by Tarah Hodgkinson
“The town is called Penguin?", my friend said to me as we drove along the highway in Northern Tasmania. "We have to check that out!” And so, I took the exit.
We came upon the town centre of this coastal community to find a large penguin statue. But not only the statue, everything was penguin-themed. Penguin play areas, penguin posts, even penguin trashcans. All of the stores along the main street were littered with penguin artwork. We had to know more.
It turns out that Penguin, Tasmania is aptly named. Penguins gather in the rookeries along their beachfront. While penguins are pretty interesting creatures, especially to those of us from the Northern Hemisphere, it wasn’t the local wildlife that caught my attention.
What was interesting was the way in which penguins had become a part of their community’s culture. So much so that every placemaking attempt featured the cute little southern birds. There are several areas across the state where Penguins can be found, but this town had dedicated their entire community’s identity to these birds.
I worried that the focus on penguins might solely be an attempt to attract tourists. However, it was clear that the penguin theme was fairly organic and community-based. Each of the small seaside stores had committed to the theme in their own way. Some stores had fun penguin-themed names, others had large stuffed penguins in their windows and still, others had painted penguins on their walls. Even more exciting, the town holds a penguin-themed community market that has been running for twenty years.
COHESION AND CULTURE
If there was any doubt that the town was committed to their shared culture, their reaction to developers trying to capitalize on the town’s proximity to penguin rookeries proves otherwise. When I did some digging about the town’s history, I found that they had prevented some major development plans that would have dramatically changed the landscape of the downtown area and potentially affected their community’s cohesion and culture.
Not only had local residents fought hard against the development, but they also started heritage listing their storefronts. By the end, they had heritage listed 26 sites and prevented the development plans.
Tourism can dramatically impact neighbourhoods in desirable places (see the backlash in Barcelona to increasing tourism). Further, while developers often try to capitalize on these opportunities, it is clear that residents who work together to maintain control over their local history not only can protect their local culture but continue to grow and expand that culture for their entire community. In this way, community-based tourism is often an exercise in building local culture and cohesion.
GUEST BLOG: Brad Vassallo is a SafeGrowth Advocate having taught POP-up placemaking and community development as part of a SafeGrowth team. He has worked in community development in Philadelphia for the past few years and offers here a case study from that city.
Philadelphia is a city of 40,000 vacant lots. Like many post-industrial cities, it fell victim to a mass exodus of middle-class residents in the mid-20th century. Unfortunately, the 40-plus-year drought in tax revenues has taken its toll, with neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia ailing from high crime rates and rampant vacancy. These conditions have had a torturous effect on neighborhood quality of life.
As a former student at Temple University in community development, I witnessed first-hand the effects of this multi-generational disinvestment. Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM) is a neighborhood nonprofit serving residents of all color and creed, with a mission of helping families. This is no easy task in a neighborhood commonly referred to as "the Badlands" due to its high frequency of violent crime.
TACKLING THE BADLANDS
As part of my degree, I found myself working with APM during the beginning of a new creative placemaking grant. The goal of the Pop Up Market Place (PUMP), was to reactivate a vacant lot at the corner of 6th Street and Susquehanna Avenue. The 11,000-square-foot lot was slated to become a youth housing facility with ground-floor retail, but the development cycle often takes five or more years. Our task was to reimagine the space as a gateway for a downtrodden stretch of Germantown Avenue. The project involved several layers:
Despite problems moving this version of the project forward, we learned how to revive vacant land and encourage business activities. We also learned that this unique design style was easy to mobilize, it could move from parcel to parcel, and it provided a beta-test for local businesses as an alternative form of entrepreneurialism.
by Greg Saville
We are frequently asked in our seminars how to activate unsafe places with fun, lively and safe activities. In CPTED the generic term used for this is called ‘activity generation’, but that term hardly describes it nor what works in one place over another. For years our SafeGrowth programs have turned to urban placemaking for answers.
