Posted on July 21, 2015

International Movement Finds Success in Vancouver

Placemaking is an international movement that takes underused public and private spaces in urban centres and turns them into community spaces. Placemaking reinvents spaces with simple changes: seating, fresh paint, a piano or a piece of art. Before you know it, the area becomes a place people enjoy spending time.

Urban experts point to New York, San Francisco and Montreal as examples of successful placemaking cities. Vancouver urban planner Brent Toderian said these are densely-populated downtowns that are now using all available space.

“Building public space around people and not cars or commerce helps build a sense of community in public spaces,” said Toderian. “Attention paid to small public spaces can become a social lubricant that makes meeting other people easier.”

Vancouver has also joined the placemaking movement. The city closes one block of Robson Street outside the Vancouver Art Gallery every summer. This year’s theme is Porch Parade, an arrangement of colourful porches with seating. There is also the temporary installation of pianos at various locations around the city. The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has also engaged private property owners to transform their private plazas into public spaces by simply putting out tables and chairs for people to use.

“Placemaking is a simple urban movement that doesn’t require a lot of money,” said Charles Gauthier, President and CEO, Downtown Vancouver BIA. “All it takes is a few tables and chairs and suddenly, it’s a place people want to be.”

As homes become smaller, people spend more time in public spaces; placemaking helps make those spaces feel like home. Studies show that placemaking initiatives can help reduce crime, improve pedestrian safety, support local economies and attract business investment.

Public space experts believe the biggest benefit is the pride that people begin to take in their community.