3 Speakers That Will Be Placemaking Your Face Off Come September

1)  Jacqueline Edelberg and Susan Kurland


How do you take one of the worst schools in Chicago, turn it into one of the best, complete the task in nine months and do it all on a budget of zero dollars?  Enter concerned parent and community project leader Jacqueline Edelberg and Principal Susan Kurland.  What started with a wishlist of answers to the question “What do I have to do to get your kids to come to school here?” ended with these two trailblazers and parent-led teams focused on PR, enrichment, activities, marketing and curriculum.  Nine months later, 300 families arrived to an open house to sign up 78 kids for preschool.  Appearances on Oprah, PBS, CBS, and several NPR interviews later, we can safely say that movie Won’t Back Down ain’t got nothing on you, Jacqueline and Susan.

2)  Angela Mingo

Angela MingoIf ever there was a corporate entity supermodel that represented the epitome of community engagement, then Nationwide Children’s Hospital may be Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen wrapped in one.  Mingo just so happens to be Children’s Director of Community Relations, which basically makes her the Bill Belichick of community engagement in this analogy (read: Angela Mingo is a neighborhood building rockstar).  Mingo’s instrument of community impact is called Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Families, and since 2008 this initiative has used a five-pronged approach (affordable housing, health and wellness, education, safe and accessible neighborhoods, workforce development) to revitalize neighborhoods on the south side of Columbus.  What started as a Nationwide Children’s initiative has grown into a city-wide shared vision.  Here, have a look:

3)  Rachel Downey


DowneyTeamDowney is President and Resident Visionary for Studio Graphique which “looks through the lens of brand experience to offer placemaking, wayfinding and branding services that activate and invigorate public spaces.”  Their words, not ours, but we couldn’t describe it any better.  A great example of their work would be Shaker Square in Cleveland, Ohio.  As the nation’s second oldest planned shopping and neighborhood center, the area’s owner, The Coral Company, recognized the need to enhance the space.  Immersing themselves in the mindset of the visitor, Downey’s team discovered a modern solution to making Shaker Square a viable destination on a regional scale while still respecting the famed red brick and white framed Georgian-style architecture that has made Shaker Square pedestrian friendly.


Take It From Buckeye Kyle Ezell: Your Community Is Unique, Now Let’s Capture That!

Kyle, who are you?

I’m an Associate Professor of Practice and Distinguished Faculty at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, City and Regional Planning Program. I have nearly 20 years’ experience as a practicing city planner, I’m AICP since 1998, and I’ve been a professor at OSU since 2005 – but that’s the boring stuff. I’d rather you know that for as long as I can remember, I have studied how communities implement ideas that shape their physical identities. My goal for the next 20 years is to help as many places as possible extract their essences through original, local planning and design.  I’ll be speaking at the Great Placemakers Lab this September, and I would love for you to hear my ideas on breaking the habit of copying neighborhoods, and maximizing your community’s ideas.

1)  There’s a reason Athens, OH is so unique

Essence of Athens

This SoundCloud with Athens, OH City Planner Paul Logue discusses the core of Ezell’s philosophy: “authenticity is powerful”.  While Ezell and Logue may agree that this idea begins with a foundation of a locally engaged and civically committed community members, their logic begins to diverge when someone says, “there’s a great example in X community, let’s do what they did.”  Have a listen and learn how creative design concepts were captured from what already makes Athens unique.

2)  His message is simple: Don’t Copy.  He’s an educator, what did you expect?


So ignoring the fact that this blog does not adhere to Professor Ezell’s advice for communities (yes, many of our posts look similar, thanks for noticing), the core competency of his business Designing Local oozes originality.  “We’re passionate about helping our clients extract locally-unique design attributes that can be translated into locally-inspired projects of every kind. The result: better community relations, increased pride and ownership by stakeholders, and extraordinary, revered places that people and businesses naturally choose to be a part of.”

3)  He doesn’t need words (spoken ones anyway) to describe what he does best

You heard us.  If he doesn’t need words, then why should we.  See you at Great Placemakers Lab in September!


