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Studying Placemaking and Involving Our Community

posted Sep 5, 2016, 6:41 PM by Ryan Biles   [ updated Sep 5, 2016, 6:59 PM ]
This summer, during and between our regular meetings, your Lonoke Planning Commission has been exploring the principles of Placemaking in light of the Kevin Lynch's five planning elements districts, edges, paths, landmarks, and nodes.

(from #AREsketches by Lora Teagarden)

In our process, the article "What is Placemaking?" by the group Project for Public Spaces has served as a key guiding text for the Commission's studies.

The mission of your Lonoke Planning Commission is, in part, to "advocate policy and development that connects neighbors and removes barriers to unity and accessibility." The Commission's vision is "a unified and connected Lonoke." The process of a Placemaking excercise is, therefore, aligned and compatible with our mission and vision, in the following way:
Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.  More than just promoting better urban design, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. (from the opening paragraph of the article "What is Placemaking" by Project for Public Spaces).

Particularly notable is the emphasis on public participation that a successful Placemaking process involves.  One of the core values of your Lonoke Planning Commission is:

    "We welcome public input with a collaborative spirit."  

Likewise, Placemaking is predicated on the concept that the community at large knows best how to prioritize quality of life improvements and enhancements and is, therefore, vital to the process of generating the ideas and experiences that will create those improvements. The article further explains:

With community-based participation at its center, an effective Placemaking process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being.

We, as neighbors here in Lonoke, may consider the numerous parallels between the process and methodology of Placemaking and the current process underway with the "Kick Start Lonoke" intiative.  First, both are intended to be hyper-local; that is, there is not a one-size fits-all answer to any question or isssue to be addressed.  Rather, there is a fundamental expectation that the commuity's "local distinctiveness" will be leveraged to define a unique solution.  Second, the processes are, by definition, asset-based.  By creating an inventory of what is best about a community (some aspects of which may often be overlooked), excercises such as these cause us to realize and articulate, perhaps for the first time, the strength of the fabric within which we live and work.
Last, these two approaches are community-based.  Quite simply, the initiative cannot be successful until neighbors from all parts of town and all generations speak out and provide their input and perspective in the process.  The community must be involved.

Some of our neighbors may ask how the community can be involved in Kick Start Lonoke?  Very simply, there are two key ways:  complete the Lonoke Community Survey and join a Kick Start Lonoke Community Action Team at one of the monthly meetings to be held through next April 2017.

While the intnent and purpose of Kick Start Lonoke is not to be a Placemaking exercise, per se, the elements and process generated from the initiative should produce by-products which inform and equip public and private entities to define goals and fuel improvement.  Your Lonoke Planning Commission certainly expects to learn from the process and continue our effort to educate ourselves about Placemaking.  In 2017, your Commission, along with your City Council and the community's nonprofit and volunteer leaders will have the added resource of the completed "Kick Start Lonoke" Five-Year Strategic Action Plan.  As your Commissioners, we encourage and request that you become involved.  An easy and necessary first step is to fill out and return the Lonoke Community Survey that arrived with your water bill, or complete the survey online at:

Kick Start Lonoke is an independent initiative cooperatively supported by key individuals representing the City of Lonoke, Lonoke Public Schools, the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce, the Lonoke Planning & Zoning Commission, the Lonoke Industrial Development Commission and Retail Economic Commission, local non-profits, and area churches.