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Best of the Blog: Top 13 Project Public Spaces Posts of 2013

It's been a very exciting year here at PPS, and the Placemaking Blog has been there to document the many high points and new ideas that have marked the past twelve months. Below, we've put together a list of the 13 most popular posts of the year. (Okay, technically 15 since the first one is three posts rolled together, but you get the idea!)

Thanks for a fantastic 2013! Have a Happy New Year, Placemakers!

1) Transformative Placemaking Trilogy

Project for Public Spaces / March-April, 2013
This past spring, during the lead-up to the inaugural meeting of the Placemaking Leadership Council in Detroit, we published a series of articles outlining our understanding of how Placemaking works, from the top-down and the bottom-up. The series included the posts All Placemaking is Creative: How a Shared Focus on Place Builds Vibrant Destinations, which took stock of the current debate surrounding Placemaking; Stronger Citizens, Stronger Cities: Changing Governance Through a Focus on Place, which looked at how public officials can work more productively with creative citizens; and How to Be a Citizen Placemaker: Think Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper, which explored the myriad ways that individual Placemakers can start making change today.



2) Announcing the Placemaking Leadership Council

Project for Public Spaces / January 13, 2013
We rung in 2013 by announcing the launch of the formation of the Placemaking Leadership Council, which had its first meeting this past April. "As one of those rare processes that can bring people with different objectives together under the same banner," we wrote at the time, "Placemaking is uniquely suited to help us grapple with the complex challenges that we face in a globalized society." We believe these words with even more conviction today, and look forward to continuing to grow this movement with you in 2014.


Click here to download the report!

3) New Reprt on Farmers Markets & Low-Income Communities

Project for Public Spaces / February 20, 2013
In February, we released the results of a study, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a research team from Columbia University, revealing the fact that it is a lack of good information and management, not cost, that discourages low-income people from shopping at local farmers markets. The full PDF of the study is available for download in the post linked above.



4) Book Review: Handmade Urbanism: From Community Initiatives to Participatory Models

Brendan Crain / May 2, 2013
"Handmade Urbanism is a significant contribution to those who are trying to figure out how to adapt governance structures to ease the tension between citizens and officials and encourage more action at the grassroots level. The book's unique format presents diagrams and statistics illustrating three transformative, citizen-driven interventions in five rapidly developing cities and analyzes their impact and meaning through interviews with local activists, designers, and academics. The result is something of a hybrid between a guidebook and a handbook."



5) Detroit Leads the Way on Place-Centered Revitalization

Project for Public Spaces / May 29, 2013
In May, PPS President Fred Kent sat down in front of a roomfull of reporters with Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures (and one of Detroit's great champions), to unveil a major Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper strategy for the revitalization of the Motor City. The plan represented a major shift, as it focused not on major infrastructure or expensive new amenities, but the immediate and diverse activation of downtown's public spaces. It was a massive experiment in urban revitalization that swung into action just a few months later, over the summer. We're immensely proud to be a part of this ongoing effort to create a model for how Placemaking can change an entire city by turning planning upside down to get it right side up!


The Paris Plages initiative has transformed a former roadway along the Seine in central Paris into a vast urban playground / Photo: Fred Kent

6) Taking the Next Step: Paris Leads With Innovation in the Streets

Stephane Kirkland / September 18, 2013
In a special guest post from our new Parisian corresponded, Paris Reborn author Stephane Kirkland explored his city's radical re-imaging of its streets as places, first and foremost, for people. "The new approach, which puts the quality of the urban experience at the heart of urban policy, has led to a complete redefinition of Paris's urban spaces," wrote Kirkland. "The aim of the program is to consider the pedestrian not just as someone who is moving from one point to another, but as a person who is experiencing the city."


