Farmers Markets, Food, Placemaking And Smarter, Stronger Communities

Blog by Anna Brones:
Spend your money at farmers market and the money stays in the community. Spend it at the big box grocery store and it goes elsewhere.

After a lot of road trips in manydifferent places, I have come to a conclusion. When you drive through the countryside and come across a small town, one of two things happens:

1. You think to yourself, “ugh, this place is full of box stores and has no feeling at all. Get me out of here!” You proceed to drive to the next destination on your map.
2. You think to yourself, “ah, look at all these independent stores and quaint streets, I want to live here!” You stay and hang out, grab a coffee, and maybe even stay for lunch.

What is it that makes us have that feeling of “I want to live here”? It’s not just a street full of stores. It’s a sense of community; a feeling that there’s a thread that ties everyone together. So often, that thread is food. Food is essential; it’s what keeps us alive. It nourishes us both in the physical and the emotional sense, and it’s what brings us market

Community doesn’t just come together on its own. It takes work. As we think about how we continue to evolve our communities, and build new ones, some people have started using the phrase “placemaking.”

According to the Project for Public Spaces, “Placemaking is how we collectively shape our public realm to maximize shared value. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces.”

As our world population grows, we have to think serious about our management of public spaces, and for me, that means thinking about food. Because investing in food and farmers markets has a positive economic impact.

When it comes to farmers markets specifically, there are the direct and indirect benefits. Certainly a farmer benefits when he or she can sell their produce without a middleman, but there are also economic benefits for the community that come from keeping things local.

In 2009, a study found that farmers markets in Oklahoma had generated a total of $3.3 million in direct sales, but $6 million in total economic impact. That’s almost double.

A study done by the USDA found that fruit and vegetable farms engaged in local food sales (i.e. local and regional markets) employ 13 full-time workers per $1 million of sales. Those fruit and vegetable farms that not engaged in local sales (think: big farming)? They only account for 3 full time employees per $1 million of sales. A local food economy creates more jobs.

Video: New Mexico’s Singing Road

Drivers in New Mexico are in for a musical treat. They’ll be serenaded to “America the Beautiful” on Route 66.

Traffic management isn’t usually a very friendly business. Signs in stark Helvetica instruct you when to stop, go, and turn; and ocassionally flash at you if you’re going too fast. In New Mexico, however, one road is operating a more reward-based approach to speed limits.

The Singing Road!Music road

A mathematician from Tigress Productions created the attraction for the National Geographic Channel series and It was done by Sand Bar Construction.

A line of “rumble strips” were installed on a street betwen Alberquerque and Tijeras. When motorists drive over the strips at the correct speed (45mph), metal plates under the tarmac vibrate, producing music. The result is something that sounds like a trombone slowly puffing out “America the Beautiful”.

This video shows the road in action:

Read full article here.

The High Line effect

Following the success of New York’s High Line placmaking, turning an old rail line into an elevated park, cities around the world are pursuing bold new projects that challenge our perceptions.

The High Line was always going to be a success. But how much of one? Well before the first section opened in 2009, the group behind turning an old rail line into an elevated park in New York estimated it would attract 400,000 tourists a year, and raise tax revenues by $286-million (U.S.) over 20 years. Impressive, but hardly overambitious.High line

The final section of the 2.4-kilometre-long park was completed last month, putting the finishing touch on what has become the most successful public-space transformation in the United States, if not the world. The High Line attracts five million visitors a year, making it the second most visited cultural venue in the city. Its financial impact has been similarly massive, attracting $2.2-billion in new economic activity and raising tax revenues by an estimated $980-million over the next two decades.

Now Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Rotterdam, Seoul, Toronto and Mexico City are all hoping to catch some of that magic with their own “parks in the sky.” These projects are redefining our understanding of what a park is, and in the process helping to create a richer, bold new vision of public space.image (1)

“Green space and parks do more than promote physical activity,” says Laura Jackson, a researcher for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whose work focuses on the relationship between the built environment and human health. “The outdoors brings people together, so it facilitates social engagement, which is so important, particularly in urban areas where people can become isolated.”

Olmsted also believed that any great city park required a grand promenade. So-called linear parks such as the High Line take both of those two design principles and update them for the modern age.

Read full article here.

