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Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper FAQ

Ethan Kent
Dec 14, 2017

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How does Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper complement Placemaking?

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is a Placemaking strategy that empowers communities to create great places in their neighborhoods, cities, or regions. Short-term LQC improvements - whether it’s new amenities, programming, art, or design changes – are part of a larger and more permanent vision for a particular site. Think of LQC as a way to generate excitement, new partnerships, and support for long-term Placemaking efforts and projects in your community. By helping you to make improvements quickly and inexpensively, LQC is a way to avoid common roadblocks like planning fatigue, bureaucratic approvals, and protracted fundraising. Its incremental and grassroots approach also provides an avenue for collaboration and community building, and it can help stakeholders at all levels to establish lasting partnerships.

Is LQC a process or the product?

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is a process that helps create great products -sustainable places that highlight local assets and attract people. Say, for example, that you have a neglected park in your neighborhood, but your city or region can’t afford the substantial cost of upgrading the space through traditional capital improvement processes. LQC is a way for communities and partners to think creatively about low-cost improvements that can be implemented quickly—like organizing public programs in the park, or a clean-up event with local volunteers. Even the smallest and simplest efforts can lead to big change. To be truly great, every public space needs long-term management and maintenance so that it can continually adapt to the emerging needs of the community it serves. Instead of planning places as end products, LQC celebrates them as ever-evolving works in progress.

Who can participate in LQC?

Anyone can kick-start an LQC process, but its success is based on the involvement of people from all sectors. LQC efforts should include everyone—citizens, community leaders, activists, business owners, nonprofits, and city officials. LQC is about collectively transforming spaces and making positive changes for everyone to enjoy.

How light is light?

The “light” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper refers to a project’s flexibility. An LQC strategy allows for experimentation over time. Places are always evolving alongside the needs and desires of the people that use them, and the flexibility of LQC interventions helps to nurture this dynamic relationship between people and place. An example of a “light” touch might involve a neighborhood block applying for a temporary street closure, or a small business owner or park organization opting for moveable seats and outdoor tables rather than permanent infrastructure modifications. Regardless of actual scale, “light” is about making manageable and flexible interventions rather than heavy capital improvements. Along with the satisfaction of seeing immediate results, this also means that if something doesn't work, there is room to try something else without much economic burden.

How cheap is cheap?

Rather than referring to a specific dollar amount, the “cheap” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper reflects a fundamental shift away from design-led capital investments and towards affordable programming and management solutions. Some LQC projects can be extremely cheap while others might require more spending, but they are always cheaper than traditional public space design projects. Depending on the goals and budget of a particular project, “cheap” could be simply the cost of materials for making homemade planters to beautify a neighborhood sidewalk. On the other hand, more ambitious or large-scale interventions will cost tens of thousands of dollars—still “cheap” in comparison to hugely expensive and time-consuming capital projects.

And how quick is quick?

The “quick” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper means that to launch an LQC project, you don’t need to wade through the numerous bureaucratic codes, approvals, or licensing issues associated with full-build-out projects. Further, LQC projects are not held back by long planning timelines since the design and function of the place is determined by user experience over time.

How is LQC different or similar from other popular practices or movements like Tactical Urbanism, Pop-Up Urbanism, or DIY Urbanism?

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is an implementation strategy that emerges from the larger framework of Placemaking. In many ways, depending on the project and circumstance, LQC overlaps with missions of tactical urbanism, pop-up urbanism, DIY urbanism, etc.— each movement has its own nuances and particular strategies, but they are all united under the common principle of making low-cost and low-risk changes to improve the relationship between people and their environment. The core of LQC projects is that they are created with rather than for a community. A collective and participatory process, LQC is a strategy for building community capacity through place.

Is LQC appropriate and applicable to small towns and rural communities?

Yes. LQC is applicable to places of all scales, from large urban centers to small towns and rural communities. The LQC approach has been hugely successful in invigorating Main Streets in small towns and rural areas, and in activating the spaces around civic and cultural institutions like libraries and schools in these communities. LQC is about using Placemaking to create positive change in communities by giving new life to its public spaces—a goal that remains the same regardless of population size.

When might a capital project be more appropriate than LQC?

LQC is not a silver bullet solution to all public space issues—sometimes a community or project requires large-scale infrastructure improvements that are beyond the scope and mission of LQC. For a Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper strategy to be appropriate and successful, the site must have several already-existing qualities: It must have adequate accessibility and linkage, for example, so that people can safely travel to, and stay in, the destination. If this is not the case, certain capital improvements should be the priority. Once components like accessibility, safety, and overall comfort have been addressed, it may be the right moment to think about some LQC strategies.

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