Placemaking began, some claim, with the 1970s research of William H. Whyte, especially his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
It was Whyte who inspired the development of New York’s PPS - the Project for Public Spaces - still an active placemaking group today. A few years ago we worked alongside PPS in New Jersey and found placemaking directly relevant to CPTED, particularly 2nd Generation CPTED.
More recently our friends at Portland’s City Repair movement have been an inspiration. Members of City Repair attended our first SafeGrowth Summit two years ago and we often feature their guerrilla architecture on this blog.
NEW YORK POP-UP
This week we conducted training for community leaders in New York. SafeGrowth Advocate Brad Vassallo joined our training team and ran a terrific session during our training called POP-up placemaking, which is the process of directly engaging local residents and passers-by at a public spot where place activation may help.
POP-up placemaking has the advantage of requiring few funds and simple planning. Because it will not last long, it may have only short-term impact. However, a regular program of POP-ups may well provide a planner or community practitioner a great tactic to engage locals in a fun and easy way to start the long process of building relationships and reducing fear.
On the streets outside Penn Station in New York, our 4 teams spoke to dozens of New Yorkers, enticed them to use simple materials (blue interlocking rubber tiles, tape, chalk, colored string), and construct some simple and fun placemaking activities. Within minutes people stopped to participate, write, dance, talk, laugh, and co-create spaces around a bus stop, a subway stairway entrance, and along a public wall.
It took less than 30 minutes to complete the entire activity using about $100 of material. Obviously, space activation need not be complicated, expensive, or permanent. In a class exercise, this was simple enough. In a real-life community project, this can launch a transformation.
by Greg Saville
In the early years of CPTED, the skateboarder was the defiler of the public order and vandal of the public realm. Still today uncontrolled skateboarding causes damage to places. CPTED training taught how to target harden benches and use sand to disrupt wheel bearings. New anti-skateboarding laws and enforcement emerged.
Today the skateboard movement has gone legit. It's worth 4 billion dollars and has over 11 million participants. In 2020 it will be an Olympic sport. Skateboard parks populate every major city.
Skateboarding has come of age.
The same evolution is underway with graffiti and street art, the former defined as illegal, the latter not (both distinctions now fading into the Realpolitik).
We have written about murals and graffiti for years. SafeGrowth Advocate Anna Brassard wrote a few years ago about the graffiti/street artist world in her blog The Writing on the Wall. I wrote about a Graff War in Melbourne.
Today, as with skateboarding, change is underway. There are lists of World's Top Cities for murals. Penang in Malaysia is the leader. No surprise Berlin, Germany and Sydney, Australia are also leaders. Philadelphia and Melbourne aren’t (but should be). Krakow, Poland, Reykjavik, Iceland and Quebec City, Canada make the top ten.
I captured some street art and mural images in Toronto and Denver the past few weeks. I’m told by graff artists that the illegal practicing they do helps them refine their skills and produce these amazing legal works.
Perhaps if we can find a public practice place for street artists and legitimate display walls for their better work, we could minimize the illegal graffiti vandalism. Working with street artists, as these images show, can produce remarkable results.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Towards the end of the past Century, a gruesome downtown rape shocked Brisbane, Australia. The incident occurred at 9 am in a laneway surrounded by the pedestrian corridor of the busiest spot in Brisbane, the outdoor Queen Street Mall.
This horrific incident went unnoticed by the city workers rushing to their offices. The victim, a young woman, remained helpless in the shadows of the bland gray facades of the surrounding buildings.
FAST FORWARD 20 YEARS
Today numerous Brisbane laneways have undergone a remarkable visual transformation aiming to imitate similar successes in Melbourne and Sydney.
Burnett Lane is Brisbane’s oldest laneway with a dark history of a prison exercise yard during the early penal colony days.
