Placemaking Spurs Economic Development by Building Community Voice

3.19.13 | Over at the Project for Public Spaces, they’ve posted the second part of an ongoing discussion on the links between placemaking and economic growth within a community, leading up to the Placemaking Leadership Council meeting April 11-12, in Detroit.

Part One lays out the basic premise that creation of great public spaces is an economic driver, but only when it’s truly community-driven, open, and inclusive. Moreover, the more attached to a place people are, the higher a city’s or region’s GDP: “Placemaking, in other words, is a vital part of economic development.” Part One also rejects the placemaking-is-just-gentrification argument. True placemaking involves an open process that welcomes everyone who wants in, which provides the opportunity for neighbors — who may or may not know each other — to share ideas and be heard.

“The end result should be a space that’s flexible enough to make room for many different communities, and encourage connections between them.” Or, the flip side:  “If Placemaking is project-led, development-led, design-led or artist-led, then it does likely lead to gentrification and a more limited set of community outcomes.”

And gentrification “is what happens when we forget that vibrancy is people; that it cannot be built or installed, but must be inspired and cultivated.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Part Two argues that communities can change governance for the better “by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog, mak[ing] room both physically and philosophically by re-framing citizenship as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors. The result is not merely vibrancy, but equity.” (And speaking of equity, BRR member Todd Swanstrom has edited a book, “Justice and the American Metropolis,” that addresses many of these very issues.)

The premise is something the authors call “Place Governance” — by which decisions about places are made not from the top down, but by a collaborative process involving everyone from city hall to the local neighborhood street:

When dealing with a dysfunctional street, for instance, answers aren’t only sought from transportation engineers—they’re sought from merchants who own businesses along the street, non-profit organizations working in the surrounding community, teachers and administrators at the school where buses queue, etc. The fundamental actors in a Place Governance structure are not official agencies that deal with specific slices of the pie, but the people who use the area in question and are most intimately acquainted with its challenges. Officials who strive to implement this type of governance structure do so because they understand that the best solutions don’t come from within narrow disciplines, but from the points where people of different backgrounds come together.

Participatory Budgeting, of which I’ve written previously, seems a ready-made model that can quickly achieve place governance.

Upcoming conferences of note:

If you’re under 40, or know someone who is, and you (they) “seek to improve their cities and work for local non-profit organizations, in city government, as social entrepreneurs, artists and in other related fields,” Next City‘s Vanguard Conference June 10-12 in Cleveland, Ohio — and we’ve discussed Cleveland before —may be for you (them). You (they) must subscribe to Forefront ($1.99 per month) to apply, however.

Photo/ camknows

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