COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

2014 in Placemaking: A Quiet Movement Takes Root

Dec 21, 2014
Dec 14, 2017
The skating rink in downtown Detroit in full swing! | Photo by Malena Fryar

2014 was a remarkable year for Placemaking, and as PPS prepares to enter its 40th year at the helm of this growing movement, we are energized and humbled by the incredible forward motion we helped to generate throughout the past year. In communities all over the world, we are seeing a new focus on Place Governance, as Placemaking has emerged as a way to address and bring together multiple causes—from transportation and local economies, to public health and sustainability. Over the last four decades, PPS has worked with leaders in each of these areas to show them how approaching these agendas through the lens of Placemaking can open the door to a whole host of creative solutions, untapped resources, and new partnerships. This year, the idea of Placemaking has truly emerged as a cause unto itself.

With a mission to expand this powerful movement, PPS convened thousands of Placemaking leaders for international conferences in 2014. Regional conferences included the launch of the Brazilian Placemaking Leadership Council, the “Reimagining Public Spaces” event and Placemaking training program in Durban, South Africa, and the Adelaide Future of Places conference organized by our Asia Pacific partner Place Leaders. The global “Future of Places” conference in Buenos Aires, organized in partnership with UN Habitat and Ax:son Johnson Foundation, was the second of three linked conferences wherein participants will develop a “Future of Places Declaration” for the Habitat III Global Summit in 2016. This past September in Pittsburgh, we stewarded the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference—one of the largest gatherings of transportation advocates worldwide. Concurrent with this event was the 2nd annual meeting of the Placemaking Leadership Council (PLC), where members from across the globe assembled for two days of intensive discussion on shaping a wide-reaching Placemaking campaign. Now boasting over 750 members from over 40 countries, the PLC itself had a successful year on many fronts, and we are thrilled that The Kresge Foundation has recently awarded a grant to support the work of the PLC in the upcoming year.

After applying Placemaking for many powerful movements, 2014 was the year that Place and Placemaking was established as a cause onto itself, coalescing many movements looking for broader change.

As our coalitions remain strong with pioneering organizations and networks such as Livability SolutionsThe National Endowment for the Arts' Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), New Mobility West with the Sonoran Institute, Community Matters, and Think City in Malaysia, 2014 was also a year of  unexpected Placemaking alliances. Our biggest surprise came from Southwest Airlines, with whom PPS partnered to launch the groundbreaking Heart of the Community Program in April. At the 2014 PLC meeting, Southwest was joined by a panel of vastly different organizations who have partnered with PPS and are united under the banner and cause of Placemaking—including AARP, the National Association of Realtors, Kaiser Permanente, and National Main Street Center. PPS also hosted its first ever Funders Forum, which brought together a diverse group of foundations, public agencies, national associations, nonprofits, and corporate funders to discuss various strategies for funding Placemaking initiatives.

With Placemaking taking root in more and more communities worldwide, this year PPS watched, proudly and in awe, as many of the projects we helped to get off the ground began to take on a life of their own. Many of the projects that PPS helped to nurture in their visionary stages have indeed grown into spectacular places in 2014: The Plaza at Harvard University, Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Times Square in NYC, Greater Kennedy Plaza in Providence, Portland's Congress Square Park, Australia’s Perth Cultural Center, and Detroit’s Eastern Market and Campus Martius Park (the winter ice skating rink is now in full swing!), to name only a few. With communities taking proud ownership of their public spaces, creating meaningful partnerships, and tapping vital funding resources, these Placemaking projects have evolved far beyond what we could have imagined!

In 2014, more than 30,000 people particpated in our Placemaking trainings, workshops and keynotes around the world.

It’s been a landmark year, and the coming year is already full of promise! We are eagerly counting down the days until the 9th International Public Markets Conference in Barcelona this March, and PPS has some exciting projects and partnerships in the works, including collaborations with Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) and the Metropolitan Policy Program of The Brookings Institution. In addition to a revamping of the ever-popular Great Public Spaces section of our website, PPS will also be launching a series of guides in 2015 based on our Nine Placemaking Platforms. We will begin with Streets as Places—a growing movement that is very close to our hearts. Since streets are the most fundamental public spaces in communities, but also one of the most conflicted and overlooked, the goal of this agenda is to help people begin to see streets as vital public spaces and essential factors in the social and economic fabric of communities. 

The movement is happening—it’s all around us—and this is just the beginning. Stay tuned as we launch our inaugural Streets as Places manifesto in January, which will focus on how you can get involved in this exciting movement. In the meantime, here are six ways to get involved now:

1. Make a financial contribution to the Project for Public Spaces to support our work advancing the cause of public spaces and Placemaking around the world. 2. Subscribe to our mailing list. 3. Attend one of our spring trainings in New York. Watch our website for other upcoming events. 4. Become a sponsor for one of our important 2015 conferences and meetings. 5. Apply to join the Placemaking Leadership Council, and join over 750 passionate advocates for place. 6. Work with us on a project in your community. Contact us to discuss our services and experience on all kinds of Placemaking projects.

Happy New Year to our Placemaking allies everywhere, and here’s to an even more transformative 2015!

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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space