It was the first to undergo rejuvenation. The 600-foot laneway now boasts creative lighting and artwork that characterize its cultural and historical identity. It has a few small restaurants, cafes and bars, the largest vinyl record store in the Southern Hemisphere and a wine bar with late evening hours.
Winn Lane and Baker Lane, situated in the middle of the night entertainment district, also offer a mix of diverse opportunities in one place. They host day and night cafes, eateries, service shops and small retail shops that attract Brisbane’s artisan community.
Once a forgotten place surrounded by tall buildings, Eagle Lane now offers a bar and a café, street parties, artistic installations and live music with pop-up gigs in the evening hours. It has become a popular post-work venue for city workers in the financial district.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WON’T COME?
More than a dozen other laneways across Brisbane’s CBD have sprouted since the City’s Vibrant Laneways program was introduced in 2006, and more are pending. However, according to critics the program leaves much to be desired since laneway culture in the city has yet to truly flourish.
They suggest that the City’s domination of the Vibrant Laneways program resulted in mechanically built laneways that failed to evolve over time. Instead, as predicted by SafeGrowth theory, they recommend the laneways should grow organically as a product of the creative and entrepreneurial activities of locals whereby the city assumes a cooperative rather than the leading role.
Confirming this idea is that fact the laneways attracting most people in Brisbane are those able to capitalize on their creative and economic potential to develop imaginative places. Elements that promote their vitality include permeability, accessibility, the absence of vehicular traffic and a positive image.
Truly vibrant laneways convince people to stop and linger, which in turn activates the area and reduces the potential for undesirable activities like serious crime.
For laneways to be safe, they need to move away from what Woodhouse describes as “forgotten space within cities, trapped in the dark and quiet spaces” offering nothing more than pedestrian thoroughfare and service delivery access.
Instead, as Carmichael claims, with collaboration between business planners, interest groups, and local governments, these precious micro-spaces can facilitate social interaction, promote safety and evolve into assets and anchors for community life in the 21st Century.
A recent walk in some urban laneways brought to mind mystery stories of Sherlock Holmes’ chasing murderers lurking in dark, foggy alleys.
In real life, laneways are a hidden and complex urban landscape we seldom consider in our formulations for safer cites. We write about them in our stories, but not until the New Urbanists reintroduced them as a modern feature of their residential street design did we refocus on them as a crime location.
Most experienced beat cops walk downtown laneways, especially at night, because that is where things happen. Burglars frequent them because they offer easy access to the rears of homes. And kids vandalize and steal from cars in them because laneways are traditionally hidden from view.
As I compared some lively laneway designs with others that were not (the top photo), it was obvious poor laneway design is not inevitable. Laneway research is emerging revealing other options. I have posted blogs on laneway life, laneway chic, and permeable fine grain design.
One Australian study on laneway crime suggests designers pay more attention to width/length, visibility from the ends, and the number of residences.
But our work in SafeGrowth, and my recent walks, suggests something different: laneway activation is much more than physical size and shape. It is also about creatively figuring how to retain car parking and trash disposal uses, while at the same time creating interesting places for socializing.
That might sound unappealing at first. Yet the cool laneway in these photos features streetscaping, decorative lighting, a community garden at the end, and rear door porches to encourage laneway socializing. If designers provide an interesting option that residents need, they will use it and also keep it safe.
Today is America's Independence Day - the time for celebrating a government by and for the people. Local governance seems a long way off this election season. So for solace, I turn to local governance on the street in the form of placemaking.
There are plenty of amazing street designs, laneway experiments, and examples of tactical urbanism that enliven and activate the street. The more people who walk and enjoy what Jane Jacobs called the street ballet the easier it is to humanize our neighborhoods and reduce fear and crime. This is the magic that is placemaking.
But did you ever notice how some versions of placemaking seem too expensive for the average person? Who has the time or money to redesign a laneway or install fancy lights, landscaping and pavement treatments?
