urban art painting mural on wall street lanewat
Creative placemaking can include urban art and murals. Image – Canva.
  • Quantifying change cannot be limited to foot traffic and revenue
  • Placemaking has intangible elements to be considered
  • A new tool under development to better assess return on investment

Part 1 looked into the definition of placemaking, and specifically creative placemaking.

The Property Tribune found across conversations with academics, architects, town planners, and local government, the core concept or substance of placemaking had the common thread of bringing genuine value and return on investment to placemaking initiatives to both visitors and permanent residents alike.

Some saw the word ‘placemaking’ as a buzzword to be dismissed.

The underlying importance and challenge

The economic and social value derived from activating a residential area – from yarn-bombing through to larger creative moves like murals on commercial property – is often intangible and difficult to define or determine.

Dr Justine Lloyd noted:

“You can’t just build a place, or just physical infrastructure … You have to activate it with the social infrastructure. There’s both a physical environment, and whether people feel welcome there, but then it’s also about the uses. Placemaking has both aspects at the same time.”

Dr Justine Lloyd, Macquarie University

The research was driven by what Dr Lloyd said was a feeling that there were missing parts to current models of quantifying the impact of creating a sense of place.

Some models were “typically dominated by linear ‘input-output models’ ”, whilst others that did not include market-driven or explicitly measurable benefits were generally excluded.

Being able to quantify the impact of growing importance too, Dr Cathy Smith said, “developers and governments often use placemaking or creative placemaking to help with the transition of an area during urban renewal.”

“They will often invest in these placemaking endeavours and have a desire to prove their worth, especially when government or public funding is involved”.

Dr Cathy Smith, UNSW

Putting a value on what Dr Smith called the “ephemeral aspects of place” is much more difficult than looking at simple numbers such as attendance at a pop-up space activation.

With Covid lockdowns, and after them, there has been an elevation in the importance of creative placemaking, Dr Smith said, “the Covid-19-triggered lockdowns have drawn attention to the value of placemaking: that is the value that place has for people to come together, interact, and the value of neighbourhoods.”

“COVID created a break in normal transmission, so people have really noticed the value of parks and events that bring people together. People realise what’s been missing.”

Dr Justine Lloyd, Macquarie University

Determining value and Landcom

Firstly, in the first report produced by the research team, values definitions were found as follows:

Key categories and respective value indicators table. Source – Communities of Practice Collaborative Project, Stage 1: Literature Review

The research team said examples could be drawn from various sources, financial impact alone included eight examples; the list is not exhaustive.

Types of impacts associated with placemaking. Source - Communities of Practice Collaborative Project, Stage 1: Literature Review
Types of impacts associated with placemaking. Source – Communities of Practice Collaborative Project, Stage 1: Literature Review

In order to determine the value, a number of models were considered, with various Australian and international models studied.

Work on the final tool kit is ongoing and yet to be released by Landcom.

Part 3 of placemaking will come as more information on the creative placemaking toolkit goes live.

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