Old Place New Tricks: People and process in the U.S. and Europe - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Old Place New Tricks: People and process in the U.S. and Europe

Joanna Mikulska

Local community reclaims historic square in Hamar, Norway.

We at the Metropolitan Planning Council hear from community groups that want to make their neighborhood more active and inviting, but don’t know where to begin. Somewhere along the way, it seems, communities were taught that without solutions that involve hefty capital to “change” the physical landscape, there isn’t much that can be done to improve public spaces. Sentiments such as “if we could just get funding for this [large-scale capital project]” or “if we could just get more police here […],” while valid, often impede a community’s ability to take small steps toward larger change.

This year’s Old Place New Tricks Placemaking challenge was designed to help communities work through the process of creating change at the most incremental level—a scratch at the surface—to help spark interest, promote local collaboration and partnerships to activate local hidden gems, one intervention at a time. The process, which will be explored at our free "Placemaking 101" training on Tuesday, July 8, emphasizes two critical components of Placemaking: Project for Public Spaces’ Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper approach (the opposite of hefty capital investments) and the notion that the community is the expert.

While you are (hopefully) gearing up to participate in our Old Place New Tricks challenge, we hope you take some time to peruse our 2014 guest blog series, where authors from Poland and Norway explore a variety of contexts in which Placemaking happens. Placemaking has taken off in places around the world as communities increasingly recognize that planning for cars and traffic brings us more cars and traffic, but focusing on planning for people and uses attracts more people and activity to a space. This blog series explores Placemaking interventions at different scales—from book sharing in the form of birdhouse-sized libraries located in a neighbor’s front yard, to redefining a city square—where processes that emphasize collaboration, inclusion and creativity have transformed not just the physical space, but, more importantly, the social bonds among community members to create active and vibrant public spaces.

Take a look at this week’s post, “How can sharing create places?” And stay tuned for more!


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