LOOK TO THE LOCALS
An answer surfaced on recent trips to Toronto and Colorado Springs. The former took form in a small corner convenience store in a Toronto residential neighborhood.
After suffering a burglary last fall and installing window bars, the owner decided to explore some inventive placemaking of her own. She transformed the front and side of her shop into a mini-market and outdoor gathering place.
Inside the store she brings in local artists and artisans with samples of their work. With a vested interest in seeing their own work, and the chance to visit with others, locals and families frequent the corner store and create their own neighborhood nexus with very little cost to the storeowner.
Another answer appeared along a downtown laneway in Colorado Springs. In this case locals used color and paint to enliven an otherwise dead space.
Rather than an alley with dead spaces, poor lighting and droll walls, these shopowners painted walls, installed local art, and used overhead colored LED lights to bring some energy to the space. When a few people located their shops along the alley, the space turned into a social gathering place.
It really is not difficult to trust locals and work with them in coming up with ways to turn spaces into places. Jacobs said it 50 years ago: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and when, they are created by everybody.”
Just as I was writing about homelessness and walkable public spaces I received a Vimeo from SafeGrowth friend Sue Ramsay in New Zealand. It is a 4 minute video uncovering simple urban design and social programming features that make a public space fantastic.
It is all based on William H. Whyte’s 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, and to a lesser extent his follow-up book, City: Rediscovering The Center.
Whyte was born 100 years ago and he became mentor to Jane Jacobs and inspiration for the New York place-making group Project for Public Spaces.
For CPTED practitioners, William H. Whyte is among the bright lights in the history of urban design. He invented the idea of urban carrying capacity - later called tipping points - used throughout 2nd Generation CPTED. Like any student of urban affairs and planning he loved cities. He envisioned the return of the Agora to the modern city and, best of all, showed us how to get there.
His ideas for reclaiming civilized, walkable, and fun urban places are simple, obvious and oddly ignored in too many cities. Here are a few that show up in the video:
Thanks to Sue for reminding us about one of our pioneers.
The placemaking tactic called Intersection Repair made a recent appearance in the southern hemisphere.
A few years ago SafeGrowth Advocate Sue Ramsay ran some SafeGrowth training in her New Zealand city of Christchurch in two different neighborhoods. Thanks to the Riccarton West neighborhood SafeGrowth team, they have created a first for New Zealand.
Christchurch is the city rebuilding itself after suffering such a devastating earthquake a few years ago. Sue and other former leaders in that city saw neighborhood revitalization as a great way to move forward as the bulldozers and builders reconstructed.
The West Riccarton team has been working on activating their neighborhood and they recently completed their first intersection repair project. The time lapse video tells the story.
Congratulations to all involved! Another step forward.
GUEST BLOG - Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia currently completing doctoral research into the implementation of CPTED. She has co-taught SafeGrowth in Australia and New Zealand. Mateja worked in the Constitutional Court in Slovenia and is an active member of the International CPTED Association.
Food is a great conversation starter and starting place for building community. At least a portion of everyone’s daily life revolves around food. The community of Todmorden, West Yorkshire in England took this a step further and created a vision of community building around the local food production cycle.
The Incredible Edible project’s modest beginnings reach back to 2008 when the volunteers of Todmorden first started planting fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, and activating unused land by planting communal gardens all over the town. The project has since become an all-community, sustainable local initiative, explained in this TED talk by Pam Warhurst.
Edible reflects many of the same principles in successful SafeGrowth projects:
The Incredible Edible project skilfully employs placemaking through the language of food. This revolution, as the residents of Todmorden like to call it, has now spurred worldwide attention with the Incredible Edible initiatives emerging on all continents. Edible shows the power of small actions when it comes to building communities.
GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her doctoral research on CPTED implementation. She is a member of the International CPTED Association. She recently attended the Asia-Pacific ICA CPTED Forum and kindly submitted this blog.
In mid-October, the ICA hosted a 2014 regional Asia-Pacific CPTED forum themed Better CPTED - Multidisciplinary Design for Safer Places.
