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Placemaking in Action: Community and Public/Private Placemaking

March 25, 2015

“Street Porch” in Highland Park, Los Angeles, California

York Boulevard’s Street Porch is part of the City of Los Angeles’ Parklet Pilot Program, which is helping to transform under-used areas of street into high-quality public spaces. During the community design process for the York Boulevard pilot project in Highland Park, community members working with Council District 14 and Green LA’s Living Streets team selected what will become the first “street porch” in the City of Los Angeles. Located on the shady side of the street on the most active block of York Boulevard, and intentionally not attached to any particular business, the street porch will provide community social space and support all nearby businesses.

Clam River Greenway in Cadillac, Michigan

Citizens in the City of Cadillac transformed the inaccessible and long neglected Clam River into a beautiful, walkable “green” and “blue” space. The Greenway features a two-mile, ten-foot wide paved trail, boardwalks, and natural areas that runs through the heart of the city. The Clam River Greenway Project became a joint effort of the Cadillac Rotary Club, the City of Cadillac, the Visitor and Convention Bureau, the Cadillac Area Community Foundation, and the Cadillac Area Land Conservancy.

“People Spot” in Anderson, Illinois

The Chicago Department of Transportation has started to create “people spots” (also known as “parklets”) which are temporary platforms adjacent to sidewalks, typically within existing parking lanes. By expanding the sidewalks, they create seasonal space for outdoor seating and dining. Much like a park, they are open to the public and allow for the free and organic flow of community activity. A “people spot” in Andersonville has an herb garden along the perimeter and a small grassy hill. A group of Kickstarter backers and nonprofit organizations chipped in to cover the $15,000 price tag.

Community Garden in Lawrence, Kansas

The Common Ground Program is a community gardening and urban agriculture program created by the City of Lawrence. The Program’s goal is to transform vacant or under-utilized city properties into vibrant sites of healthy food production. Seven pilot sites have been opened to the public through partnerships with neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations and schools. The sites include neighborhood community gardens, a youth-focused garden in a city park, a community orchard for free picking, and a market farm coordinated by college and middle school students. In exchange for receiving a free license for use of city property, applicants created a community benefit plan for each project.

Vacant Lot Transformed in Chicago, Illinois

Near the intersection of 103rd and Wentworth Avenue on Chicago’s Far South Side, a group of ten young women was charged with the task of selecting a place in need of transformation, raising awareness of issues that face the community, and using community engagement and design principles to transform it . Working together, the group transformed a vacant, trash-strewn lot nestled between two storefront churches into a play lot featuring a ropes course that reflects the Swiss Alps. Their efforts included knocking on doors, creating live twitter feeds and installing chalk boards where people could write their ideas for what the space could become. Newfound pride in this lot continues to be evident in the way the park has been maintained.

Urban Park Renewal in Cincinnati, Ohio

Washington Park is located in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As the neighborhood fell on hard times, lack of investment led to the deterioration of the neighborhood and the park. The Park underwent a major renovation and was turned into an 8-acre urban sanctuary, becoming an anchor for Over-the-Rhine’s revival. The transformation has spurred new economic development in the surrounding area, and the park better serves its diverse community and a new population of visitors drawn to its extensive program of concerts, movies, educational programs and special events.

Washington Park is now a premier urban space for all people.

Parking Lot to Community Garden in Detroit, Michigan

In 2012, General Motors, the Ideal Group, and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision unveiled Cadillac Urban Gardens on Merritt, a community project in an abandoned parking lot where 315 shipping crates have been converted into raised garden beds. The project, located in Southwest Detroit, benefits nearby residents, providing them nutritious and locally grown food. Detroit Dirt provides the compost used in the community garden, sourced from local partners including Detroit Zoo animal manure, coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, and composted food scraps from GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. To date, in 2013, nearly 4,000 volunteer hours have been logged on this community project, and the surrounding neighborhood improvement project.

Columbia Heights Plaza in Washington, DC

The Columbia Heights Fountain Plaza in Washington, D.C. opened in 2009 as part of the redevelopment and redesign of the heart of Columbia Heights, an in-town neighborhood that has seen new growth, this plaza has become a popular gathering place for people of all ages. The District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation worked closely with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to design and build the plaza. The plaza was part of a larger streetscape project that included signal and safety improvements, installation of pedestrian amenities, upgrades to the sidewalks, curbs and gutters, landscaping and street lighting. The fountain has become a big attraction, especially among small children drawn to play in the squirting water. On Saturdays during the warmer months (with the water turned off!) a large farmers market is held on the plaza.