What is Progressive Placemaking | Evolving the Space to a Place

Good public spaces don’t happen overnight, and people don’t have all the answers at the outset. The key is to provide for flexibility – to grow the space by experimenting, evaluating, and incorporating the lessons into the next steps…

Small-scale, inexpensive improvements can be more effective at drawing people into spaces than major, big-buck projects.

Inexpensive amenities such as landscaping; gardens beds with flowers, shrubs and trees, benches, or movable seating and umbrellas, outdoor café tables and chairs, or vending carts are
relatively inexpensive and can get the ball rolling in creating a well-loved and well-supported public place.

Developing the ability to manage a space effectively is more critical to success than a large financial investment.

Management is the subject of our final principle, “You are never finished,” but it’s worth mentioning here that good management — for example, the ability to put out items such as movable furniture at a moment’s notice, to host a range of events, or to notice changes in the use of the space and to act on them — are all ways that build a place’s success more effectively and cost-effectively than just sinking in substantial capital.

If the community is a partner in the endeavour, people will come forward and naturally draw in others.

The community’s involvement will lead to a sense of ownership that will engender people’s support and contributions, which will in turn make a place grow and thrive. Such contributions are
not necessarily monetary. They may come in the form of donated goods and services or volunteer labour, and consequently the cost of the project is diminished relative to the benefits received.

When the community’s vision is driving a project, success follows.

Projects perceived by the public as being too expensive often do not become a reality, because they have not evolved from a community’s vision. The most successful public space projects tend
to use an incremental approach in which the place grows little by little; accordingly, people become more and more invested as it grows. Once a community backs a project with its voices and its hearts, success follows.

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