The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design
Back to About

Fred Kent


Fred Kent is a leading authority on revitalizing city spaces and one of the foremost thinkers in livability, smart growth and the future of the city. As founder of Project for Public Spaces, he is known throughout the world as a dynamic speaker and prolific ideas man. Traveling over 150,000 miles each year, Fred offers technical assistance to communities and gives major talks across North America and internationally. Each year, he and the PPS staff give presentations or train more than 10,000 people in placemaking techniques. Since 1975, Fred has worked on hundreds of projects, including Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square in New York City; Discovery Green in Houston, TX; Campus Martius in Detroit, MI; Main Street in Littleton, NH; Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, Canada; and a City-wide placemaking campaign in Chicago, IL. In addition to projects, Fred has led trainings across the world for audiences such as the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the National Parks Board in Singapore, representatives from the City of Hong Kong, the Ministry of Environment in Norway, the leading Dutch transportation organization in the Netherlands, Greenspace in Scotland, UK, numerous transportation professionals from US State DOTs, and thousands of community and neighborhood groups across the US.

Before founding PPS, Fred studied with Margaret Mead and worked with William H. Whyte on the Street Life Project, assisting in observations and film analysis of corporate plazas, urban streets, parks and other open spaces in New York City. The research resulted in the now classic, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, published in 1980, which laid out conclusions based on decades of meticulous observation and documentation of human behavior in the urban environment. In 1968, Fred founded the Academy for Black and Latin Education (ABLE), a street academy for high school dropouts. In 1970, and again in 1990, Fred was the coordinator and chairman of New York City’s Earth Day.

Most recently, Fred has led some of the largest projects at PPS including Cape Town Waterfront, Crystal City in Alexandria, VA., Museumplein in Amsterdam, Downtown Detroit, Harvard University's main plaza, and Harvard Square for Cambridge and Harvard. He has also overseen major projects with Southwest Airlines as part of the Heart of the Community campaign. A recent partnership between PPS, UN Habitat, and The Ax:son Johnson Foundation has resulted in a global campaign (The Future of Places) and the establishment of a Placemaking Leadership Council aimed at bringing placemaking to countries around the world. Fred has also been intimately involved with the expansion of placemaking into a global agenda, helping to achieve a level of international engagement that rivals other major international development efforts. With over 150,000 people around the world following the work of PPS through emails, Twitter and Facebook, he has witnessed interest in placemaking grow exponentially.

Fred has taken over half a million photographs of public spaces and their users, which have appeared in exhibits, publications and articles.


B.A. Economics, Columbia University

Masters in Urban Geography, Columbia University

Articles and Interviews

Fred has participated in a number of interviews that help tell the story of PPS's work and growth in the Placemaking movement:

*Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces, has retired. The Board and staff of PPS wish to thank Fred for his pioneering work in placemaking over more than four decades; for his leadership and service to the many individuals and communities who have benefitted from his vision.  Fred is followed by CEO Phil Myrick, who will continue to advance the PPS mission of helping people everywhere to create and sustain public spaces that build strong communities. We wish Fred all the best, and we are committed to building on the global movement that Fred has started — and to "turning everything upside-down in order to turn it right-side up."

The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design