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Placemaking Reinventing public spaces as the heart of every community

“Everyone has the right to live in a great place. More importantly, everyone has the right to contribute to making the place where they already live great.” —Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces

What is Placemaking?

Placemaking is much more than promoting better urban design; it “facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.” It results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being. Essentially, placemaking reinvents public spaces as the heart of every community.

The Power of 10+

The Power of 10+ is a concept developed by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to evaluate and facilitate placemaking at multiple city scales. It focuses on improving the human experience to create great public spaces.

The concept rests on the idea that cities thrive when people have at least 10+ major destinations, 10+ places to go to in each destination, and 10+ things to do in each place. The goal is to make each destination and place reflect the culture, history, and people of the surrounding community. By doing so, each place will be unique and individualized, resulting in great public spaces.

10+ Major Destinations

Source: PPS

To be successful, cities of all sizes need at least 10 destinations that give identity and image to their communities. They need strong community destinations that attract people, businesses, and investments. Some examples of destinations include downtown squares, main streets, waterfronts, parks, and museums.

10+ Places in Each Destination

Source: PPS

For a destination to be successful, it must have at least 10 places within it. Some examples of places include, cafes, places to read, places to sit, restaurants, playgrounds, shops, and running paths.

10+ Things To Do

Source: PPS

For a place to be successful, there should be at least 10 things to do. Some examples of things to do include viewing art, eating a meal, listening to music, running or walking along a path, sitting on a bench, shopping at local stores, or playing a game.

The Power of 10+ offers an easy framework with incremental and tangible goals that can be accomplished at any city level. It encourages residents and stakeholders to revitalize cities to create great public spaces where people want to work, live, and play. The Power of 10+ helps planners and the community to visualize, and collectively work toward, a truly great end result.

The Four Key Attributes of a Great Place

  1. Access and Linkages – connects destinations conveniently
  2. Comfort and Image – fosters a sense of safety and security
  3. Uses and Activities – provides unique experiences and lively opportunities for celebrations, gatherings, and fun
  4. Sociability – promotes active engagement of all people in social activities
Source: PPS, https://www.pps.org/article/what-is-placemaking

Access & Linkages

A great public place is easy to get to, easy to enter, and easy to navigate. It should be designed so that everything is visible, whether up close or at a distance. It should also be accessible by foot, bike, car, and/or public transportation. It should also have high parking turnover so that a large number of guests can easily get to the destination and enjoy.

Questions to Consider

  • Can you see the space from a distance? Is its interior visible from the outside?
  • Is there a good connection between this place and adjacent buildings? Or, is it surrounded by blank walls, surface parking lots, windowless buildings, or any other elements that discourage people from entering the space?
  • Do occupants of adjacent buildings use the space?
  • Can people easily walk there? Or are they intimidated by heavy traffic or bleak streetscapes?
  • Do sidewalks lead to and from the adjacent areas?
  • Does the space function well for people with disabilities and other special needs?
  • Do the paths throughout the space take people where they actually want to go?
  • Can people use a variety of transportation options—bus, train, car, and bicycle—to reach the place?

Comfort & Image

A great public place is comfortable and inviting. It should be safe, clean, visually appealing, and have a variety of places to sit.

Questions to Consider

  • Does the place make a good first impression?
  • Are there as many women as men?
  • Are there enough places to sit? Are seats conveniently located? Do people have a choice of places to sit, either in the sun or shade?
  • Are spaces clean and free of litter? Who is responsible for maintenance?
  • Does the area feel safe? Are there security personnel present? If so, what do these people do? When are they on duty?
  • Are people taking pictures? Are there many photo opportunities available?
  • Do vehicles dominate pedestrian use of the space or prevent them from easily getting to the space?

Uses & Activities

A great public place has a variety of activities to enjoy. By having a number of uses and activities, people have a reason to continually come to a place. It is also important to have a range of activities that will attract a variety of people, including a good balance of men, women, and children of all ages, at different times of day. It should be used by individuals, small groups, and large groups.

Questions to Consider

  • Are people using the space, or is it empty?
  • Is it used by people of different ages?
  • How many different types of activities are occurring at one time? Are people walking, eating, playing games, relaxing, and reading?
  • Which parts of the space are used and which are not?
  • Is there a management presence, or can you identify anyone in charge of the space?

Sociability

A great public place is somewhere you would feel comfortable meeting friends, neighbors, and even strangers. This is the most important, and difficult, quality for a place to achieve.

Questions to Consider

  • Is this a place where you would choose to meet your friends? Are others meeting friends here?
  • Are people in groups? Are they talking with one another? Do they talk to people in other groups?
  • Do people seem to know each other by face or by name?
  • Do people bring their friends and relatives to see the place? Do they point to its features with pride?
  • Are people smiling? Do people make regular eye contact with each other?
  • Do many people use the place frequently?
  • Does the mix of ages and ethnic groups generally reflect the community at large?
  • Do people tend to pick up litter when they see it?

Placemaking and Complete Communities

Operated by the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, drumming circles are a popular event in a “Vacant to Vibrant” project called the Rock Lot. Source: Creative District Wilmington

Placemaking can help design a complete community by increasing inclusivity, activity, and sustainability.

Great public places encourage inclusive and active communities because they provide tangible features that citizens can be proud of. These are the places that citizens will choose to gather and interact with one another. Interactions among citizens in public spaces create social networks, promote a culture of involvement, and foster a sense of community character.

Economic and environmental sustainability can also be achieved through placemaking. Creating, maintaining, and improving public places are good practices in economic development. Businesses are attracted to and thrive in areas that have vital centers of community. Placemaking also encourages citizens to improve their environments, especially those they share with their neighbors. Many public spaces serve as natural oases in urban settings. Open spaces provide psychological value to citizens and ecological benefits to the environment.

Creating vibrant communities where people not only can, but want to live, work, play, and interact can be a difficult, but exciting task. It is about creating and implementing a shared community vision—something that begins at the community level and involves local residents and stakeholders. While trained professionals can facilitate the process, community members must cooperatively identify the greatest assets, aspirations, and collective vision for their community.

Creating a great public place where people want to work, live, and play.

Promotes Sense of Comfort

Visually pleasing, generally stimulating, sense of belonging, greater security, better environmental quality, feeling of freedom

Nurtures & Defines Sense of Community

Greater community organization, sense of pride and volunteerism, perpetuation of integrity and values, less need for municipal control, self-managing

Promotes Health

Increased physical activity, access to fresh food, greater security, greater social inclusion, enhanced environmental health

Improves Accessibility

More walkable, safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, compatible with public transit, reduces need for cars and parking, more efficient use of time and money, greater connections between uses

Builds & Supports the Local Economy

Small-scale entrepreneurship, economic development, higher real estate values, local ownership, local value, more desirable jobs, greater tax revenue, less need for municipal services

Fosters Social Interaction

Improves sociability, more cultural exposure, interaction, draws a diverse population, more women, elderly, children, greater ethnic/cultural pluralism, encourages community creativity

Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking brings community members together to reclaim the public realm to improve public safety, revitalize local economies, animate lifeless public spaces, and flourish with social activity. Communities are finding practical ways to integrate arts and culture to create streets that not only are safe for everyone but also better reflect the unique character of their communities. Creative placemaking has catalyzed partnerships with local Delaware communities to collaboratively design on-street portable parklets, transform a traffic lane into a public gathering space and bike lane, and host a “pop-up build party” to construct a temporary mini-circle and celebrate with food and family activities. The Delaware Complete Communities Toolbox highlights pop-up demonstration and “tactical urbanism” projects that have not only calmed traffic, but have fostered creative placemaking in local communities.