The power of place(making)

Posted: October 6th, 2017 | Columnists, Downtown Partnership News, Featured | No Comments

By Kris Michell | Downtown Partnership News

As a native San Diegan, I am certainly partial to our city. How could I possibly be unbiased? With miles and miles of beaches and bays, nearly 300 days of sunshine each year and an unparalleled quality of life, San Diego is objectively amazing.

So, when world-renowned placemaking expert Fred Kent came to visit, I couldn’t wait to show him around the place I am proud to call home. Within an hour of meeting with Fred and his team from NYC-based Project for Public Spaces, I swallowed a dose of reality: San Diego needs work.

Fred Kent (foreground) leads a group of stakeholders in a discussion on placemaking along the Embarcadero. (Courtesy DSDP)

All hope is not lost, though. Fred and his colleagues agree that San Diego has the potential to be one of the best waterfront cities in the world … and they know what they’re talking about. The Project for Public Spaces team has worked in more than 3,500 communities across the globe to create vibrant, successful and authentic public spaces through the power of placemaking.

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. It creates social and place capital. It drives economic development. It is an organic local process, but requires thoughtfulness, effort and input by community members.

Last month, the Project for Public Spaces, the Downtown Partnership, and more than 200 San Diegans joined forces during a community workshop, Downtown site tour and breakfast lecture. During these events, a dialogue was opened, ideas were shared, and a plan of action was initiated.

Downtown San Diego’s public spaces offer opportunities for residents and visitors alike, but it is up to us — the people who work, live and spend time here — to activate spaces and places across our urban core. Fred suggests the lighter, quicker, and cheaper approach to placemaking; an approach that is place-driven, community-led, and will be a game-changer for San Diego.

The partnership is launching a call to action to each and every member of our community to become involved in these placemaking efforts. In the coming months, we will host a follow-up workshop to gather input, promote conversation on next steps and develop a shared vision for public spaces in our neighborhoods.

Kris Michell, President and CEO of SDDP

Please reach out to the Downtown Partnership to become involved in this community meeting. Together, we can realize the power of placemaking.

The Downtown San Diego Partnership is a member-based, nonprofit organization representing more than 11,000 property owners and 400 businesses. For more information, visit

 —Kris Michell is the president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit, member-based organization that oversees the Clean & Safe program and serves as the leading advocate for the revitalization and economic health of Downtown. For questions or comments, email

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