Senior Vice President

Ethan Kent works to support Placemaking organizations, projects, and leadership around the world to build a global placemaking movement. During over 18 years at PPS, Ethan has traveled to more than 800 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, resilience, equity and design.

Having worked on over 200 PPS projects, Ethan has led a broad spectrum of Placemaking efforts, providing comprehensive public engagement, user-analysis, planning and visioning for high profile public spaces on six continents. 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 thousands of professionals across Australia and New Zealand, building the Placemaking movement there over the last decade.

Ethan forges major partnerships to advance public spaces and Placemaking, including leading the creation of the “Heart of the Community” program with Southwest Airlines, getting PPS selected to run the “Citizens Institute on Rural Design” for the National Endowment for the Arts, and fostering Future of Places to advance public space and Placemaking in the New Urban Agenda and at Habitat 3, with UN Habitat and the Swedish Ax:son Johnson Foundation. To further establish, measure, and communicate Placemaking as a philanthropic cause Ethan has convened multiple Placemaking Funders Forums.

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, Lafayette, INMexico City, QuitoAdelaide, Australia, Mississauga, Canada, 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.

Placemaking Projects

Highlights have included: Times Square and Astor Place (starting in 1998) in New York; Congress Square in Portland, ME, Kennedy Plaza in Providence, RI; Pompey Square, Nassau, Bahamas; Garden Place in Hamilton, New Zealand; Sub Centro Las Condes in Santiago, Chile. 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.


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:

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, Warren Place Association
Board Member (06-09), Make Music New York