Placemaking in Waco – Part 1

By Luann Jennings

Think about your favorite place and imagine you’re there. Although this place may have special smells or sounds, the odds are good that the first thing you thought about was how your favorite place looks. After all, you were using your “image-ination.”

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a non-profit that helps communities create great places. One of the features PPS looks at in a great place is Comfort & Image, including whether it is safe, clean, green, walkable, sittable, spiritual, charming, attractive, and/or historic. How many of those words describe your favorite place?

How it looks probably isn’t the main thing, though, that made it a favorite place for you. My favorite place is the sanctuary of a church I attended before moving to Waco. It is safe, clean, sittable, spiritual, attractive, and historic; but so are a lot of other churches I’ve been inside. My experiences there, combined with how the space looked, felt, and worked, made it my favorite place. This is why PPS’ other three criteria for a great place are Sociability, Uses & Activities, and Access & Linkages. You can find more information and a graphic here.

PPS developed the concept and practice of “placemaking,” which is “strengthening the connection between people and the places they share.” Waco is doing a lot of placemaking work right now, particularly in the downtown area. The 2010 “Imagine Waco” development plan describes a vision of a downtown that would be an “attractive and convenient place” with “comfortable and inviting” streets that would also create opportunities for people to socialize, promote activities, and be easily accessible.

Another side of placemaking is “creative placemaking,” or “projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development.” Creative Waco, our local arts agency, has several creative placemaking projects going on, including a Sculpture Zoo and a mural project. Learn more about creative placemaking here.

Some people think of placemaking as just the job of planners, architects, and designers, but PPS emphasizes that, “As both an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region, Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.” (emphasis added)

The Imagine Waco plan also envisioned “seamless connections between East and West Waco” and an East Waco that is “alive with historical, cultural and arts facilities, farmers markets, art shows, mixed-use housing and retail and restaurant destinations.” East Waco’s Elm Avenue will soon be the site of a new placemaking project that has started out by seeking input from the community. Tami Nutall Jefferson will tell you all about it in our next post: Placemaking in Waco – Part 2!

Luann Jennings works part-time for Creative Waco and in various other arts-related project. She also started InSite, a creative placemaking project that produced two plays this past winter at sites around Waco. She moved to Waco two years ago from New York City to be part of all of the exciting things going on here in the arts!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


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