Placemaking is the process of giving space a story that is shared by many.

Monday night Project for Public Spaces‘ Ethan Kent was invited to speak and introduce a language and strategy to help the city of Olympia find a vision for their downtown.

Earlier in the day several people in key positions participated in a workshop around the key areas for our community. Concerns were addressed, paradigms shifted and new ideas introduced.

Building communities, placemaking and story-telling has been at the core of what we’ve been doing at Einmaleins in downtown Olympia since the beginning, and so I was quite excited that, of all the consultants the City regularly spends money on, PPS seemed to bring some exciting tools and a perspective with it, that could have the chance to lift this city above itself. Lift their eyes beyond their own horizon and give them a taste of what this place could become.

At the evening presentation, several people approached my before and after telling me that many of the things that PPS is talking about for Olympia, I have been saying for years, and doing for years, and that they appreciated my efforts. I thank you all.

Here is my short summary of the presentation with my own thoughts around it:

What if we build Olympia around Places?

Building a great community through Placemaking.

• It’s about inclusion: What can the community do, not what can the City do.
Designing PUBLIC spaces can’t come from the PUBLIC alone, it needs individuals that step up and the PUBLIC needs to allow this individual vision. We need to create a culture that is allowed to try things. And establish a culture that doesn’t abuse that freedom, but pays it back by creating extraordinary stories, places and events.

• What can we do to get to know the culture of our city?
Tell it’s story. Not just it’s challenges. Don’t just point out it’s shortcomings. Allow yourself to dream. You will not always be able to plan the outcome.

• It’s a good thing to have lots of zealous nuts in our city.
Alright, I am one of those. I embrace this, am encouraged by this. But because I don’t just talk and demand, but do, create and share.

• Activate the public realm by reinventing the relationship with each other.
Building great public places relies on creating communities, which requires us to rekindle our relationships across the generations and classes.

• Tell the story of every city that we go to.
Einmaleins TV. Everyday Olympia is tasked with this every day. Other media outlets in town work under different premise.

• Building community through transportation
Transportation is not about mobility but about accessibility! Build for people, not cars.

• Great places make great cities.
That’s what we’re drawn to in our favorites cities all over the world.

• How do we design a campaign for Olympia?
Can we envision Olympia to become a GREAT city? Not just quaint, or good enough?

On parking:

• If parking is the main issue, it s a sign that communities doesn’t have a vision for itself.
Doh!

• A good place has at least 60% women in it.
Amazing!

• Layer the places and amenities. Encourage usage.
Don’t just create one usage, i.e. artesian well, combine and connect to encourage and increase reason to visit.

• Plazas and squares are better then just parks.
Hello isthmus park people!

• 80% or more of the success of a public space is management.
That’s what I realized last year, when I organized and ran more events in downtown then the ODA.

Lets create a culture where we can try things.

• No one person can do this alone.
We need new people to step up and try things.

But, although exhausted, I am not done here and I am ready to take the next step. I will continue to promote this community as THE great neighborhood in the South Sound that it is. There are more great stories to be told. Events to be organized and places to be made.

When can we close off the street next?