Placemaking: Design With A Community In Mind

Ann street plaza east lansing2

Author: Molly Keasey

Placemaking is a key concept in working toward good cities. However, it has just started to grow in popularity. In regards to Downtown Lansing, this concept is relevant in terms of revitalizing the Red Cedar and the areas that surround it. Along with, gentrifying the buildings along Grand River in order to promote growth through community. Placemaking is the next large stride cities need to take in order to become good, smart cities. Placemaking allows for human connectivity, inclusivity, and centrality that lead to a common voice promoting people’s health and happiness. As pictured above, placemaking capitalizes on local community's assets, inspiration and potential. Doing so with the goal of creating a public space that allows for free expression and well-being of an entire community. Placemaking would open up Downtown Lansing and help the city strive towards so many other steps in creating a “Good City.”

The benefits of placemaking go far beyond East Lansing. Placemaking creates community complicity. It allows for familiarity of the people whom live within the same neighborhood. The principle generates a meeting place, site of expression, creativity, opinion and political utterance. Placemaking deliberately embeds culture into the resurgence of a city. It bridges social differences while elevating the voices of residents. Placemaking even helps green cities. As discussed in the Ted Talk, “Green the Ghetto,” constructing a place for communities to come together not only allows for congruity and inclusion, but also helps with sustainability. Instead of utilizing more cars, factories, and industries that create pollution for entertainment, there is a green option. Option that may include a park with surrounding trees, benches with flowers planted by residents, etc. Creating a space for people to enjoy and made for the environment to reap the benefits as well.

Cites that have already shown strides towards becoming great cites through placemaking include Detroit, MI and New York, NY. Detroit is a key city to mention as it needed complete gentrification and revitalization. Quick to jump on board was Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans based in downtown Detroit. Gilbert, a keen businessman, saw an opportunity for growth and took charge. He created the Q-line, running from midtown to downtown, Detroit’s first method of public transportation bringing residents directly into the heart of the city. Gilbert was not ignorant to the fact this Q-line would bring people to one common area. He used this common space to create a community in the center of Detroit, Campus Martius. Bringing in local art, a beach with a bar during the summer, ice-skating during the winter, seating for families and couples alike, and not to mention an award-winning restaurant. This revival located directly in the middle of downtown Detroit, amongst the sky rises and businesses. Dan Gilbert’s use of placemaking in Detroit created a place of commonality for business people, families and those suffering from homelessness alike, to come together in a space of free expression and culture.

In a similar sense, the world famous Time Square in NY, NY is a placemaking muse. Time Square brings together cultures from all over the world. It creates a common place for art, both live and still on billboards, expression, and joy. People come from all over the globe just to witness the mass population, lights and action that take place in Time Square. Sidewalks line the square along with bike lanes and accessibility to a bike share, allowing for sustainability and multiple modes of transportation. Sidewalk shops and food trucks line the streets, creating activities in this common area and yet another way to bring people together. Time Square is a prime example of the power placemaking has in a city. The lights shine on Time Square creating an impact on New York City in a way all cities should follow, an iconic example of placemaking.

As many policy makers and academics alike have described, it is very difficult to define ways to gentrify metropolises into good, smart cities. In spite of that, there is always a place to start. Placemaking is this starting point. Creating a multi-faceted approach to design of public spaces in order to promote livability, vibrancy, and sustainability. Generating a location city goers can share proudly, feeling at home. Placemaking is the answer to gentrification and making cities great.

An example of this principle at work: Creative Placemaking