The participants came from many different backgrounds thus bringing to the table a rainbow of strategies. Despite the differences we all agreed better and safer places emerge from the special features that make places more attractive and the people who use those places. I found great examples on the streets of Adelaide.
The nicely maintained Victoria Square offers numerous opportunities for social activities, meeting spots and sheltered seating areas. Walking down the pedestrian Rundle Mall I found The Mall’s Balls - a common meeting point for people in the mall.
Looking for examples of people being users and co-creators of such special places I discovered some yarn bombing - dressed-up Rundle Mall Pigs and a statue of Dame Roma Mitchell on the North Terrace. They instantly attracted my attention and reminded me of the yarn bombed road barrier from Melbourne in a blog from a few months ago.
Turns out that the pigs and the statue were not isolated cases and that yarn bombing is popular throughout Adelaide, especially since 2012 when even the statue of Queen Victoria received a makeover. Yarn bombing is now part of Adelaide’s community events and it all started from local people aiming to create better places for and by themselves.
Yarn bombing and its “softer” version known as yarn storming (in the UK) manifests community pride and provides a personal touch in public places. It is widely considered a feminine form of graffiti or artistic vandalism.
Creative approaches such as knitting are one channel for the public to express and partake in public life. What I find neat about this approach is that it empowers those who traditionally wouldn’t participate in public activism and allows them to have a say in their own communities.
Placemaking surely comes in many forms.
SafeGrowth teams in Philadelphia and Newark this week produced some remarkable gems for transforming troubled areas. They tackled neglected parks, drug infested commercial corridors, and blighted playgrounds.
One of my favorites was a team from the Belmont community in Philadelphia who zeroed on an abandoned lot. Abandoned lots are not just an eyesore. This one triggered disorder, health and squatting problems for the entire for the neighborhood.
The Belmont team came up with some fascinating ideas for rehabilitation and in a tabletop exercise solicited us for some new ideas.
It was a bright side to this creeping plague. One estimate puts the number of abandoned lots at astronomical levels. It says in 2010 there were 12,000 in Detroit, 40,000 in Philadelphia and 90,000 in Baltimore alone...that's not a typo - 90,000!
The POP Center Guidebook on the topic lists solutions but few actually deal with the root of the problem. Most are superficial situational prevention tactics - changing the environment, installing CCTV, enforcing building codes, and cleanup campaigns. A few are a bit more substantive such as financing to rehabilitate or reuse the property.
More specific help appears in horticulture magazines, especially one interesting decade-long study comparing blighted lots with greened vacant lots. Greening was linked to significant reductions in gun assaults across most of Philadelphia and significant reductions in vandalism in one section of the city.
Another interesting approach appears in an architectural article about a Philadelphia program turning blighted lots into produce generating mini-farms.
Still another idea is a Rhode Island program turning abandoned lots into community gardens. The Philadelphia SafeGrowth presentation on abandoned lots, like all the SafeGrowth presentations this week, was inspiring. It showed how we can turn these places around.
Five years ago an abandoned, elevated rail line in Manhattan morphed into the future. Once a gritty freight line that died with the economy in 1980, demolition was the extent of government creativity.
Then two locals came along, started a grass-roots, non-profit Friends of the High Line campaign and started working with city hall on a new kind of elevated walking greenspace. Thus was born New York's High Line Park.
Yesterday a few of us from the recent SafeGrowth class walked a mile of this park alongside hundreds of strolling families and couples relaxing on lounge chairs. It's a unique oasis where locals and tourists retreat from the noisy cars and paved sidewalks below. By some counts over a million walk it yearly.
People will comfortably walk 20 blocks up here versus fighting the mayhem that passes for New York traffic. The park meanders past vistas of the river on one side and through newly constructed glass office buildings on the other. At night, when we visited, it was creatively lighted and felt like a sidewalk of the future.
