COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Great Places Symposium Advances Placemaking Movement

Aug 6, 2007
Dec 14, 2017

A few weeks ago, a group of dedicated placemakers gathered at a landmark event in Seattle, the Great Places Symposium, laying the groundwork for an even larger regional movement around the idea of place. PPS has been collaborating with the leaders of this new network, called the Great Places Forum, since its inception, and we are thrilled to highlight the Seattle region's vibrant Placemaking network, which is working to unite like-minded people around the region around the importance of place.

The three-day conference brought together leaders from a variety of professions and fields to "celebrate and advocate for the necessity of placemaking in the vitality of our downtowns and suburbs, rural landscapes and villages." Among the many positive results of the symposium was the drafting and signing of an unprecedented document called the Great Places Declaration. The forward-thinking spirit that this declaration embodies should be celebrated as a huge step forward for Placemaking networks everywhere, and we at PPS are delighted that the Seattle region is fully embracing the movement and the challenges that come with it.

A Landmark Symposium Sets the Stage for Greater Change

Billed as a working "think tank," the Great Places Forum brought together the Seattle region's Placemaking leaders July 19-21. Participants included a wide-ranging group of leaders from the fields of urban planning, municipal government, environmental studies, architecture, real estate development, international sustainability, and community organizing. Organizers billed the symposium as a way to "celebrate and advocate for the necessity of placemaking in the vitality of our downtowns and suburbs, rural landscapes and villages."

PPS's Fred Kent, Kathy Madden, and Ethan Kent attended the symposium, along with other leaders from organizations like the Trust for Public Land, the Cascade Land Conservancy, and the Urban Land Institute. Public sector leaders were also present, from Mayor Greg Nickels to Seattle City Planning Director John Rahaim, to City Councilor Richard Conlin to representatives of the Seattle Department of Transportation and many other municipalities. Earth Day founder Dennis Hayes, Great City's Michael McGinn, also participated.

Two PPS board members, Ron Sher and Don Miles, have developed the Great Places Forum along with Karen True, its current director. Their work has created new opportunities for great public spaces to emerge and flourish in the greater Seattle region. PPS has been a part of this planning process, and we laud the Great Places Forum as huge step toward a more open, productive dialogue about place. If people and organizations with experience in Placemaking discuss and share their understanding of what makes great public spaces, their ideas gain the momentum necessary to reach more individuals, communities, and places worldwide.

The "Great Spaces Declaration"

The leaders who attended the Great Places Symposium closed the conference by signing a document called the Great Places Declaration, their shared statement of intent to foster a network of people and resources to support the creation of great places. The document voiced the basic principles and ideals that these leaders shared:

"We assert that Great Places act as a magnet, drawing people together to live, work and play in complete and sustainable communities, allowing us to preserve natural spaces and enhance the health of the planet."

They also outlined a clear statement of intent for the future of the movement:

"We affirm these ideas and together pledge to create new policies, systems, and initiatives to shape Great Places for the enrichment of future generations."

This is language that evokes responses, shared thinking that fosters innovation, and action that gains attention. The next step is to turn these bold declarations of intent and collaborative networks into real, tangible action. PPS is proud to see this kind of raw potential taking a tangible, constructive path among professionals in the Seattle region.

Moving forward

These far-reaching plans offer enormous potential and a significant hope for those of us committed to seeing the cause of Placemaking spread to as many active, engaged minds as possible. The Great Places Declaration and the Forum's plans to continue spreading the word for the Placemaking movement exemplify one of PPS's 11 Principles of Placemaking: You are never finished. We look forward to further this supporting this movement to take shape in the greater Seattle region and the around the world.

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