Great public spaces strengthen communities.
We bring public spaces to life by planning and designing them with the people who use them every day. Our knowledge, skills, and strategies equip people to fuel lasting change. Together, we create community-powered public spaces around the world.
Our Approach
Our groundbreaking placemaking approach helps communities transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation, and serve common needs.
What is Placemaking?
Our Values
Our Values guide us every day as we help people create community-powered public spaces. They inform how and with whom we work and serve as the ethical principles of Project for Public Spaces as a nonprofit committed to public good.
Participation

We work on the ground to involve all community members in envisioning, planning, and creating the public spaces that will influence their daily lives.

Collaboration

We bring everyone together across disciplines and sectors—from government agencies and nonprofits to developers and neighborhood groups—to develop great public spaces in communities worldwide.

Local Leadership

We show people what’s possible and give them the tools to not only transform their public spaces for the better, but also to own and to take care of them for years to come.

Pragmatism

We advocate for public spaces that work for all people. Every project takes observation, practical experimentation, and agility to bring the best solutions to life.

Integrity

We believe that community-powered public spaces are the backbone of a healthy, equitable society, and we are dedicated to working with people who are just as passionate about them as we are.

Our History
Over more than four decades, Project for Public Spaces has helped over 3,500 communities across 50 countries and all 50 U.S. states imagine their futures and meet their needs through public space. From our early days building upon the research of William H. Whyte, we have grown into the go-to resource for placemaking as an approach to designing and managing public spaces with the people who use them every day.
William H. Whyte

Building upon the groundbreaking public space research of William H. Whyte, Project for Public Spaces was founded in 1975 by Fred Kent and Kathy Madden as a three-year project to prove why public space matters. As they reached their deadline in 1978, however, Kent and Madden found that there was still so much to learn and improve about the public realm, and Steve Davies joined them to help continue their mission.

In 1980, Project for Public Spaces collaborated with William H. Whyte to observe and propose recommendations for Bryant Park, which had gained a negative reputation among most New Yorkers, due to the dominance of drug dealing and use in the park. The opening of the park to the street and the addition of flexible seating, as well as outstanding ongoing management of the space, helped transform Bryant Park into one of the most influential models for public space in the United States. As a result, Project for Public Spaces also expanded its services from public space research to a robust technical assistance practice, working in hundreds of public spaces around North America, like Campus Martius, Discovery Green, and the Flint Farmers Market.

In 1987, Project for Public Spaces hosted the first of many International Public Markets Conferences, convening 400 market leaders from around the world at Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, and launching our Public Markets program to provide technical assistance, training, resources, and research to market operators and the people who support them.

Place Diagram

Reflecting on two decades of observing and advising on public spaces, the Project for Public Spaces team concluded that the users and potential users of a public space have the ability to understand and improve it themselves—often with more unique, meaningful, and lasting results than an external consultant acting alone. We decided to turn the planning process upside down to get it right side up. In 1995, using the term “placemaking” to describe a new process that started with identifying and engaging a community of stakeholders, and our staff adopted the role of facilitators, educators, and advisors in implementation.

In 1996, we launched the Urban Parks Institute with support from the Wallace Reader’s Digest Funds to develop a community of practice for people who develop and manage parks, particularly in neighborhoods with poor public space access and maintenance. The Institute offered regular conferences, research on best practices, and technical assistance—all of which led to the founding of the City Parks Alliance in 2000.

The publication of How to Turn a Place Around in 2000 marked the beginning of Project for Public Spaces’ evolution into a resource center for all things placemaking and public space. Fueled by the rise of social media, our website and e-newsletter became a forum for discussing the issues of the day, from the securitization of public space after 9/11 to the turn to “lighter, quicker, cheaper” approaches to improving public space, like tactical urbanism, during the Great Recession. We also began offering our popular training series in placemaking, public markets, and streets as places, which continue to this day.

In 2005, Project for Public Spaces also began forming partnerships with foundations, corporate social responsibility programs, and federal agencies to provide grants, technical assistance, and peer learning opportunities to a wider range of clients. Beginning with an initiative supported by the Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help public markets networks broaden their impact and improve their financial sustainability, we have since worked with partners like Southwest Airlines, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the William Davidson Foundation.

In the 2010s, the placemaking approach that Project for Public Spaces helped popularize in the 1990s blossomed into a truly international movement. Through the Future of Places conference series, we successfully advocated for integrating a community-powered approach to public space into the New Urban Agenda, UN-Habitat’s shared vision for a better and more sustainable future for cities endorsed by the United Nations in 2016.

In 2013, we also began convening placemaking practitioners through the Placemaking Leadership Council and Placemaking Week conferences, fostering regional networks on every continent. In 2018, Project for Public Spaces spun off PlacemakingX to continue connecting and supporting this movement.

Today, Project for Public Spaces is more dedicated than ever to ensuring more people have access to community-powered public spaces through partnerships with corporations and foundations that provide funding, technical assistance, and capacity building to local placemaking organizations across the United States. We also continue to support and convene public space designers, managers, and decision-makers worldwide through our conferences, training courses, and other events.

Who We Are
We are a cross-disciplinary team that shares a passion for public spaces.
Find Out More
Contact Us

General
info@pps.org
+1 (212) 620-5660

Project and Partner Inquiries
Evalynn Rosado | erosado@pps.org

Media
media@pps.org

Address
740 Broadway, Suite 1101
New York, NY, 10003
USA