Park police patrol it and I saw a few CCTV, but mostly the large number of people using it made the remarkable landscaping their own space. As for crime the New York Times said it best: "The park might be elevated, but the crime rate is not."
I hate those strips of grass near sidewalks when they are festooned with the foul fecal offering of a wandering canine (I blame mindless dog owners). Too often those strips are neglected, littered and ignored. They detract from neighborhood aesthetics and make it look like no one cares.
This blog has talked about parking lot design, bike trail safety, and redesigned alleys. Yet somehow those odd strips of grass escape our notice.
Technically we're talking about sidewalk buffers called planting strips but they have many names; tree lawns, rights-of-way, boulevards (in Canada), and verges (in the UK). Street ecologists call them planting strip gardens or just sidewalk gardens.
Think about it. If residents can take them over and use them for flowers and food, planting strips become one of the simplest fixes to create local pride.
It's the perfect opportunity to activate a boring or dying street. In CPTED terminology planting strips can extend territorial control by residents into the public domain of their street.
I found some interesting samples in Portland, Oregon recently. Check them out.
I get great ideas from friends. Here are two.
Walking around Winnipeg Manitoba this past weekend a friend pointed out the irony of this building mural. The beauty of the former building front on the mural; the sad reality of failed expectations on the actual building front.
The idea of placemaking has made regular appearances on this blog. Placemaking is about creating positive social life in public places. How does one do that?
The fellow who pointed out the irony of the Winnipeg mural was Gerry Cleveland, my colleague and co-creator of 2nd Generation CPTED. Second Generation CPTED promotes placemaking by activating residents, getting them involved, helping them learn how to take action and teaching basic organizing skills. That's the future.
Steven Woolrich is an Alberta CPTED consultant and board member of the International CPTED Association. He is a frequent contributor to SafeGrowth. He currently authors the Target Crime blog linked on LIKEMINDED. This is an excerpt from his upcoming 2012 article for the ICA newsletter CPTED Perspective.
Activity support helps generate more buzz on our streets and can create more interaction between all types of people. Music is certainly a way of generating interest on the street and for me the piano is the ultimate instrument for delivering a great melody. After hearing about street pianos being placed around New York City, I figured why not Red Deer, Alberta.
After speaking with serveral business owners in the area it was decided. The piano would rest in a small alcove outside a local restaurant on Ross Street, the main drag through downtown Red Deer. It was named the Ross Street piano.
Interest in the project grew quickly with several carpenters offering to build a new deck for the piano with building materials being provided by the local Co-op at no cost. The piano was installed on July 28th, 2010 and remained in place until the first part of October. Several City officials played a tune or two, including the Mayor.
In the weeks that followed many local people dropped by to tickle the ivory keys and sing along with others. The piano was there for anyone to use, day or night. Business owners and those playing the instrument would cover it up at night before going home.
The Ross Street Piano will be available again this summer from June through August and will now highlight some local artwork as well. The piano will allow artists to showcase their talents with a new theme each year.
Sharing street lighting ideas on Facebook recently it occurred to me how often we forget that to be truly safe a place must not be lightened. It must be enlightened.
Example: the work sent to me recently by my friend Lorraine Gamman from London's St. Martin's College of Art and Design. Lorraine sent links to alleyway projects done by Doug Tomkin and Mark Titmarsh at the Design Out Crime centre at Sydney's University of Technology.
Apparently they are hanging out on street corners. They call it Living Laneways. I call it Laneway Chic.
Their rationale? (Graffiti and lighting people, Listen Up): "Too often measures against crime…can have almost as unpleasant an effect as the things they prevent. The Living Laneways project set out to deter graffiti without alienating those who were responsible for creating it (through) the involvement of respected artists in the street-art community…"
Clearly, simple and chic laneway painting can enlighten a space. Elaborate murals are not always needed.
Mark Titmarsh has a web document called Living Laneways - City Life.It explains some DOC work in Sydney.
