“[In creating] the basic dimensions of the sustainable and humane city – the ‘eco-city’ … ‘placemaking’ is the pivotal missing component in the commonly pursued strategies of smart growth. Placemaking provides the link between urban excellence, economic development and sustainability.”
– Larry Beasley, former Vancouver, B.C., Co-Director of Planning and PPS training course participant.
Places as an Antidote to Sprawl
As we’ve moved out from our towns, cities and close-in suburbs, we’ve neglected the special places that bring people together and give them a sense of belonging. These places – like parks, central squares, main streets and downtowns – help build community livability. In combating sprawl, one of the most important things we can do is reclaim our existing communities and rejuvenate these crucial public environments. As much as towns and cities need to address the negative impacts on our environment, the actions we take are about us and how we want to live in the future.
By retrieving their basic people-friendly infrastructure, restoring their walkability and attractiveness and promoting living/working/playing activities all mixed together, we can create communities and regions where people will want to be.
PPS and Livability Solutions
In addition to our work as a nonprofit, educational and technical assistance organization that facilitates the creation of more livable communities, PPS leads Livability Solutions in helping the Environmental Protection Agency to provide technical assistance to build more sustainable communities, advancing the federal program of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
PPS is recognized for our success in helping communities enhance their unique sense of place, promote active, healthy lifestyles, foster contact between diverse populations, and work towards environmental sustainability. Public and private organizations, federal, state and municipal agencies; business improvement districts; the private sector; neighborhood associations, chambers of commerce and other civic groups have all worked with us to build their communities around successful public spaces.
Placemaking Opportunities for Smart Growth Impacts Include:
- Designing streets and transit facilities to increase pedestrian activity and advance economic development and community livability goals;
- Creating parks, plazas and central squares which become focal points for pedestrian activity;
- Creating local business opportunities and enlivening commercial districts with public markets, vending and other entrepreneurial activities and events; and
- Shaping public buildings, including libraries, courthouses and other public institutions, to become centers of community life and activity.
Smart Growth through Grassroots Placemaking:
But our core work is facilitating the desire for change at the grassroots level. The grassroots approach helps rebuild lost trust in government, encouraging “customers” to collaborate with government assistance instead of resisting what they perceive is interference in their home rule. By starting with community needs and aspirations, PPS also is able to develop a proactive vision of what people want, through compelling visual presentations and visioning workshops. PPS also can facilitate agency-to-community dialogue to decode agency initiatives and build local demand for Smart Growth tools, strategies, and services.
A Placemaking approach to Smart Growth:
- Brings in new and “unlikely” partners
- Identifies short–term opportunities that are small scale and cost effective
- Leverages existing infrastructure and assets, funding and projects
- Builds community partnerships, grassroots support and capacity for implementation
- Transforms the way we think of the role of our streets, parks, public buildings, farmers markets, and new development.
- Attracts commitment and investment for bold new visions