Adam cringes: “What If We Reinvented Civic Infrastructure Around Placemaking?”


Think about the massively expensive “places” recently created by municipal government in New Albany: Bicentennial Park, River Run Family Water Park, Silver Street Park and the coming “upscale” apartments on the Coyle site.

Then think about the ongoing reign of the slumlord and the city’s unwillingness to tackle sub-standard housing, the counter-productivity of one-way arterial streets and the incestuous non-transparency of city officials and Democratic Party functionaries.

The following article deals with placemaking, itself a notion as intimately familiar to Team Gahan’s TIF ONE credit card drones as Mandarin Chinese is to your house pets. Think about the “fractured, siloed structure of contemporary government” not just as it pertains to placemaking failure, but to all of local government’s activities.

Just think about it. Gahan, Dickey, Duggins — they don’t want you to think. That’s the single best reason to do it.

Just an excerpt below.

Toward Place Governance: What If We Reinvented Civic Infrastructure Around Placemaking?, by Ethan Kent (

Refocusing Governance to Support Public Spaces

As we have experienced in all of these contexts, Placemaking identifies and draws out local leadership, partners and resources on all levels of community and government. When we ask: “What if a central focus of governance became the building of successful places?” there is general comfort and energy to make that happen–to work together in new ways.

The fractured, siloed structure of contemporary government, with its myriad departments and bureaucratic processes, often directly impedes the creation of successful public spaces. Transportation departments view their mission as moving traffic; parks departments are there to create and manage open green space; community development agencies are focused on development of projects, not the spaces in between them or the organic opportunities that arise from social interactions within them.

The Placemaking approach builds on the ability of place-based institutions to create great community places that bring people together and reflect community values and needs. In cities where Placemaking has taken hold, local government is often not directly involved in implementation, but relies on more localized community development organizations, business improvement districts, and/or neighborhood partnerships to take the lead in making community change happen.

How would moving toward a place-centered governance shift the effectiveness of government’s ability to work across departments and with the communities it is meant to serve?

If the ultimate goal of governance, public institutions, and development is to make places thrive, then governance culture and processes need to change to reflect that goal. Place certainly does not represent all of the public good and value in a community, but place as an organizing focus can best help that value be preserved, shared and leveraged.

A focus on place supports a culture of leadership to emerge from all levels, inside and outside of government. A Placemaking culture challenges everyone to compete to contribute to shared value. Bad ideas and privatizing forces are adeptly kept in check or pushed out. The open governance process and culture, enabled by a shared focus on place, is more accessible to all, and more compatible with constructive participation.