Last week the world lost an amazing man. Tony Goldman towered above others not just with his ideas, but how he implemented them. In a world edging toward excellence, he led the pack. Tony was the Michelangelo of Creative Placemaking, and his energy was infectious. When I learned of Tony’s death from Mark, his brother while I was at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place conference that PPS was leading out in Long Beach, California, I could not restrain myself, and just cried against a column at the convention center. I hadn’t fully realized, until then, how much I needed Tony to continue raising the level of excellence through his truly transformative work in creating great places around the world; his work was magnetic, and it made the power of Place immediately evident to anyone lucky enough to live, work, or play there.
Every meeting I had with Tony (he was a member of our Board of Directors) ended with a big embrace, both of us knowing that we had built upon the energy created from sparks we had ignited. His thoughts were always at a level above mine, but he took my words and ideas and elevated them to new heights. You can’t visit any of Tony’s projects without being stirred by the genius of how he mixed so many different elements together to create results that are much greater than the sum of their parts…every time! Whether it was a garage, restaurant, pool, storefront, hotel, office building, street, or just a sidewalk, what Tony created was always superior to any other place in the area.
PPS’s approach to Placemaking and Tony’s approach to development are different in many ways, but the outcomes are similar. Where PPS focuses on using community organizing to draw people into the process of creating places (often more than one) and tries to instill broad ownership in the place, we are constrained compared to what Tony consistently did in his projects. He would “blow the roof off” of a district with wonderfully outrageous ideas and actions. He would buy about 18 properties in a neighborhood (SoHo in New York, the Blocks Below Broad in Philadelphia, South Beach in Miami) and start activating the area with restaurants, hotels, stores and art that he felt would start rejuvenation. Others would see the activity and some would join in. Then, sooner than anyone would expect, a small revolution would start. The magic that Tony unleashed with his projects would drive astonishing results beyond even his expectations, and a destination was born.
Funding used to ignite broad public participation, whether public or private, can be catalytic. Tony had the Midas touch, and used it to create places that have become not only vital community hubs, but also some of the best incubators for local jobs being undertaken in recent years. The places that he developed have become mega destinations that people around the world have to see. Tony has left behind a great legacy in the places that he endeavored to develop; all of us who work to create stronger public spaces and cities are indebted to him for leading by example. He will be sorely missed.
Thank you to Morris Multimedia, Inc., producers of the video at the top of this post, for allowing it to be released to the public.