Writer: Roger Nielsen
A new Institute of Government partnership is engaging people in Georgia’s cities to identify the places that help define their communities and to build on those assets to create appealing public spaces.
The Georgia Placemaking Collaborative was established by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and Georgia Cities Foundation to help cities address community needs through placemaking, a design process that engages people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces to address economic development and quality-of-life issues. Other founding partners in addition to the Institute of Government include the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Power.
Leadership teams with the cities of Bainbridge, Gainesville and Greensboro launched the placemaking process at a recent educational retreat. Over the next three years, each team will develop a placemaking strategy to enhance the quality of life in their community. Team members also will work with GMA and the Institute to develop the Georgia Placemaking Collaborative’s content and long-term format.
Georgia Cities Foundation President Mike Starr says the initiative is designed to help communities become more vibrant and livable.
“This collaborative seeks to bring or restore prosperity through the creation of a community and economic development strategy,” Starr said. “These strategies will capitalize on local assets to create healthy, appealing and unique places where people want to live, work and play.”
The Institute of Government facilitated and hosted the inaugural retreat, which featured presentations by nationally recognized placemaking leaders such as Cynthia Nitikin, senior vice president of the Project for Public Spaces, and Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. In addition, participants toured three sites that help make Athens unique: Creature Comforts, a craft brewery and tasting room housed in a converted auto dealership; Ciné, a nonprofit art house cinema located in what was once a tire recapping factory; and The Rook & Pawn, one of the first board game cafes in the Southeast.
Largely modelled after the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing program, the Georgia Placemaking Collaborative will bring together city leadership teams at two educational retreats per year. The Institute of Government was asked to help establish the collaborative in recognition of its placemaking expertise, according to faculty member Danny Bivins.
“We’re a founding partner and supported the first retreat with in-kind resources, and I think it was an overwhelming success,” Bivins said.