Imagine somewhere you love to visit at home or on vacation. You dream about strolling on that sidewalk bustling with activity from the local coffee shops and bicyclists’ parking. You smile thinking about your neighborhood park with its swing sets, community murals and the summer lemonade stand. These may be examples of placemaking, or as we like to think of it, human-scale planning that creates a sense of place. No matter the location, these places evoke feelings of safety, comfort and creativity.
Placemaking is a new concept for planning that makes people the priority—instead of cars. Additionally, this multidimensional planning is grassroots, collaborative and visionary. Public space design at human-scale is accessible and allows multiple modes of entry. At human-scale, surrounding buildings support its culture. The result: A useful, comfortable and social space.
Before your community plans a new project, create a vision. Start small by testing public spaces you wish to see change. For example, try using existing buildings and underused parks or parking lots to hold public markets, craft fairs or concerts. The projects may succeed or fail, but regardless, testing the space for activities can benefit the community by sparking ingenuity AND preventing expense if the activity does not work. As your community moves forward, remember these human-scale public spaces should serve more than one purpose; bring a diverse population together for a variety of planned or unplanned events. Here are low-cost ways to embrace underused and uncomfortable spaces:
- Use a parking lot for a temporary event
- Try Pop-Up Shops in vacant store fronts
- Explore Community Days
- Organize a vacant lot clean-up
By starting with small spaces and incremental changes, your community will continually shape its vision making it more resilient against economic, demographic and environmental fluctuations.
Does your community already have many public spaces that encompass principles of placemaking? Has your community implemented human-scale design that makes you feel safe, happy and creative?
Please share your story with us!