By Kate Bradshaw | Special to the Almanac
Visitors to downtown Menlo Park have likely noticed the colorful array of astroturf, colorful chairs, and young families at play in the new "Pop-Up Paseo" on Chestnut Street between Santa Cruz and Menlo avenues.
A pilot initiative of Menlo Park's specific plan to improve public spaces in the city, the paseo will be home to the Menlo Movie Series, which offers free screenings of family-friendly films each Friday during September.
This is the lineup:
● Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m.: "Guardians of the Galaxy."
● Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.: "Planes Fire and Rescue."
● Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.: "Big Hero 6."
● Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.: "Cinderella."
The paseo will also be the location for other events in September. On Friday, Sept. 4, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Menlo Park patrol officers will host a Friday Night Lights tailgate party, which will offer pizza, popcorn, soft drinks, and memorabilia giveaways. The event will directly precede the free screening of "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Jim Cogan, the city's economic development manager, said he is working with downtown furniture stores to gauge interest in using the space to showcase their outdoor furniture collections.
Mr. Cogan said that creating open and fun public spaces is an important next step for Menlo Park's downtown development. For Menlo Park's downtown area to stay competitive in the age of online shopping, he said, going downtown needs to feel more like an "experience."
Citing examples like free Wi-Fi in cafes, farmers' markets and food trucks, and the addition of active spaces such as bocce ball courts in local shopping centers like the Hillsdale Mall, Mr. Cogan said people go to these spaces for the things they can't get online.
"The more we provide an experiential element downtown, the more likely we are to help those businesses," he said.