Friday, May 6, 2016

Placemaking: Focusing on the importance of the human experience in a city

Increasingly, we are hearing the term “placemaking” used as an economic development strategy. Placemaking is the idea of focusing on the importance of the human experience—walkable areas, lively neighborhoods and inviting public space. 

Read about this Charleston
placemaking project in the
May Uptown

For example, certain cities around the country seem to be magnets for talented young professionals. It’s not because of the cities’ taxes or regulations but, very simply, because of their "place," according to Dan Gilmartin, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, and a national leader in the field of placemaking. These cities are the kinds of places that attract a young, well-educated, talented workforce.

(Listen to a podcast interview with Gilmartin talking more about placemaking.)

Gilmartin said these young professionals are looking for 21st century communities that put a focus on 1) physical design and walkability, 2) green initiatives, 3) cultural economic development, 4) entrepreneurship, 5) multiculturalism, 6) technology, 7) transit and 8) education.

Placemaking starts with an inclusive, bottom-up approach, often driven by individuals who want to make a change or impact on their community. The city then needs to create the platform for that change to occur, Gilmartin said.

Historic districts, for example, often happen when one entrepreneur or a group decides to come in and make changes. The city would need to facilitate those changes to spur economic growth.

The Mount Pleasant mayor brings
town hall out to the community
Civic engagement is an important piece of placemaking. Elected officials need to realize that they have to engage people differently. Gilmartin said there are many people who want to be involved in civic life, but they’re not going to meetings at city hall.

Learn more about placemaking and what South Carolina experts have to say about the topic in the May issue of Uptown. During the Association’s Annual Meeting in July, there will be a half-day preconference session on the topic of placemaking.

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