Senior Vice President

Ethan Kent works to support Placemaking organizations, projects and leadership around the world. During over 17 years at PPS, Ethan has traveled to more than 750 cities and 55 countries to advance the cause of Placemaking and public spaces. Ethan has been integral to the development of Placemaking as a transformative approach to economic development, environmentalism, transportation planning, governance and design.

Having worked on over 200 PPS projects, Ethan has led a broad spectrum of Placemaking efforts, providing comprehensive public engagement, planning and visioning for many important public spaces.  Highlights have included: Times Square in New York; Kennedy Plaza in Providence, RI; Pompey Square, Nassau, Bahamas; Garden Place in Hamilton, New Zealand; Sub Centro Las Condes in Santiago, Chile; and The Porch, Philadelphia, PA. He has also worked with some of the most high profile developments in the world to help maximize public space outcomes in Hong Kong, Las VegasSan Francisco, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Parramatta and Sao Paulo.

Utilizing lessons learned through his project work, Ethan regularly creates and conducts Placemaking training courses for professionals of various disciplines, from city planning staff in Vancouver, BC, to community development corporations in Detroit; from public housing developers in Sweden to traffic engineers in New Jersey.  He has also trained hundreds of professionals across Australia and New Zealand, through leading more than 25 training workshops.

In order to begin to institutionalize Placemaking in cities, Ethan has initiated and led local Placemaking Partnerships and Campaigns with public, private and non-profit leaders to build capacity on all levels, shift organizational culture, implement demonstration projects and develop local campaigns for Placemaking. Ethan has applied this strategy in a wide range of cities including Chicago, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, OmahaFlint, MIBrunswick, ME, Bellingham, WA, Richmond, VA, Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia, Mississauga, Canada, in New Zealand and state-wide in Michigan.

This approach has had the most tangible effect in New York City where Ethan co-founded the NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign, as an effort to challenge auto-centric transportation policy and inspire a new public vision of streets as dynamic destinations. To launch the campaign, he directed an educational exhibit called Livable Streets: A New Vision for New York, then initiated and helped manage demonstration Placemaking processes with local stakeholders in some of NYC’s most important yet auto-dominated areas including Times Square, 9th Avenue in Hells Kitchenthe Meatpacking District, Myrtle Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Petrosino Square, Union Square and Grand Army Plaza. The campaign and its demonstration projects led to a bold shift in NYC transportation policy including a Public Plaza Program, managed by former PPS staff, that is reclaiming street space for dynamic new public spaces throughout the city.


Ethan studied sociology, environmental studies and economics as an undergraduate at Bowdoin College. He explored local development issues in the context of globalization during a year of travel around the world as a participant in the International Honors Program. Ethan did his graduate work at Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change in Environment and Community. He attributes his Placemaking education, and any miseducation, to the communities he has worked with, and to his father who founded PPS.

Writing and Photography

Ethan’s writing has appeared broadly, being featured in NewStart MagazineStreetsblog, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Planetizen and many others. His photography from around the world is featured in PPS publications and a broad range of media.


An inspiring and persuasive speaker, Ethan has brought PPS’ Placemaking message to many groups around the world. Ethan’s recent keynote presentations include:

Successful Public Spaces as the New Anchor Tenant, Chief Planners Roundtable, Toronto, Ontatio
What if We Built NYC Around Places?, NYC Planning Department Lunch and Learn, NYC
From Place to Place: Shifting the Transportation Paradigm, ProWalk ProBike ProPlace, Pittsburgh, PA
Placemaking as a Transformative Agenda for Parks
, Cairns, Australia
“What If We Built Oslo Around Places?” Oslo Urban Arena, Oslo, Norway
“Re-Imagining People-Centered Public Spaces” UN Habitat, UCLG Learning Exchange, Durban, South Africa
Shifting the Transportation Paradigm with Placemaking, Velo-City Global, Adelaide, Australia
ocial Innovation Through Placemaking Seoul Social Economy Center, Seoul, South Korea
Urban Equity Through Placemaking, Innovative Americas by Next City, Ford and Kresge, World Urban Forum 7, Medellin, Colombia
Building Communities Around Great Places, Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago, IL
What if We Built Architecture Around Places, Norwegian Architects Association and The Oslo School of Architecture an Design, Oslo, Norway
Placemaking as a Social Movement, Sydney Ideas & Future Cities Collaborative, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Building A Great Square for Parramatta, Parramatta, NSW, Australia
What if We Built Pawtucket Around Places? Pawtucket Foundation, Pawtucket, RI
What if We Redefined Mumbai Around Places?, The Urban Vision Study Tour, One Bryant Park, NYC
Place Capital: The Shared Wealth that Drives Thriving Communities, Place Leaders Assoc., Sydney, Australia
¿Moviéndonos hacia TOD verdes y Placemaking?, BRTs, ¿Qué sigue?, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
What If We Built Westchester Around Places?, Westchester County Association, Tarrytown, NY
Charting a New Direction for Congress Square Park, Friends of Congress Square Park, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME
Placemaking and the Power of Preservation, North Little Rock, AR
Future of Place, Placemaking Conference, Institute for Quality Communities, Norman, Oklahoma
Auckland Conversations, Auckland, NZ
Placemaking and the Future of New Urbanism: Localism, Shared Responsibility and Citizen Empowerment, Ax:son Johnson Foundation, Engelsberg, Sweden
Board of Commissioners Retreat, Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District, Bridgeport, CT
Placemaking Leadership and Strategic Planning Forum, Pimpri-Chinchwad, India
Toronto Building Industry and Land Development Assoc, Standard Hotel, New York, NY
What If We Built Australasia Around Places? International Cities & Town Centres Conference, Gold Coast, Australia
Shifting the Focus to Placemaking, Adelaide, Australia
Transforming Parramatta Through Placemaking, Parramatta, Australia
“What if the Place Leaders Led with Place?”, Place Leaders Association, Sydney, Australia
Myrtle Avenue BID Annual Meeting, Ridgewood, Queens, NY
“What if We Built Michigan Around Places?”, Placemaking Leadership Forum, Lansing, MI
Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper”, University City District, Philadelphia, PA
Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, Chicago, IL
“What if We Built Adelaide Around Places?”, Smart Start, Adelaide, Australia
“Inclusive Spaces for a Sustainable City”, Training Workshop, Ministry of Social Development, Public Space Recovery Program and UN Habitat, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
COM:PLOT 2011:Código:Ciudadano, Guadalajara, Mexico
“What if We Built Stockholm Around Places?”, City of Stockholm Stratgic Planning, Stockholm, Sweden with SpaceScape
Ruas que constroem comunidades, Workshop Inserção do Transporte Sustentável no Morar Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Villes et territoires en mutation, L’Ordre des urbanistes du Québec, Montreal, Canada
Streets as Places, Historic Preservation and Downtown Conference, Poultney, VT
Pavement Politics: Times Square and the Changing Face of New York’s Streets, Urban Design Week, Times Square Alliance, New York, NY
NextGen Pre-conference, Congress for New Urbanism, Madison, WI
America’s Cities: The Burden of the Past, or the Promise of the Future?, NYU Law F0rum, New York, NY
Retrofiting and Planning Sustainable Suburbs, Toronto, Canada
Libraries as Catalysts for Placemaking, Melbourne, Australia
What if We Built Sydney’s Waterfront Around Places?, Sydney, Australia
Destination Downtown, New Iberia, LA
Ambiente y Espacio Público, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Virginia’s First Cities Annual Meeting, Portsmouth, VA
Rural Community Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Oneida County, NY
Placemaking and Preservation, Annual Meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, DC
Urban Land Institute and Kamehameha Schools, Honolulu, HI
Spirit and Place Festival, Indianapolis, IN
Mayoral Conversations, Hamilton, New Zealand
Arlington Street Infrastructure Forum: Envisioning the Future of Arlington’s Streets Y2100, Arlington, VA
Investing In Our Existing Neighbourhoods, Prince Albert, SK, Canada
What if We Built Melbourne Around Places?, Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Public Spaces Seminar: Equity and Social Integration, Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and UNDP, Santiago, Chile
Sustainability Series, Bismarck, ND
What If We Built Richmond’s Waterfront Around Places?, Richmond, VA
Moving the Economy, Toronto, ON
Executive Director Retreet, Neighborworks America, Old Saybrook, CT
International Forum on Public Spaces and Sustainability, Bogotá, Colombia
The Sustainable Tourism Planning and Development Laboratory, Pawtucket, RI
Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, Brooklyn, NY
Center for Architecture and the Built Environment, London, UK
NY State Chambers Alliance, Albany, NY
Strategic Thinking Forum – City Safety Commission, Melbourne, Australia
Neighborhood Summit, “Great People, Great Places, Great City”, Garland, TX
International Cities, Town Centers and Communities Society, Auckland, NZ
Foro Internacional de Parques, Bogotá, Colombia

He also has given workshops and panel presentations at conferences of The Center for ArchitectureThe Urban Vision, The BMW Guggenheim Lab Mumbai, ProWalk/ProBike, CommunityMatters, Urban Land Institute, Local Initiative Support Corp., Civic Tourism, Placematters, CAPACD, Bronx Parks Speak-up, Planners Network, Eco Metropolis, Car Free Cities, NYS Planning Federation and the World Social Forum and to many university audiences including Cornell, Yale, Columbia, Reed, NYU, Bowdoin, New School, Pratt, Hunter, University of Toronto, University of Washington and Harvard.

Volunteer Affiliations

Expert Group, UN Habitat Public Space Expert Group
Steering Committee Member, The Future of Places Conference Series
Steering Committee Member, CommunityMatters
Board Member, Congress for New Urbanism New York Chapter
International Advisory Board Member, 8-80 Cities
Board Member (06-09), Make Music New York