Shifting the Transportation Paradigm with Placemaking

How “alternative” modes can be leveraged to create places may be their most significant contribution to community development and to the ultimate success “alternative” modes.

Advocates are finally getting attention for issues like the impact and efficiency of the various modes of transport, the fair allocation of road space and spending, and the opportunities to create more seamless transportation systems and choices. These advances all need to happen, but advocated for and implemented alone may actually end up perpetuating the existing paradigm. Moving the discussion beyond the technical mobility solutions, and modal shifts, may actually be the best way to make these solutions feasible.Melbourne_Australia_Station_as_Place_ek_SMALL-530x326

The goal of transportation planning would seem to be (and used to be) to facilitate getting people to places – connecting people with destinations. Unfortunately most transportation planning has not only forgotten to create and support the places they are meant to bring people to, but have degraded these very destinations they are meant to connect. The people in charge of creating destinations have likewise planned in isolation, for isolation. Everyone is blaming the need for greater mobility.

If the point of transportation planning is to get people places they want to be, then all transportation planning should really start with placemaking. And if our planning efforts actually focused on creating places, we could actually meet the goals of getting people places, and getting things done, much faster. Great places are in fact defined by the ability to accomplish many things at once, often accomplishing many spontaneous, “unplanned” goals in the process. Even residential land-use and density can best be shifted from a suburban model through a broader focus on place rather than forced density, and mode shifts.Current growth strategies have been based on increasing movement of people and goods. The future of transportation planning needs to start with creating comfortable settings for all kinds of exchange between people. It is through re-envisioning our cities, transportation systems and economies around these transportation destinations that we will be able to truly make our world compatible with strong communities, economies and natural ecosystems as well as make feasible the more sustainable transportation modes of mass transit, walking and bicycling.

Read full article here.

Park(ing) Day At the Art for Arts Sake Festival 2014

Thi-3a8d0b0b05d6fce0s year’s Art For Arts Sake fall festival on Oct. 4 will include eight experimental public art installations tailor-made to fit in parking spots in New Orleans.

The project is part of an international event called PARK(ing) Day that is meant to plant the seeds of alternative urban planning concepts in the public mind.


PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

Tparking dayhe mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!

The Art for Arts Sake 2014 is a one-night festival of gallery openings to kick off the art season.The exhibits can be found along Magazine Street, in the French Quarter and, especially, in the arts district centered on the intersection of Camp and Julia Streets. The Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., present exhibits and entertainment. The festival is happening Saturday October, 4 from 6 to 9 p.m.

More information: Visit the Contemporary Arts Center website, the Magazine Street Merchants Association website and the New Orleans Arts District website. Call the CAC at 504.528.3805.

Read full article here,

Placemaking is Critical for Local Economy

familiesenjoyingspace-provPlacemaking is critical for the local economy. The strongest arguments focus on the market, attracting talent, and the creation of value. Other strong cases can be made on the basis of household economics, health, and the environment.

First, we need a handy definition. Here’s one from Mark Wyckoff of Michigan State University: “Placemaking is the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play, and learn in.” Mixed-use, compact, walkable neighborhoods are fundamental building blocks of communities with a strong sense of place.

The market pendulum has swung towards communities that generate a sense of place. Although placemaking is attractive to a broad range of socio-economic groups, young adults, college educated people, and relocating Boomers are particularly drawn to walkable places. Businesses who want to attract talent are looking to communities with a sense of place. Unless communities want to lose the young and the educated, they’d be wise to invest in ways that enhance, rather than detract from, a sense of place. That goes for cities, suburbs, and towns of all sizes.

The many benefits of placemaking make arguments hard in some ways, because you have to choose what to focus on. The temptation is to throw out too many facts and cover too much ground, and the case becomes overly complicated. The best tack will depend on the audience.

The concept of placemaking itself is relatively easy to communicate, because it is intuitively understandable. People have a sense of place and they react to a finely crafted main street or well-design public space.

The demand for place is driven by private choices. Yet the infrastructure and the zoning decisions are public. That’s why the strongest cases to be made are usually economic. Do you want your community to thrive in the future? If so, placemaking is a key to making that happen.

Robert Steuteville is editor and executive director of Better Cities & Towns.

Read the full article here.