Creative Placemaking has Parallels to Culinary Planning

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) ran an article yesterday on Creative Placemaking through an interview with Juanita Hardy.  When asked about Creative Placemaking, Hardy gave a very thorough and enlightening reply.  Her discussion of employing arts and culture for community revitalization is similar to what I have been exploring within many of my posts and research for Culinary Planning.  She even mentions chefs and food producers as a vital element to the arts and culture mix when conducting a neighborhood revitalization.  This is of course completely true, many neighborhoods begin to see revitalization with the introduction of artists spaces, galleries, fabrication of goods, designers, incubators, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.  The revitalization’s that are successful include the involvement of the local community.  A selected piece of her interview:

“It’s a question being asked a lot these days, with cities and communities trying to find new ways to redevelop blighted or underperforming neighborhoods and spark economic activity in more inclusive ways. Certainly, the idea of placemaking isn’t a new concept to ULI members and, in fact, creative placemaking is something that quite a few members have already incorporated into their projects without perhaps calling it by this name.

It is important to note that the project is focused on using creative placemaking in communities in need of revitalization. In this context, creative placemaking has three distinguishing features. The first is that arts and culture are key components of a redevelopment effort, whether a single building or a large neighborhood revitalization project. The place that you are creating is arts- and culture-driven. The second feature is that artists—visual artists, performing artists, musicians, writers, poets, and even chefs or food producers—are involved in creative thinking about the project and engaging residents. This, of course, is in addition to the architects, designers, and other creative fields within land use and real estate. Finally, creative placemaking is noted for its inclusive approach and emphasis on equity. Any creative placemaking project in an area targeted for redevelopment should involve all the stakeholders—particularly existing residents and businesses—so that the redevelopment plan reflects the culture of the people who live and work there and helps to ensure that displacement does not occur.”

I for one am a big believer that it is culinary endeavors that can really push a revitalization over the edge, since food and beverage are all-encompassing, they have a direct effect on all residents and families.  This can be the introduction of a local grocery store or farmers market in what was previously a food desert, or a food hall + culinary school and incubator space to provide education and entrepreneurial opportunities for the local community.

Of course every neighborhood is different.  The introduction of the wrong uses can be a detriment and failure for revitalization that will reduce placemaking.  Successful case studies display that unique and bold ideas that come from a grassroots level can make a difference between the success and failure of revitalization.  And it is not always about the primary uses that are implemented, but the interstitial  spaces that really harness the community.  What happens between the grocery store and urban farm, or incubator hub and food truck lot are just as important.  I like to call these areas the “connective tissue” since they are really connecting the bones of a community.  It could be as simple as a well planned seating area, or a stage that is programmed on a daily basis, or a pocket park.

This is what placemaking is all about; ensuring that the interstitial spaces are thought about just as much as the culinary anchors for successful revitalization.

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