What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “creative placemaking?” Unless you are a part of an urban revitalization committee, hold a position in public office, or are very involved in the local arts scene, you probably are left with a feeling of confusion, indifference, or perhaps mild interest. That’s because most people don’t realize how important creative placemaking truly is to a community.

I wrote last month about imagining downtown Green Bay lit up in a magical display of light, creating an exciting ambiance throughout our community. That is creative placemaking. Well technically, it’s the art and science of developing public spaces that attract people, build community by bringing people together, and inspire a sense of local identity… but overall it’s creating places that people want to be.

Now when most people are asked what kinds of things they want to see in their community, their answers are typically monumental. They want bigger buildings to create the cityscape they picture in their mind, they want more parking complexes, more living options, bigger shopping centers… And while all of those things make people come downtown, they don’t make them stay downtown. The things that make people linger at any particular place and spend time aren’t dependent on how tall the buildings are; they are dependent on the environment around them. In order to transform spaces into places people want to be, we need to look around, not up.

Photo by Chris Rand.

Photo by Chris Rand.

In my opinion, our community is on the right track. The downtown districts of Green Bay are creating events that bring people together downtown almost every day. Think of Dine on the Deck, the Farmers’ Market on Broadway, Summer in the Park, Fridays on the Fox, Gallery Nite, the Saturday Farmers’ Market, Food Truck Friday, and so many more! Olde Main has brightened the atmosphere downtown by installing beautiful and colorful bike racks, encouraging people to spend time exploring the neighborhood on wheels and on foot. On Broadway has followed suit and debuted new artistic benches and garbage cans painted by local artists to inspire people to take a seat and enjoy the downtown atmosphere.

One of the new "Benches on Broadway" downtown Green Bay

One of the new “Benches on Broadway” downtown Green Bay.

But Green Bay isn’t the only place that’s inspiring their inhabitants to come downtown and stay there! De Pere is right there with them! With the downtown Art Walk series, Knights on the Fox, and the debut of the EastWest Music Fest, De Pere is giving patrons a reason to spend time downtown. Not to mention the new addition of colorful banners and planters along Main Avenue make it a beautiful place to be.

Downtown De Pere

Downtown De Pere planters and banners.

The greater Green Bay community is looking around and creating beautiful places that people can just be. But what else can we do in our community to turn overlooked spaces into places of interest?

What do YOU want to see in our community? Let us know your ideas!