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Placemaking as an Economic Development Strategy

By Bill R. Shelton CEcD 

Placemaking strategy created vibrant pedestrian shopping areaPlacemaking as a community development tool has been around since Jane Jacobs’ groundbreaking 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities recognized that public spaces regularly inhabited by diverse people are safer, more prosperous, more enjoyable for residents and more attractive to visitors. 

Placemaking Defined 

Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to planning, designing and managing public spaces. 

During the last decade, the focus of many economic development programs has shifted from the attraction of businesses to the retention and attraction of talented workers. Communities seeking to attract talented residents must position themselves as centers of innovation and creativity. 

The principals of placemaking have the potential to transform underutilized public spaces into vibrant community assets where people congregate and add vitality to the community. 

In recent years there has been a growing recognition that placemaking matters in creating healthy, prosperous communities where people want to live, work, play and learn. Placemaking generates more than just social outcomes for the community. It also generates economic benefits and is a complementary strategy to aid workforce development. 

Guidelines for Placemaking

Communities adding or expanding a placemaking strategy can get assistance from the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces (pps.org), which offers these guidelines for helping communities: 

1.    Integrate diverse opinions into a cohesive vision 
2.    Translate the vision into a plan and program of uses, and 
3.    Ensure the stainable implementation of the plan 


The Bottom Line

Traditional economic development would have considered placemaking as community development and not economic development. Today, placemaking and economic development are two sides of the same coin. The community without quality of life amenities will have a difficult time attracting and retaining talented workers or being attractive to businesses and investors.

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