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Streets as Places: Sold out roundtable creates buzz about rethinking how we use our streets

“For 70 years we have designed our cities around cars, and now, how do we spend the next 5, 10, 20 years designing our cities around people…That’s a tough task but amazing things are happening, and Chicago should embrace the opportunity for change and improvement.”

A fair challenge from Fred Kent, founder and president of internationally-renowned Project for Public Spaces, and keynote speaker at the blockbuster “Streets as Places” Roundtable hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

New York City, London, Paris, Shanghai, Copenhagen . These world-class cities have begun to dramatically rethink the design of their streets and public squares. From Trafalgar to the Paris Plage, city streets are being transformed from throughways to popular places for residents and visitors to shop, eat, meet, greet, and relax. The tremendous interest in MPC’s Streets as Places roundtable showed that communities from across the region want to know the secrets of these cities’ success: How can a community transform rundown streets into desirable neighborhood places?

Kent and his firm have worked with more than 2,200 communities across the globe to turn their public spaces into vital community places. He trains communities on “placemaking,” which emphasizes the need for people to think of streets as more than traffic arteries and to focus on creating and sustaining streets as places that support people and build communities. By working with community members to develop a vision for the kind of place they want to live in and then engaging them in actively managing the place, numerous towns and cities have revitalized once-unloved streets. Kent emphasized that the improvements that community members recommend need not be expensive; small-scale improvements like widening sidewalks, adding benches or tables that lets people interact, adding community-friendly dedicated lanes for buses and cabs, and making it easy to bicycle, can quickly and cheaply make a difference.

In his presentation, Kent detailed the nuts and bolts of placemaking, outlined 10 principles of great places, and showed examples of successfully transformed towns and cities from around the world.

Click here to watch a video of the presentation.

Click here to see the slideshow without audio.

For more information on placemaking, please visit the Project for Public Spaces Web site .

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