STAMFORD — Grab a partner and get ready to swing them ’round — Harbor Point is hosting a square dancing night to wrap up its outdoor summer programming.
The hootenanny is the culmination of a summer-long urban programming
experiment in the redeveloped South End neighborhood, spearheaded by Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, a company best known for its revitalization of Bryant Park in New York City.
“I love square dancing … it’s a great way to get people to gather because it works for dates, but the small groups of four and eight that come with a Virginia Reel are also great for anyone who just wants to swing through and get to know people,” said BRV Chief Operating Officer Dan Biederman, whose work in Bryant Park garnered him national attention.
Biederman brought square dancing to Bryant Park after he discovered a “fun and patient” band caller working at a church in New Hampshire a few years ago. The Bryant Park square-dancing events started with crowds of about 200 people, but attendance has grown to as many as 1,000 at an event this month, Biederman said.
BRV will try to replicate that success in Stamford on Oct. 8 when event organizers will transform Harbor Point Square into a barnyard dance hall with hay bails, a live band and games of corn hole. The event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m.
Biederman is also bringing his band caller, Dave Harvey, who runs a barn dancing company in Brooklyn, N.Y., and calls all of Bryant Park’s square dances.
“When you do an event like this for the first time, you don’t always know how it’s going to go. The value for us here is that BRV has already done this in a lot of other spaces and it’s worked well,” said Ted Ferrarone, Building and Land Technology’s chief operating officer. “I think it will be a really fun event, and I hope it draws a lot of people down here.”
As Harbor Point’s residential development reached a critical mass this summer, developer BLT asked Biederman earlier this year to help revamp the more than 12 acres of public open space in its South End neighborhood.
Biederman led the redevelopment of Bryant Park in the early 1980s, after the area was stricken with violence and drug crime for most of the 1970s. He now advises several downtown redevelopment efforts in other U.S. cities.
Biederman and BLT have worked together since June to develop unique outdoor programs like the weekly “Yappy Hour” events for dog owners at Commons Park and outdoor fitness classes in the park and along the boardwalk.
“We’ve done much more this year than we’ve done in the past … a lot of it isn’t necessarily designed to draw big crowds; it’s designed to physically keep people in the parks for longer and improve their day-to-day experience outside their homes,” Ferrarone said.
Harbor Point also revamped its outdoor movie series this summer, extending it by four weeks and showing movies that appealed more to the millennial crowd. The movies drew about 100 people each week, according to BRV.
Other weekly activities, like free outdoor yoga and painting classes, each drew about 40 people.
“This summer was meant to be an experiment, and these attendance numbers are really promising for an early experiment. They are larger than other big cities we’re in like Newark (N.J.) and not far off the numbers we were hitting when we started things in Bryant Park,” Biederman said. “What used to just be dog walkers around Harbor Point is much more than that now.”