6 Cities to Split $1M for Placemaking Projects

Breathing new life into struggling public spaces.

Congress Square Plaza in Portland, Maine, is destined for a makeover. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

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Six U.S. cities will receive grants to redesign underloved or underutilized public spaces, thanks to funding from Southwest Airlines, which teamed up with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) on the placemaking initiative.

The six cities (and the spaces destined for an upgrade) are Albuquerque, New Mexico (Civic Plaza), Fort Myers, Florida (Cornog Plaza), Jacksonville, Florida (Hemming Park), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (4MKE), Portland, Maine (Congress Square Park), and St. Louis, Missouri (Strauss Park).

“4MKE” refers to a city-owned surface parking lot at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue that the city of Milwaukee wants to remake. Congress Square Park is in such desperate need that the city of Portland was considering selling the space to the Westin Hotel.

Baltimore won about $170,000 through the Southwest program last year, which set the city up for a transformation of an underused plaza alongside the Transamerica Tower. According to the Baltimore Business Journal plans for the space include “a small 300-square-foot deck area and a multipurpose kiosk made out of an upgraded cargo container …,” and the “set of stairs leading up to the Transamerica Tower … will also be decked out in seasonally changing art.”

According to a press release, applicants were “evaluated in terms of preliminary work and preparedness, capacity for local impact, potential for large-scale public-private partnerships, and strength of the commitment demonstrated by local partners.”

The money will help with everything from seating to kiosks, and the local partners will get planning help from PPS.

“Placemaking is more than how we design public spaces — it is a means by which people are collectively and intentionally shaping their environment and building deep and lasting community ties,” said Fred Kent, founder and president of PPS. “Placemaking turns our approaches to land use, transportation, governance and the environment upside-down by asking people what they fundamentally need in a public space and empowering them to be a part of the development process.”

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Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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Tags: public spaceplacemaking

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