Placemaking Is About More Than Just 'Cool Urban Amenities'

Brendan Crain responds to recent criticism of placemaking as a counterproductive and superficial pursuit with a defense of the social and economic capital building elements that are the foundation, and outcome, of the process.

"For every person who thinks that you can ‘placemake’ unilaterally by dropping in cool amenities," says Crain in response to a recent post by Jim Russell at Burgh Diaspora, "there is another who believes that Placemaking is as much about the discussion that participants have with each other as it is about whether a space contains public art or picnic tables when all is said and done. The physical attributes of the space in question are important, but they are the means, not the end. If you’re not building social capital in the community where you’re working, you’re not Placemaking; you’re just reorganizing the furniture." He continues, "By bringing people together around a shared starting point to define and work toward shared goals, Placemaking can play a critical role in strengthening local economies."

"Like Russell, many people today are beginning to voice the concern that Placemaking is 'counterproductive' to economic development, because they’ve been led to believe that the process is simply about cutting and pasting things that worked somewhere else into struggling spaces. But great places and strong local economies are created in the same way: by getting people together to define local challenges and come up with appropriate solutions to address them."

Full Story: Challenges and Warts: How Physical Places Define Local Economies


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