7) Five Essential Elements of a Placemaking Campaign

Project for Public Spaces / May 16, 2013
"Increasingly our work on every scale is about developing campaigns for culture change through Placemaking. To make great places possible we need to educate, facilitate and inspire people to participate in the creation public spaces." As the Placemaking movement continues to grow and change, we've offered up some suggestions for Placemakers on how to make sure that their campaign-based work is effective in generating the social capital and long-term thinking that creating great places requires.



8) The 10 Greatest US Public Markets that Met the Wrecking Ball

David K. O'Neil / May 5, 2013
Today, cities from New York to Portland are experiencing a surge of interest in markets of all kinds. Looking back through his extensive collection of historic market postcards and memorabilia, PPS markets expert David K. O'Neil shared his list of some of the greatest public markets that we've lost in the United States over the past half-century, as the convenience and sanitation of big box supermarkets crowded out the bustle and conviviality of some of the greatest social spaces in our urban cores. Looking toward a bright future, it's important to take stock and reflect on the past!


Alamo Plaza bustles thanks to a temporary market during Team Better Block's last San Antonio project / Photo: Better Block

9) Places in the Making: MIT Report Highlights the Virtuous Cycle of Placemaking

Project for Public Spaces / October 23, 2013
This fall, after months of planning and research, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Susan Silberberg, and funded by Southwest Airlines, released a groundbreaking white paper entitled Places in the Making, which made the strongest case yet for the critical role that Placemaking plays in defining and developing local social infrastructure and economies. "The intense focus on place has caused us to miss the opportunity to discuss community, process, and the act of making," wrote Silberberg and her team. "[But] the most successful Placemaking initiatives transcend the 'place' to forefront the 'making.'"



10) 25 Mini Adventures in the Library

Amy Bowers / February 8, 2013
We stumbled upon this gem of a post on Amy Bowers Mamascout blog early this year, and were thrilled when she agreed to let us re-publish it on the Placemaking Blog. Libraries are shedding their old-fashioned reputations as solemn temples for silent study, and becoming dynamic community hubs with a wide variety of programming. But Bowers takes things down to the individual level, and shares some great tips for how parents and their kids can explore their library in all sorts of creative new ways, turning the space into a giant playground for learning and discovery.



11) Walking is Not a Crime: Questioning the Accident Axiom

David M. Nelson / February 14, 2013
The "Accident Axiom," writes PPS transportation associate David M. Nelson, "is the widely-held (but almost never-questioned) belief that accidents are an unavoidable and innocent consequence of modern motorized society. The assumption here is that crashes not involving excessive speed, alcohol, or gross negligence are presumably the fault of no one, but an unfortunate systemic fluke." In questioning this flawed societal assumption, Nelson took a hard look at how media coverage has changed over the past century in an indictment of the wrongheadedness so pervasive in how we think about our streets today.


Erik Howard  The Alley Project 1

12) Detroiters Work: The Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Regeneration of a Great American City

Project for Public Spaces / November 10, 2013
After the success of Rock Ventures' Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper plan for downtown Detroit (see item #5 on this list) we spoke with civic leaders, citizen Placemakers, and passionate folks all across Motown to explore how Placemaking is changing the city from the ground up, both downtown and in neighborhoods across 139 square miles—not all of which is front and center in ongoing media coverage of the city's struggles. As The Alley Project's Erik Howard puts it, "A lot of the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper stuff that's happening in Detroit is just not that popular because it doesn't drive the economic economy. It's just people doing what they need to do."


Yes, Pittsburgh pretty much always looks this great / Photo: cory.cousins via Flickr

13) Five Reasons Pittsburgh is a Must-Visit City for Walkers & Bikers

Project for Public Spaces / August 16, 2013
As we prepare for Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place 2014, which will take place in Pittsbugh, PA, September 8-11 this coming fall, we've been getting to know our host city, which offers an impressive slate of adventures, challenges, strolls, amenities, and unique opportunities for people who like to get around using the power of their own two feet (and maybe a couple of wheels, too). If you're considering joining us in Pittsburgh, don't miss this list! See you in September…