Implementing your place plan (steps 9-11)

Step 9: Implement short-term actions

The most important step in the placemaking process is implementation—putting the vision into action. It is best to begin implementation as soon as possible to keep the group motivated and create some quick results. Some ideas can be implemented without design concepts, while others cannot. Seeing ideas become reality will fuel the interest and enthusiasm of your placemakers!

Adding new activities to a space are among the best short-term improvements to a public space. It is easy to energize the community with some basic activities such as clean-ups and painting/decorating. Groups also can organize some simple, temporary events to get people used to the idea of using the place—fairs, farmer's markets, sidewalk sales, mural competitions, bicycle rides, etc. Activities of this kind are fairly easy to organize, don't require much funding, and can get people together.

The working group should meet regularly to give progress updates on their assigned actions; identify problems or challenges to this progress; discuss new approaches or developments that may help speed implementation, and so on. The working group also should review programming proposals, management-related issues, and prepare for the purchase and layout of amenities. Members also might decide how and when to involve more partners and draw positive attention to the new public-space improvements. For example, if moveable seats and café tables are placed in the space, you could do an informal survey to find out how people like them and how they might be improved.

Step 10: Develop long-term design and management plans

Short-term events need to be followed by longer-term and more complex improvements.

Design plan

As you implement short-term improvements to a place, it also may be necessary to develop a design for the long-term improvement of the space. At this stage, it becomes critical to have the local government on board, if not already, especially if your community has experts from the departments of urban planning, community services, transportation, park district (depending on the nature of the place), and other technical expertise—architects, engineers, landscape architects, etc.—who can help transform the community vision into reality. PPS calls this group the design team.

You and your working group should assess the results of the agreed-upon short-term improvements. As part of the assessment process, you also might consider holding a follow-up workshop to identify next steps, new partners, new funding sources, and, if needed, to modify or update the long-term plan for your site. Most important, remember to document, celebrate and share your successes! Regular communication with stakeholders, including news and photos, will generate enthusiasm and a sense of pride.

Because you have implemented short-term improvements, you will have some time to develop the next phase of improvements, as well as the longer-term design plan.

To manage the longer-term design work, PPS suggests the following tips:

  • Always refer back to your summary report (Step 8) and use it to guide all new partners you bring into the process.
  • Make the working group the "client" for the project, so the design team reports to the working group for its approval. This may mean inviting others who should share in decision making to join the working group.
  • Have regular progress meetings with the working group and design team, with specific timelines and products to be reviewed.
  • Use these meetings to conduct additional brainstorming with the working group to address new issues as they are identified.
  • Continue to use examples of spaces or ideas that reflect what people would like to see.
  • Don't be afraid to say ‘no' or ‘we don't like that' to the architect or designers, but do suggest alternatives.
  • Hold public meetings to present the work of the design team before everything is "final" to collect new ideas and gauge public reaction.
  • Build excitement about the proposed plan, using local media, public pictures, plans and marketing.

Management plan

While local government focuses on basic services such as waste collection, maintenance, and lighting, local community or business organizations can manage space on a deeper level, making people feel welcome and making the place seem more inviting through constant refinements to make the space work better.

This deeper level can be compared to the management of a good hotel that does everything it can to make its guests and potential guests so comfortable they will come back again and again. A good hotel not only cleans and maintains, but makes a concerted effort to draw in the public, such as: putting out flower boxes and flags and other colorful details; offering food and drink, perhaps with a sidewalk café; arranging and re-arranging furniture in the public areas so it is as user friendly and attractive as possible; answering questions and responding to complaints; hosting events; and addressing a range of other customer-responsive details. Other spaces, especially markets, need a different type of management particularly suited to their special functions.

Many times, the management tasks the city is not able to meet are taken over by neighborhood groups, adjacent institutions, volunteers, or a local business group; in some cases, a new organization might be created to manage the space (a continuation of the working group), complementing the services the city is already providing. To better understand the management that a space really needs compared to what it is getting, it is helpful to conduct interviews with the people managing the space now, chart what they do, and compare that with the new demands that will be placed on the space if you implement the long-term vision you have developed.

Step 11: Assess results and replicate

At this point (or even before you implement a longer term plan), you also can think about expanding your efforts to other sites or neighboring areas and communities. In fact, if your placemaking efforts are a success, stakeholders and community members from other places will seek to initiate their own placemaking projects.

Some of the questions you should consider as you expand your efforts are:

  • What other places in the community need to be improved?
  • Who will fund the implementation of short-term improvements?
  • What role will the working group play? Should it be the working group for a new project or should a new one be created?
  • Is there a need for a broader "placemaking" organization in the community to oversee all of the projects?
  • If so, how would that organization be funded and supported?
  • How can you work with other similar projects in the region or state?