Defining a Place with Placemaking

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

I attended the 2012 Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Conference in Columbus, Ohio on September 19. Experts from around the Midwest gave insight into how their cities and partners are striving for economic growth based around places of value during the “Economies of Place” workshop. 

Bringing back value into communities to spark economic and population growth is of key importance in the 21st century where millennials are getting into the workplace and housing market.  The baby boomers are retiring at growing rates and want to move to more urban areas where they have amenities and public places to visit. 

Strong Towns is a group that supports models for growth that allow town’s to become financially strong and resilient.  Charles Marohn, the Executive Director of Strong Towns talked about his hometown in rural Minnesota that had built a strong community with valuable areas for the town people.  High density was visible along main roadways with pedestrian amenities and a park right in the middle of the town for people to congregate.  Today, that town is mainly one story commercial buildings with parking lots for each of them.  He hopes his hometown will see the potential in putting value back into the once strong town. 

Columbus is home to a new investment into community value, the Columbus Commons project developed by Columbus Downtown Development Corporation.  Phase 1 has been completed with an urban park located in the urban core of downtown.  Phase 2 has broken ground to complete an apartment style complex along one of the busiest streets downtown.  Columbus is following New York’s example of Central Park.  The edges of the park are set to be developed just like Central Park’s edges were built up over the years that sustained high values of buildings.

The event ended with a push to bring back the placemaking education we learned to our own communities.  People from the age of 18-retirement age at the conference are making a difference in how we view our communities.  It is now my turn as a millennial to start making a difference and bring back a feeling of “place” into the Columbus community.

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