Placemaking done right: three successful approaches

soldotna
An improved storefront in Soldotna, AK. Photo courtesy of City of Soldotna.

It is often hard to quantify what makes a place memorable, successful or special, but to paraphrase an old adage, “You know it when you see it.” Some urban planners have described placemaking as the deliberate re-shaping of the built environment to facilitate social interaction and improve quality of life. While there is no universal blueprint for creating great places, there are successful examples worth noting, especially given the numerous benefits that come with great placemeking.

Placemaking improves the physical, psychological, health and public safety aspects of a community. Creating attractive places where people want to be increases foot traffic and helps support the local economy, which is critically important. Interesting places with more community interaction also reduce crime and instill a sense of identity to a neighborhood. So, how does good placemaking happen? The following examples from Philadelphia (PA), Soldotna (AK) and Orlando (FL) showcase three approaches on different scales, achieved by different means.

Local Leaders Council

Smart Growth Stories: A Mayor’s Perspective

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is on a mission to support economic development in his city, and he’s using smart growth and downtown development strategies to accomplish that goal.

“People were slow to embrace some of the changes we were proposing because they didn’t necessarily see how, say, the development of a street car would lead to more jobs,” Mallory says in Smart Growth America’s first “Smart Growth Stories” video interview. “They didn’t necessarily see how investing so much money in downtown allowed for improvements in neighborhoods. So I’ve had to explain to people that downtown is the engine, the economic engine, for everything that happens in our entire region.”

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Smart growth strategies in San Diego

Investing in quality development and creating vibrant places where people want to live and work are among the themes at this year’s New Partners for Smart Growth conference in San Diego. Over 1,400 public officials, planners, developers and advocates are meeting this week to discuss better strategies for development – and the conference’s host city is a great example of that principle in action. From NBC San Diego:

“San Diego is investing in the right things,” said Ilana Preuss, vice president of Washington D.C.-based Smart Growth America. “Looking at how you create whole neighborhoods where people can live near where they work, have jobs near shops and schools. We’ve found that that’s really a key to the economic development of the 21st century.”

“Smart Growth” Experts Tout San Diego [NBC San Diego, February 2, 2012]

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Smart growth news – November 1

What do Americans think about Sustainable Communities?
Citiwire, October 28, 2011
Anyone who has ever watched an episode of The West Wing or followed the national network’s television coverage on election night has a general idea of how common the use of polls has become to the policy formulation process in our country. Our leaders and public officials have turned to the tools of marketers to help decipher which direction the figurative winds are blowing before they step into the fray. So why wouldn’t planning and smart growth advocates do the same? Last fall, Smart Growth America (SGA) did just that.

In Minneapolis, a new era for neighborhoods
Star Tribune (Minn.), October 31, 2011
For 20 years, a $300 million civic experiment won international plaudits for reshaping Minneapolis from the neighborhoods up. Now the city is preparing for life after the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

Senate vote due on infrastructure bank proposal
The Hill, October 31, 2011
President Obama’s proposal to create a national infrastructure bank and spend $50 billion on transportation to stimulate job growth will be up for a vote in the Senate this week.

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SGA Asks: Of the neighborhoods you’ve ever lived in or visited, which one is your favorite? Why?

Earlier this week Smart Growth America asked our readers: Of the neighborhoods you’ve ever lived in or visited, which one is your favorite? Why? We’re excited to share your responses. We’ll be asking a new question next week – be sure to follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to join the discussion!

So of the neighborhoods you’ve ever lived in or visited, which one is your favorite and why? Here are some responses from Twitter and Facebook:

Have an idea for a question to ask? Email info [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

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SGA Asks: What makes your neighborhood great?

Mondays just got a little bit better. Starting this week, Smart Growth America will pose a question to our readers to encourage discussion about smart growth ideas in neighborhoods across America. You can engage in the dialogue by commenting on our Facebook page or through Twitter with @SmartGrowthUSA. If you’re not already a fan or a follower, be sure to sign up so you can participate.

Later in the week, we will compile your responses and post them to our blog – providing a diversity of thoughts and opinions on smart growth issues. We’re excited to hear your stories and share them with all of our readers!

This week’s inaugural question: What makes your neighborhood great?

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