Centering Community Culture: Small-Scale Placemaking for Big Impact

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Learning Outcomes

  • Discover a struggling community, similar to many around the country, and think critically about how to integrate a community’s identity into physical placemaking interventions.
  • Learn about innovative community engagement methods that proved successful during the COVID-19 pandemic and be able to replicate and design a similar mode elsewhere.
  • Advocate for small-scale placemaking interventions in public and quasi-public spaces. This course will show the impact of small-scale change and push attendees to advocate for similar changes.

More Course Details

In many communities, advocating for public transit is critical for giving residents better access to jobs, schools, health care, and other daily needs. The St. Louis region struggles with public transit investment in a system that often is viewed as dangerous and unreliable. Much of this perception can be addressed with better investment at transit stops.

Citizens for Modern Transit started a placemaking discussion in St. Louis by leading walk audits at local transit stations to assess existing challenges. To further this work, they worked with AARP to create a placemaking investment program to improve multiple stops in the region.

Speakers focus on the Emerson Park Transformation in East St. Louis. Through a unique mix of design workshops, surveys, art competitions, and local arts engagement, the project gained significant input from residents. Community feedback guided the design, and implementation has now transformed the previously underutilized space into a community asset reflective of the area’s character and culture. The project involved several agencies, was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was implemented in less than six months.

The Emerson Park project worked with a community that has experienced significant disinvestment to embrace positive aspects of the city’s rich cultural heritage while honoring and incorporating many diverse voices in planning and implementing physical enhancements.