5 Lessons from NYU’s Placemaking Class - Resonance Consultancy

5 Lessons from NYU’s Placemaking Class

Words—Chris Fair

Here are the key takeaways from my online class about how placemaking can help attract talent, tourism, residents and investment to your city or community.


One of the most rewarding parts of our work at Resonance is helping teach the industry about the emerging nexus of destination marketing and management, economic development, and real estate development. We do this with our newsletters and sharing of insights on all our channels. But few things are as exciting for me as teaching, as I’ve done in a class in Placemaking at New York University’s School of Professional Studies.

Our class in fall 2017 brought together an interesting mix of leaders from destination marketing organizations, planners for cities, and real estate developers. While their roles and responsibilities differ greatly, they all shared a passion for the places they live and an interest in how placemaking could help attract talent, tourism, residents and investment to their communities.

Here are five key takeaways from the last course:


Placemaking is Difficult to Define
Much like the term “branding,” there are many different interpretations of what placemaking is, what it means and its purpose. Personally, I like this definition from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning:

“At its most basic, the practice aims to improve the quality of a public place and the lives of its community in tandem. Put into practice, placemaking seeks to build or improve public space, spark public discourse, create beauty and delight, engender civic pride, connect neighborhoods, support community health and safety, grow social justice, catalyze economic development, promote environmental sustainability, and, of course, nurture an authentic ‘sense of place’.”


‘Livability’ and ‘Quality of Place’ Are Not the Same Thing
Often times, we confuse ‘livability’ with ‘quality of place’. While livability speaks to essential needs (transportation, housing, education), quality of place speaks to a variety of desirable, more intangible factors (park space, interesting neighborhoods, culture) that make a city an attractive place to live, work or play. One of the key observations made by students in the last class was that it’s difficult to improve quality of place if a city doesn’t already have good livability—in other words, s good livability sets the foundation for good placemaking.


Quality of Place Can Be A Catalyst for Economic Growth
While livability is essential, quality of place and placemaking are often characterized as “nice-to-haves.” However, research done by Resonance and others tells a different story. For small and medium-sized cities, there is a high correlation between quality of place and the wealth of the city. During the upcoming class, we’ll discuss the relationship between placemaking and economic development, and which factors matter most when it comes to growing the GDP of a city.


Different Objectives Require Different Types of Placemaking
As the placemaking definition above demonstrates, there can be many different types of objectives when it comes to placemaking. Accomplishing differing objectives requires different types of placemaking. During the class we’ll look at the differences between strategic, creative and tactical placemaking and the types of challenges and opportunities that correspond toare appropriate for each.


Placemaking is Faster Than Planning
Implementing change in a city is usually a time-consuming and expensive process. Placemaking allows us to create interim interventions in a city and demonstrate their benefits before permanent changes are made. This rapid prototyping and testing ideas for places and space in a city can help accelerate the approval and design process for permanent changes in the future.


These are just some of the lessons we will discuss during the class. The course is open to everyone and requires attending two lectures online and completing a variety of reading and online discussion with your classmates in between the lectures. If you are passionate about places and want to learn how placemaking can help you attract more residents, visitors and investment to your city or destination, I highly recommend it and hope you join me from April 4 to April 25.