Though the term might carry some weight in the world of urban design, most professionals today don’t have a clue what might be meant by the newly-coined term placemaking. And it shouldn’t be surprising, since many of those who use the term on a regular basis only have a hazy idea of what exactly it means. However, for everyone from artists, to architects, real estate developers, or any civic-minded onlooker, the implications of the ideas behind the word will prove to have a lasting impact in coming years.
Although it has its roots in the 1960’s, placemaking’s real relevance today comes from a new wave of federal funding launched in 2011 that sought to leverage creative communities in towns and cities across the country in order to make urban spaces that are more livable and more vibrant. In the past five years they have dispersed more than 200 grants of between $50 thousand and $3 million, sparking a variety of other similar investments in private and nonprofit sectors.
Projects range from big to small, but always put community investment at their heart. Miami’s The Underline recreated over ten miles of pathway under a local rail line, blending public art and public space into a single, beautiful whole. With places to sit, places to bike, places to make, and places to relax, the new park was envisioned as the centerpiece of a city.
Southern California’s Institute of Architecture was awarded a $400 thousand grant to construct an indoor amphitheater and outdoor pavilion that would together serve as prominent places in the Los Angeles arts district.
There are countless other examples to explore, each popping up in cities across the country. And as more and more of these projects are coming to completion those interested in the future of our cities are beginning to recognize the benefits of such investments. Though it may not come as any surprise to real estate investors, who already understand the impact of art and culture on healthy public spaces.