We are still gearing up for this year’s Placemaking Week in Amsterdam! In the lead-up to the event, we’ve had a sneak preview of how placemaking is growing all around the world! In this week’s speaker feature, we explore one of this year’s big topics: innovation districts.
When thinking about urban innovation, cities like Berlin, Boston, or Barcelona might immediately come to mind. But, will cities like Chattanooga, TN, soon be on this list as well? Innovation districts are changing cities, clustering together startups and accelerators that bring fresh talent and ideas to an area. As a recent addition to this growing movement, downtown Chattanooga will be the subject of an exciting Placemaking Week session, which will focus on the connection between places, people, and ideas in these ever-evolving urban hubs.
To create a hub of innovation, first you must have a great place. It’s not enough to put innovators side-by-side in a district. A vital public realm creates connections between people, and a buzz that inspires new ideas and enterprises. During this hands-on workshop, Meagan Shinn, Program Director of the River City Company, will weigh in on how innovation districts can grow this collaborative environment to shape a city, and how this vision of Chattanooga—bubbling with entrepreneurial activity, cross-sector collaboration, and activism—fits into the broader desire to make the city’s downtown area healthy and vibrant.
The face of Chattanooga is already changing, as the city taps into its culture of collaboration. Standing tall at the entrance of the new innovation district is the Edney Innovation Center, where co-presenter Mary Stargel runs a non-profit startup accelerator, while also providing spaces for coworking and community building. Meanwhile, the district’s Tomorrow Building, managed by co-presenter Stephanie Hays, is reimagining housing for activists and creative types in a new co-living program just a few blocks away. Together, these public and private spaces make up an entire district geared towards attracting innovators and helping them thrive.
But creating new spaces for cross-pollination of ideas is just the beginning; the key to lasting innovation is a sustained collaborative culture and a community that creates attachment among urban activists, entrepreneurs, and creatives. An innovation district is more than the sum of its parts; whether a cluster of startups or an influx of promising new nonprofits. To have staying power in a city, an innovation district must encourage a multitude of activities that engage people from different backgrounds, start conversations, and incubate new ideas.
These public hubs of innovation are poised to be one of the next big trends in the placemaking conversation. But they beg big questions too. How can placemakers best manage and grow public spaces for the innovation community? How can innovation districts work with nearby neighborhoods to mutual benefit? How can placemaking help the innovation economy become more inclusive and beneficial for the city at large? Come learn how Chattanooga is putting placemaking for innovation into practice, and join us in a conversation about the future of innovation districts!
Make sure to register now for 2017’s Placemaking Week taking place this October. This year Project for Public Spaces collaborates with partners in Amsterdam—STIPO, City at Eye Level, Placemaking Plus, and Pakhuis de Zwijger where the bulk of the event will be held—to host a dynamic program of sessions and workshops, where attendees will develop and share concrete strategies for advancing placemaking locally and globally.