As a trained urban planner, I geek out over inspiring planning concepts and initiatives. I love how cities and towns across the country are implementing new and creative ways to improve the vitality and originality of their spaces. While the term is often mocked for its overuse and lofty meaning, placemaking really hits home for me and inspires me to continue to seek out stories and means of preserving our past while improving for the future of our communities. Below I wanted to share some of these stories as well as a couple resources and favorite planning blogs. This is just the first of what will inevitably be many future posts on urban planning, you’re welcome/I apologize.
- In New Orleans, the 2.6-mile Lafitte Greenway, an off-street path on a converted railway that connects 6 diverse neighborhoods and opened in 2015, is bringing people together rather than acting as a barrier between them. This connectivity isn’t the only thing distinguishing Lafitte from other bike paths in the U.S., it also promises a vibrant space to live, shop, and grab a drink.
- A designer built a secret studio that hangs beneath an underpass in an effort to show that the areas traditionally associated with danger and unsavoriness can actually be useful spaces.
- I have a friend who authors (with a team) a blog on the development taking place in Nashville. They are new to the blogging scene but have a great voice and provide timely and accurate information. Even as a person who has never been to Nashville, I enjoy reading their posts and finding out about other initiatives in a growing city.
- Similar to the above blog, UrbanTallahassee has long been a resource for the entire city on projects and development initiatives. When I worked for the city, there were times when I found things out first through this blog even before it was announced at work!
- Art in the Face of Gentrification looks at the impact art, artists, and galleries have on historically disenfranchised neighborhoods and how arts organizations or entities funding public art should address the potential clash of culture in the process of gentrification. Appreciation of the culture of the community should be considered in every step of the public art process (as a general rule but especially in underrepresented communities) and every effort should be made to encourage community input and involvement in the development process, both in artistic endeavors and through vertical infrastructure.
- Grange Park, a downtown Toronto park that had its official re-opening in July, is a new model for how parks should be built and operated. This community-planned park was 13 years in the making and is a truly collaborative effort that involved community conversations, surveys, and engaged fundraising efforts.
- Finally, an exciting effort in my own city, an ambitious new plan to make downtown Des Moines more accessible for walkers and cyclists has the intent of improving safety to encourage more street life. Elements of the plan are already in the works, including in Historic East Village (where my office is located), where the street stripping has been removed this week in preparation of implementing changes next week including: protected bike lanes, street parking, buffer areas, and decrease in car lanes.
- What is your city doing to improve the experience of downtown?
- What do you like most about where you live?