Giving Compass' Take:

• Placemaking initiatives helped Detroit citizens make more equitable decisions for their city and revitalized community spaces.

• How can placemaking address other community issues? Can place-based donors find funding opportunities within placemaking projects? 

• Read about why we need to invest in transformative placemaking. 

Placemaking is the practice of designing places that reflect the priorities of the community and foster a sense of belonging to improve residents’ quality of life.

Placemaking has been used to encourage investments in communities through targeted economic development while ensuring revitalization activities equitably benefit residents. Recent efforts in Detroit demonstrate how placemaking can not only promote local equity by putting the community’s needs first, but it can also tear down the barriers created by our nation’s discriminatory approach to housing.

Effective placemaking can help undo the barriers created by discriminatory and inequitable policies. Placemaking can take many forms—developing equitable parks, installing art in less trafficked places, promoting walkability on main streets, and using other techniques to enhance public spaces.

Community involvement is key to decisionmaking around how to best use a place. Placemaking flips the top-down planning approach and embraces a participatory process that, although it may take longer, can be more rewarding.

Detroit, for example, has embraced placemaking’s potential for closing the equity gap in communities. Detroit’s racial equity gap is not as stark as in neighboring Chicago, and it is in the top 15 most racially inclusive cities.

City-led initiatives, such as Opportunity Detroit (PDF) and the West Vernor Corridor Neighborhood Framework, have contributed to this greater inclusion by targeting investments through placemaking in areas of blight and high vacancy to balance the resources flowing into the city. Both initiatives focus on transforming public spaces into community assets for residents and visitors by improving access to Detroit’s parks, such as Capital Park and Clark Park, improving mobility through streetscape redevelopment on Bagley Street, and linking destinations of interest.

Read the full article about placemaking by Kimberly Burrowes at Urban Institute.