A disused parking lot, reimagined as a public plaza. A vacant storefront, now a place for a community to chart its future. Blank walls, intersections and grassy fields, repurposed as canvases for color and beauty. Busy, bumpy streets, taken over by people pedaling, walking, performing – for a day or forever.
Transformations like these are part of a broader movement called “placemaking.” It's catching fire in cities and towns the world over. Greater Portland is no exception.
Metro is launching a new program to support community-driven placemaking activities across the Portland metropolitan region. The program will provide grants and technical assistance to organizations and local governments seeking to undertake placemaking projects in their communities.
Efforts like these bring people together to engage with each other and the idea of public space and what it can accomplish. They can amplify cherished aspects of local culture and reflect a community's cultural diversity. They stimulate investment, provoke thought, nurture hope or suggest possibility. And they build organizational and individual capacity to ensure a community's needs and interests are expressed and included in investments in projects that affect it.
In short, placemaking helps create places that belong to all of us and let all of us know we belong.
New grant opportunity opens in April
Metro’s new Community Placemaking program will seek to support and stabilize communities, strengthen social fabric and foster connection to place – particularly for communities that have been historically marginalized.
Grants are available to any project in the region’s urban growth boundary. Nonprofits, community-based organizations, local governments and other public entities are encouraged to apply.
An advisory group with expertise in social justice, public art, community development and planning will review applications. They will be scored on several criteria, such as advancing equity, serving historically marginalized people, using partnerships and building capacity and community stability. Applications will be reviewed by.
Up to $100,000 is available in the first grant cycle, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Applications will be available April 1 and are due May 26. A second opportunity is expected this fall.
Funds for the program come from Metro’s General Fund.
Learn more about the program
March 28 kickoff event will explore national trends
The program kicks off with a special event March 28 featuring Ben Stone, director of arts and culture at Smart Growth America. The event at Metro Regional Center will be an opportunity to learn about placemaking projects across the country – and more locally in places such as the Jade and Division-Midway districts – and the trends, challenges and opportunities they present.
Stone, who has years of experience in placemaking, emphasizes that its benefit goes well beyond artistic merit or economic value. Through placemaking, he argues, the public can better inform and shape public decision-making, even for huge transportation projects.
“Artists, designers, and performers are experts in reframing problems, experimenting with atypical solutions, inspiring community participation, and challenging assumptions – all traits that can provide an enormous benefit to transportation projects,” Stone said. “Portland's regional arts community can play a crucial role in these projects through creative placemaking: ensuring that improvements reflect and celebrate local culture and history.”
Representatives from the Portland Bureau of Transportation will also be on hand to discuss the city’s Livable Streets Strategy, which the bureau describes as “Portland’s roadmap to encouraging and implementing placemaking and community issues in the public right-of-way.”
The event will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 28, at Metro Regional Center.
Learn more about this event
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