Today on Streets.mn: The Paradox of the Placemaking Consultant

[Ironically, R. Florida's place-based quiz adopts a homogenizing, spatial perspective.]
I have a new post at Streets.mn today about my puzzlement during the recent Great River Gathering dinner. The keynote speaker was Katherine Loflin, one of the leading consultants on placemaking in the US. Anyway, it was all a bit odd to hear her describe the importance of not listening to national experts, and I tried to describe it here. To wit:

But as the banquet rolled on, Loflin’s words began washing over me like the roller squeegees at the gas station car wash. “Place optimization.” “Making the case for place.” “Reading the economic development playbook…” When she wrapped up her talk by saying that “you should be exactly who you are, but you should be the best who you are you can be,” every airport bookstore I’ve ever seen flashed before my eyes. It seemed that my world had become a corny self-help cliché, and there was no escape.
That night, I encountered the paradox of the placemaking expert, the nonsensical way in which the rejection of standardized approaches to urban design had generated an entire industry based on that rejection.  The idea that each urban environment is made meaningful by those who use it every day has become so trendy that we’ve reached to the point where we’ve begun flying in national experts to tell us to stop flying in national experts. It’s a total paradox, and placemaking has begun to seem rather silly.

Placemaking has become a bit of a buzzword, but like many such overused concepts, it has a lot of merit to it. It'd be nice if we could think through "placemaking" as an idea without reducing it to a business management cliché.

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