Placemaking, the art of creating a ‘place’ in a ‘space,’ is breathing new life into vacant lots

Written by admin   // August 14, 2012   // Comments Off

(Chicago) … Once upon a time, the market crashed. Remember 2008? If your memory is a bit fuzzy, just take a look around: Vacant storefronts, boarded-up buildings, and empty lots littered with trash bags and beer cans should have—would have—could have been thriving shops, homes or community parks. Instead, they are the lingering villains of the recession. But take heart, for every villain has a hero counterpart: Through the “Space in Between” contest, the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is seeking to honor individuals and groups in the greater Chicago/Gary/Milwaukee region who have taken it upon themselves to transform vacant spaces into community places, through Placemaking.

Placemaking is a community-based approach to planning, designing and managing great public places—and metropolitan Chicago is home to one of the world’s most vibrant and imaginative Placemaking communities. Through Aug. 31, the “Space in Between” contest is seeking submissions from people who temporarily turned a place that was forgotten, ignored, vacant, transitional, blighted, or misused into a community asset.

Why temporarily? Particularly in neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the recession, achieving the ideal use of these spaces may take awhile—but there’s work to do in the meantime. “The ‘Space in Between’ contest re-focuses our energy, creativity and funds on the great potential for meaningful places to exist between a vacant space’s current state and its ideal, finished state,” said Marisa Novara, MPC Placemaking project manager. “This contest is about the ‘here and now,’ not the ‘maybe someday.’”

For more background on the value of temporarily repurposing vacant space, read Novara’s blog post on MPC’s blog, The Connector, Putting Vacant Space to Use, In the Meantime, and visit

Anyone age 16 or older in the Chicago metropolitan region who has led or participated in a creative reuse of vacant space since the market crash in 2008 may submit one entry. Metropolitan Chicago includes the City of Chicago and Chicago suburbs located in Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties in Illinois; or in Lake, La Porte andPorter counties in Indiana; or in Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties in Wisconsin.

The contest will run from Wednesday, June 27, to Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Each entry should include:

Original photos or videos documenting a contestant’s creative temporary use of public space in metropolitan Chicago since 2008; and

A 250-word-or-less description of how this temporary project or use turned a place that was forgotten, ignored, vacant, transitional, blighted, or misused into a community asset.

Contestants will find a complete list of submission guidelines and instructions at

Four winners will be selected: two by Placemaking Chicago’s Review Panel, and two by public votes online at between Sept. 10 and Oct. 5, 2012. Winners will receive prizes, including the opportunity to run a Groupon Grassroots fundraising campaign, and the chance to tell the story of their favorite temporary use of a public place at an awards ceremony on Nov. 1, 2012.

Sponsors of the contest are Michaels Development Company and Groupon Grassroots.

Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth.



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