfast Group, US Department of Commerce, and Harlem historians- Eric Washington and John Reddick. NY State Assemblyman Keith Wright and Councilmember Robert Jackson were represented as well.
Yuien Chin, Executive Director of Harlem One-Stop and the WHCPO, stated that the purpose of the inaugural workshop was to bring stakeholders together to begin dialogue on the community’s vision for the development of tourism in West Harlem and to create something unique with the potential to serve as a catalyst for major economic development of the area that is currently marked by high unemployment and poor perceptions in spite of the many positive assets that tourists would want to experience.
The workshop was facilitated by Resonance Consultancy – Chris Fair and Richard Cutting-Miller, known for their work in tourism and destination branding both here in the States and abroad. Together, they have led planning for more than 300 destinations in the U.S. that have included sites in Vancouver, Hawaii, and in 65 countries.
The facilitators succeeded in getting the participants to freely share ideas about what differentiates West Harlem, its tourist products, who would want to visit, and why. In addition, there were healthy discussions about what needed to be done and additional partners that should participate to realize the vision. The fact that West Harlem is an integral part of greater Harlem was not lost. However the need to build a unique destination that takes advantage of the architecture, cultural institutions, transportation network, local arts community, national historical sites and waterfront, and diverse residents — all of which can be summed into a West Harlem brand, was seen as a necessary start.
Judging by the number of the participants who made time from their busy schedules and stayed for the duration of the workshop, it was a great success for an initial brain-storming workshop. Against the challenge of dealing with the youth violence that is perceived as an impediment, the allure of the economic benefits from a fully developed West Harlem as an internationally recognized destination makes all the efforts worth pursuing. The task at hand is to create an environment that will attract and support amenities and services that will exceed the expectations of visitors, ensure the preservation of West Harlem’s cultural heritage and enhance the lives of residents.
The workshop was funded by West Harlem Development Corporation through its grant to West Harlem Community Preservation Organization.