Why Community Superhero Jim Diers Is Must See At Great Placemakers

1)  He literally has a super power: “Neighbor Power”


Diers Book Neighbor Power



Okay, it’s also a shameless book plug.  BUT Neighbor Power highlights Diers’ innate passion for community engagement, giving great examples of how community building actually works through empowering its people.  Our favorite could be The Neighborhood Matching Fund which doubled the City of Seattle’s investment of $45 million which the community equally matched through volunteer labor.  Who else do you know that can enable neighborhoods to involve 30,000 people in developing 37 neighborhood plans over a 3-year span?  That has to be a short list, but Jim’s probably at the top.
2)  He has been resurrected to save communities…Seriously, Seattle’s Mayor pronounced him dead once

Diers Ressurection

It’s sounds like bar-joke fodder, right?  “Hey, did you hear about the one where the mayor publicly announces the false death of the popular community leader?”  Embarrassing for a mayor, but this quite humorous AND it actually happened.  Naturally, the only way to address the situation from Diers perspective was to have a little fun with it.  He conducted a six-stop international tour to apply his community building principles.  He called it the “Jim Diers Resurrection Tour“.  You’re a funny guy, Jim.

3)  He knows how to utilize any community’s best resource: it’s people!

Diers calls it Asset-Based Community Development.  It’s actually a pretty simple idea:  rather than a community tying its welfare to outside sources, it’s better to refocus a community on its strengths.  According to Diers, this is also the basis for empowering communities, “they don’t have to wait on grants or a sympathetic elected official, they can just act.”  Jim, can’t wait for you to tell us more at Great Placemakers!


3 Reasons You Can’t Miss Great Placemakers Speaker Jeff Speck

Who is Jeff Speck? And why should I care what he has to say?

Jeff Speck is a city planner and architectural designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps state governors fight suburban sprawl. Prior to joining the Endowment, Mr. Speck spent ten years as Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., a leading practitioner of the New Urbanism, where he led or managed more than forty of the firm’s projects. He is the co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream as well as The Smart Growth Manual. He serves as a Contributing Editor to Metropolis Magazine, and on the Sustainability Task Force of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, is now available in print, digital, and audio format.

1)  He was featured in a TED Talk

For those of you not in the know, TED “is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks”.  In fact, there mission is “the spread of ideas”.  In September 2013, Speck was invited to discuss how we can make our cities more walkable and enjoyable for more people.  While the video may exceed your desired time investment (18 minutes in length), we think you may enjoy the first 5 minutes.

2)  His best-selling book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step as a Time

Walkable City by Speck

This Project for Public Spaces review accurately depicts Walkable City as the premier read among planning circles, including a 10-step guide to creating and sustaining a walkable city.  According to other reviews, “this book should be required reading for every architecture and urban planning student — and most importantly professional city planners.”

3)  He has the secret to saving cities

In November 2013 MSNBC’s The Cycle invited Speck to share his thoughts on the secrets to a community’s future success.  He gives great insight to the advocacy of smart and sustainable growth that will fuel a city’s competitiveness and make them more desirable for decades to come.


Spotlight on one of our guest speakers, Michael Wilkos:

Michael Wilkos of the Columbus Foundation is responsible for research, development, and implementation of effective social investments that strengthen and improve the community. He provides leadership to advance the Foundation’s efforts currently focused on the Weinland Park neighborhood. Michael’s depth of knowledge and experience in urban planning and community development helps position the Foundation to be one Columbus’ leaders in this area of community need.

In addition, he works with the Ingram-White Castle Foundation and Columbus Youth Foundation..Prior to joining The Columbus Foundation, Michael served as senior impact director for United Way of Central Ohio and also held positions with The Danter Company, Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, and the City of Columbus. Active throughout the community, Michael currently serves on the Council of Historic Neighborhoods, as well as the Franklin County Community Development Advisory Board. He is also an active volunteer with the Circles Guiding Coalition, an anti-poverty solutions group, The Salvation Army, and New Life Methodist Church youth tutoring program.Michael previously served on the board of the Neighborhood Design Center, Columbus Landmarks Foundation, United Neighborhood Centers of America, and the City of Columbus Transportation and Pedestrian Commission. He holds a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree in City & Regional Planning, both from The Ohio State University. He is a frequent guest lecturer in the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State.Michael currently resides in Weinland Park, where he takes an active role as a volunteer.

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Tue – Sept.16, 2014
Welcome Reception & Keynote Speaker

Wed – Sept. 17, 2014
Track-based, conference workshops and seminars

Thu – Sept. 18, 2014
Experiential tours of Columbus neighborhoods

Fri – Sept. 19, 2014
Walkability Summit

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