Check out his tagline - "respect, express, enlighten!"
If street beautification and prevention means anything, it means that.
The urban fabric of a place is what we see in our daily lives. The details of the physical environment matter. Details make the difference.
I recently visited Tucson, a city in the desert of Arizona with a half million residents. It was a place of residential fences. I've never seen so many. Everyone, it seems, gates their property.
The old pithy saying proclaims; Good fences make good neighbors. I've always thought good neighbors make good neighbors. Too many fences actually make streets ugly. Here, too many streets were corridors of fences.
Yet even in this fence infested city there are ways to beautify. Tucson has some great examples of community branding and neighborhood art, what SafeGrowth calls community culture. Planners know this as placemaking.
One lower income neighborhood marked their entranceway with a decorative entranceway, lined nearby freeway walls with murals, and organized to get funding to build a beautiful park.
In the university area a lively bohemian street was branded with signs and street art. Even at night-time the eye was treated to a warm orange pallate on parking lot walls with what would normally be insufficient low pressure sodium lighting.
The devil is clearly in the details of our urban fabric. Now if only we could get placemaking details into commercial suburban strips.
Imagine: When the fog of traffic congestion clogs our streets (and our minds), imagine a safe place near your home with quiet beauty and solace. Imagine neighbors putting out daily coffee and tea for passers-by in mini-street cafes. Imagine bulletin-boards, cobblestones and artistic murals, flowers and gardens on your street. Imagine it can all start with a potluck.
I recently spent time exploring Portland, Oregon. Some equate Portland with rain and overcast winters. But other records matter more - Portland's outdoor street life for example. Portland is one of the world's greenest cities, the fittest and most eco-friendly city in the US, the best US city for biking to work, renown for land use planning and light rail, and a top ten city for architecture and design.
Portland's not perfect. While it has about the same ethnic and income mix as cities of similar size, it does have the country's second highest unemployment rate. It has problems with car thefts and burglary. Yet of the 75 largest cities, Portland's murder rate is consistently in the bottom 10 and robbery in the bottom 20. It has one of the lowest violent crime rates of any city in the country.
One wonders about the obvious; Do the things that make it vibrant account for the things that make it safe? Residents describe it as one of the safest places in the country with the highest high quality of life.
Portland's neighborhoods are alive. Interest in civic affairs is alive. In the neighborhoods (away from the clogged Interstate) cars seem secondary, people and bikes first.
Nowhere is this exemplified better than with Portland's City Repair movement, now in dozens of cities across the country.
Pioneered a decade ago, innovator and architect Mark Lakeman is a leading proponent. He told me local residents decide for themselves what they want their streets to look like and how their intersections should function. Some want community interaction or seasonal celebrations. Others want slower traffic or beautiful public art.
City Repair creates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through neighborhood projects. They began by tackling the urban grid. They convert residential street intersections into public squares. They use paint, plants, and permaculture. They construct non-toxic solutions from the local environment. They combine public art with benches, lampposts, play areas for kids, and gardens alongside public streets. It is remarkable to see this in person.
If you can, go there and see for yourself. Nowhere have I seen intersections transformed so creatively by local action.
This is citizen government and a positive example of direct action. When we talk of placemaking in SafeGrowth, City Repair is exemplary. It yields great promise and optimism.
People are drawn to see beautiful art or sculptures in formerly boring grid intersections throughout the city. I watched cars slow to safer speeds where there were no stop signs. Well designed street art is a natural traffic calmer.
I heard of doomsday pundits who said it was impossible (until it was done by others). I heard of traffic engineers predicting chicken-little (then shown how to build creative and functional intersections).
Mark says, we are engaging people where they live and they are building new relationships. They are creating physical artifacts that encourage them to gather after the fact. They see these artifacts and they interrelate with them and the stories broaden and deepen.
That is placemaking at it's best.
Check it out.