“Placemaking” is a popular catch-phrase among politicians, planners, and economic development experts these days. Generally, everyone knows what they like in certain places and they would like to see such amenities replicated, particularly in those locations that may be lacking them. However, I rarely see discussions on the difference between placemaking generally (or on the macro level) and specifically (or on the micro level).
First, I believe the term “placemaking” applies to the macro or community-wide level. When people say they really like Ann Arbor or Santa Fe, they are usually not zeroing in on one specific aspect of the city, but are expressing their feelings based on their overall perceptions and experiences.
On the other hand, “third place” is the best term for describing placemaking on the micro or local/individual level. The reason for the distinction is that there are very few individual amenities that can translate to making a place on a community-wide basis. Disney World, Times Square, the French Quarter, and the National Mall are certainly examples of such a phenomenon, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Most cities are not blessed with a single, overarching definition of place. Instead, most communities need to build upon their collection of individual amenities to enhance their identity.
Generally, placemaking is a process of encouraging, establishing, and maintaining a series of vibrant third places. Once a community has successfully produced an agglomeration of third places, its status/perception as an attractive place to live, work, and play becomes solidified.
I would appreciate any comments on these thoughts. If I am way off base, please let me know. I shall look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on the topic.