Creative Placemaking a Boon for Underserved Communities, Report Says

The work of Chicago urban planner and developer Theaster Gates provides a proof of concept in a new report from the Urban Land Institute.

October 5, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Rebuild Foundation

Theaster Gates presents at the Cultural Olympiad in 2008. | Andy Miah / Flickr

Artistic and cultural projects and programs are key to stimulating more equitable real estate development, according to a new report released by the Urban Land Institute that focuses specifically on the work of Theaster Gates on the South Side of Chicago.

"The report reflects three years of studying creative placemaking and the impact it has on communities," explains an article by Darcel Rockett. "ULI reports that cities are finding success with the concept of placemaking, in which developers, designers, planners and investors come together to sync up their efforts in residential, commercial and public sectors to produce active, mixed-use spaces and reverse the effects of historic disinvestment."

The work of developer and urban planner Theaster Gates occupies a central role in the report, according to Rockett. Gates is the 2018 winner of ULI's Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. "Gates has been doing creative placemaking on the city’s South Side for years," according to Rockett. Through the Rebuild Foundation, Gates transforms abandoned buildings "into beloved community spaces in the Grand Crossing neighborhood."

The article includes a lot more information about the past accomplishments and future plans of the Rebuild Foundation, which a spokesperson describes in the article as a master planning exercise.

The ULI report is a boon for creative placemakers who find hard evidence of the benefits of this approach hard to come by. "[R]eports like ULI’s and those from Chicago Made, an initiative from World Business Chicago to support entrepreneurs in the creative industries, are changing that and offering numerous case studies of creative placemaking happening throughout the country," writes Rockett.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 in Chicago Tribune

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