Tactical placemaking builds sense of place and economic activity

Small scale changes can lead to large impacts in communities and improve community prosperity.

“Chair bombing attack seats 20, retail activity increases in downtown”

This headline could appear in your local paper if your community were to undertake placemaking activities that focus on low cost easy to implement options. Most communities are focusing on increasing livability and activity in its more urban areas. Unfortunately most communities do not have the resources to do larger scale projects to bring people into activity areas.

This gives rise to the opportunity for tactical placemaking, incremental small scale low risk placemaking efforts that can generate high reward without the large investment. These initiatives government led, sometimes not, are often referred to as lighter quicker cheaper, changescaping, guerilla urbanism or DIY placemaking. All focus on offering local solutions to local problems with short term commitment and a basic try it and see if it works philosophy. This action based process leads to experimentation focusing on a place by place strategy that can then lead to long term change on an incremental basis.

Back to our headline above, chair bombing addresses a local problem of comfortable seating in a retail environment. Chair bombing is the act of removing salvageable material from the local waste stream and using it to build public seating. Chairs are placed strategically in areas that are either void of social activity, or conversely, those that are rich with life, but lack comfortable places to sit. What this does is call attention to areas without adequate public seating. Because of the low cost nature of this placemaking effort it allows a community to experiment with different areas before making a larger investment in permanent infrastructure. One key issue to this type of activity is placing the chairs strategically to leverage existing place assets to jumpstart an area as a community gathering place. Public seating serves a vital placemaking function, whether to rest while shopping, socialize, people watch, and making a place more attractive and livable with an increased supply of places to sit.

Chair bombing is only one option available to communities trying to make better places. Park(ing) Days, Pop Up Markets such as farm markets or craft fairs, Pavement to Plaza are all tools to create incremental change in place and attract people to places. And where there are people there is spending. For more information on placemaking tools visit Project for Public Spaces.

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