Lesson 5: Creative Placemaking Know How

Creative placemaking is a complex, multi – disciplinary practice which seeks to leverage the cultural and creative assets and resources in a community to serve that community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for neighbourhood growth, change and transformation.

In order to develop our projects we need to bring together a diverse range of skills and expertise starting, at the earliest stages of our pre-project development work, with research and engagement which is grounded in an understanding of the dynamics of place and creativity. In order to assess the feasibility of a project it is important to understand what attracts artists and creative people to particular types of neighbourhoods and spaces.

We also need skills in community engagement, collaboration and partnership. Our projects are often at the leading edge of change in a community, challenging old norms and assumptions about what can or should be done to stimulate neighbourhood growth, change and transformation. So we build our projects from the ground up, engaging local community stakeholders and leaders from the outset. We understand the scale of commitment required over time to research and understand a community’s cultural assets and resources, needs and aspirations and to connect these to a wider public policy agenda. This is important in part because we are building things with other people’s money.

Of course in order to develop spaces that respond to these dynamics, we also need to have solid expertise in real estate development and we need to be confident in understanding and working with the local planning context and with the range of fiscal and planning tools that might be critical in bringing a project to life. All of these components will of course be reflected in our assessment of feasibility and throughout the business planning process.

It is also important to understand the range of external specialists who you will need to hire and manage - this may include a third partner business planning specialist, public funding for capital projects, your architect and their team, your contractor, your legal advisor and many others. While in some cases development and construction may be managed by a development partner either way project management skills to keep your project on time, on budget and on vision are critical.

Our projects secure their financial sustainability and public support by ensuring that an ever-widening circle of partners, stakeholders and supporters are engaged in the project from the outset and can contribute to the development of a shared project vision. We tenant our projects with organizations and individuals who can see themselves in the project vision and who can specifically identify what they can contribute to its delivery – so our tenanting process and our property management policies are central to our practice.

Developing the necessary expertise, engaging the local community in a meaningful way, and managing complex and diverse partnerships throughout the ups and downs of these complex projects is critical to their success.   
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