Editor's note: this article is written by Dennis Knight, who
attended our Placemaking event on
March 2, 2013.
Place-making has been receiving increased attention from
community planners, architects and others since the 1970s, fuelled
by thought leaders such as Jane Jacobs and recognizing that great
places are drivers of economic and cultural development. I
define it as 'planning, designing and managing communities and
their public living spaces to facilitate people's creativity,
well-being and connection'.
In recent years, place-making has become a focus of collective
action in communities who lack (or have lost) a sense of place.
They include certain neighbourhoods in Halifax, Portland, Oregon,
Fort McMurray and London, England.
Creative place-making is offered in the US as a certification
program at Ohio State University and it is a focus of organizations
such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation, sponsor of the nation-wide Soul of the
Community project, http://www.soulofthecommunity.org/.
Questions recently posed by Happy City St. John's stimulated
some thinking about how we in St. John's rank as place-makers and
- How good are we at 'Place-making" in St. John's?
- What could we do better?
Following is a scan of the things that we are doing (or have
done) relatively well.
How good are we?
City Hall, philanthropists, volunteers and service organizations
have produced a diverse palette of community-building initiatives,
- Municipal Arts Plan, Art Procurement Program, Poet Laureate,
Summer Lunchtime Concerts, and Grants to Artists and Arts
- Symposia with the arts community + analyses of artists'
infrastructure needs (currently looking at a multi-use arts
- Investments in Bannerman Park and community centre facilities
in Wedgewood Park, Southlands, etc, and recreational programming
for seniors and youth.
- Snow clearing of sidewalks has improved in recent years (but it
needs to be expanded further to make St. John's truly a liveable
- Sculptures and murals have greatly improved the city in recent
- Cultural Capital of Canada award in 2006 and associated
- The Quidi Vidi/Rennies River Development Foundation has
excelled at protecting/enhancing the fish habitat of Rennies River
Watershed and Quidi Vidi Lake, thanks to champions such as Drs.
John Gibson and Don Steele. Advocacy for the protection of
other rivers and the Atlantic coastline has been pursued tirelessly
by organizations such as the East Coast Trail Association and
Northeast Avalon ACAP.
- The St. John's Harbour Clean-up Project was completed in 2011
with start-up of the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Plant.
- The Grand Concourse, Johnson Geo Centre and other major
heritage investments by Paul Johnson and the Johnson Family
Foundation have contributed significantly to the place.
- The City has lost many built heritage treasures but much has
been preserved due to the sustained efforts of a few champions such
as Shannie Duff and Shane O'Dea.
- Various public sculptures and other important heritage causes
have been realised or are in process, due to champions such as
Elinor Gill Ratcliffe.
- Quidi Vidi Village Plantation and Mallard Cottage are excellent
- St. John's Clean & Beautiful is a good initiative (but has
to keep repeating the same annual activities).
- St. John's is a creative place with a full spectrum of
business, worker and volunteer champions, fuelling a wide range of
creative production. This includes a high level of creative
output in the performing, literary, visual and material arts.
- Our stories are being preserved and shared, with credit due to
people like Dale Jarvis and Eleanor Dawson.
Caring for the Underprivileged
- Stella Burry Foundation and Choices for Youth are making major
contributions by offering affordable housing and meaningful
employment to young adults facing challenges.
What could we do better?
While we have done many things rather well (such as the above),
there are many other cases where things could be improved
considerably. This will be the subject of another post.
Until next time...
23 April, 2013
Dennis Knight is an Urban and Regional Planner who has
operated a consultancy in community planning and economic
development for 28 years. In 2011, he authored a book entitled 'The
Place'; a series of reflections about the founding and building of
his home community in Green Bay, and about place-making in