Placemaking means different things to different people and organizations. There really doesn’t seem to be a consensus or a common definition of it. As for me, Placemaking is one of those things where when I see it, I know it’s placemaking as it represents a great place for the whole community to gather and enjoy. And usually those places share some common attributes:
- Creates a vibrant gathering place for everyone in the community
- Creates a place that transforms an underutilized, unused, unsafe space into a destination
- Creates a place you would want to go and take your friends and families
- Creates a place that will inspire others in the community to create similar places
- Creates a place that is “Lighter Quicker Cheaper”
Here are some great places and types of successful placemaking that I have come across and really like.
First of all I love parklets. I love, love, love parklets. Parklets replace spots for cars with spots for people. They have become quite popular in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle but are also popping up in smaller towns and cities to provide a place to sit and relax while shopping or visiting a downtown. I am still looking for the first Placemaking Micro-grant application for a parklet. So maybe your REALTOR® Association will be the one. Here’s one parklet, which they call a People Spot, in Bronzeville (Chicago, IL). Photo: CDOT
I also really like alley activation projects as they are a great example of taking an unused or underutilized space in a downtown and transforming it into a place to enjoy a cup of coffee, eat lunch, meet a friend or to activate with art, food and musical events. Several REALTOR® Associations are involved in these types of projects and I can’t wait to see the outcomes. Here is a transformed alley called East Cahuenga Alley, or EaCa Alley, which brings an open space for residents and tourists in L.A.
I also like it when folks think outside of the box and create unique and whimsical places. Here’s a play place in Chicago where a vacant lot was transformed into a place for residents to play and have fun. Placemaking Chicago helped out with this project.
We get a lot of applications for community gardens but we like to make sure they are “multi-functional” spaces where everyone in the community can go and enjoy, not just gardeners. The Avers Community Garden in Chicago is not only a place to grow vegetables but serves as an educational space for children and is “a community space and something to take pride in.”
And community gardens can be great places for events for the community. The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit is the home of the “The Harrowing”, a theatrical production that is one of many events held in the city’s largest community garden. See “Theatre in the Garden”.
Another type of project we get many applications for are playgrounds. And again we look for “multi-functional” playgrounds that can be enjoyed by the whole community. But one of my favorite playground projects is one where an unsafe and undesirable vacant lot was transformed into a safe haven for children to play and the community to gather. Take a look at this vacant lot to playground project in Roseland, Chicago, IL developed byDemoiselle 2 Femme.
In rural areas, sometimes there is no downtown to create a place for the community to gather but what they do have is lots of open space and creating trails is a great way to create a place for the community to meet up, enjoy and spend time at. In my home town in Jim Thorpe, PA, theSwitchback Trail was built to create a year around destination for both residents and tourists.
Seating is a vital element of a successful placemaking project and we encourage every project to include seating so people will have a place to sit, stay and relax. But seating doesn’t need to be simply benches as there are a variety of seating options available. Try being creative as illustrated below. See “Have a Seat and Stay Awhile”.
So as we look toward 2016, we will be taking a look at the Placemaking Micro-grant and encouraging our REALTOR® Associations, and their members, to create more of these types of placemaking projects in their communities.