Place­mak­ing: putting life and soul into neigh­bor­hood spa­ces

Hospitality News Middle East - - IN THIS ISSUE - ulysses.con­sult­ing

With its fo­cus on both the en­vi­ron­ment and en­sur­ing a strong, healthy and fair so­ci­ety, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment has be­come a key cri­te­rion in project pipelines the world over. This ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment has grad­u­ally led us to­day to what we refer to in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try as Place­mak­ing. Chirine Salha, se­nior con­sul­tant at Ulysses Con­sult­ing tells us more

Place­mak­ing is an ur­ban plan­ning move­ment that sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of lively and sus­tain­able master-plan­ning projects, such as real es­tate, re­sorts and com­pounds, by balanc­ing spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial com­po­nents with the art of cre­at­ing places that have a soul and will at­tract peo­ple look­ing to come to­gether, eat and en­joy them­selves. The con­cept doesn’t fall far from sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, since bol­ster­ing com­mu­ni­ties by strength­en­ing an area is crit­i­cal to sus­tain­abil­ity; you could ar­gue that if we don’t have places that are worth car­ing about, they will sim­ply not be sus­tained.

Place­mak­ing seeks to col­lec­tively reimag­ine pub­lic spa­ces in the com­mu­nity by trans­form­ing them into ar­eas of ac­tiv­ity and con­nec­tion for the neigh­bor­hood. It in­spires the trans­for­ma­tion of un­der­used spa­ces into vi­brant gath­er­ing places, strength­en­ing the com­mu­nity’s unity and mak­ing the neigh­bor­hood more de­sir­able for peo­ple to live in, hence in­creas­ing the value of prop­erty there.

Here in Le­banon, Place­mak­ing has much po­ten­tial. Fol­low­ing the Le­banese wars, pub­lic spa­ces that were dam­aged and deserted re­main, for the most part, ne­glected and mis­used to this day. Cities in Le­banon are a ge­og­ra­phy of in­no­va­tion. Beirut, for in­stance, fea­tures unique ur­ban traits that in­clude di­verse re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties, an over­all lack of pub­lic space, a lack of ba­sic ur­ban func­tional in­fra­struc­ture and large in­fluxes of refugees and mi­grants. It has the right specs for cre­at­ing qual­ity pub­lic spa­ces that nur­ture cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion.

By en­gag­ing in a Place­mak­ing process in such ad hoc cities as Beirut, we can, in prac­tice, max­i­mize our shared val­ues, through com­mu­nity-based par­tic­i­pa­tion, and strengthen the con­nec­tion be­tween peo­ple and the

Place­mak­ing is an ur­ban plan­ning move­ment that sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of lively and sus­tain­able mas­ter­plan­ning projects, such as real es­tate, re­sorts and com­pounds, by balanc­ing spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial com­po­nents with the art of cre­at­ing places that have a soul

space they all share to­gether. The re­sult will be the cre­ation of qual­ity pub­lic spa­ces, re-in­vented to see anew the po­ten­tial of small gar­dens, down­towns, wa­ter­fronts, squares, neigh­bor­hoods, streets, mar­kets, cam­puses and pub­lic build­ings, among others.

The process should start by of­fer­ing guide­lines to help: fun­nel di­verse opin­ions

into a co­he­sive vi­sion; trans­late that vi­sion into a plan and de­vel­op­ment pro­gram; and en­sure its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Here are some of the rec­om­men­da­tions to help achieve these ob­jec­tives suc­cess­fully:

1. In­volve the com­mu­nity

Place­mak­ing re­volves around ob­serv­ing, lis­ten­ing to and ask­ing the peo­ple who live, work and play in a par­tic­u­lar space ques­tions, in order to un­der­stand their needs and as­pi­ra­tions for that space. This will help in ob­tain­ing com­mu­nity own­er­ship, which means it will be bet­ter looked af­ter and main­tained over the years. Through these ob­ser­va­tions, it will be­come clear what kind of ac­tiv­i­ties are miss­ing and what could be in­cor­po­rated. Ob­ser­va­tion shouldn’t stop there; when the spa­ces are built, it’s im­por­tant to con­tinue ob­serv­ing them, since this will re­veal even more about how to evolve, adapt and man­age the area over time.

Team­ing up with good, in­flu­en­tial part­ners is crit­i­cal to the fu­ture suc­cess and im­age of the project in hand. Po­ten­tial part­ners could in­clude lo­cal author­i­ties, com­mu­nity groups and in­sti­tu­tions or NGOS. Seek to en­gage young peo­ple by work­ing with lo­cal schools and univer­sity groups, as they are of­ten a key de­mo­graphic in many lo­ca­tions.

2. Make a great space, not just a de­sign

Make it a point to cre­ate high-qual­ity pub­lic spa­ces. De­sign alone is not enough; other phys­i­cal el­e­ments need to come into play, such as pedes­trian cir­cu­la­tion, seat­ing, shel­ter, and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the retail seg­ment and ac­tiv­i­ties or en­ter­tain­ment tak­ing place in the space.

Be sure to pro­vide the means for peo­ple to ac­cess the des­ti­na­tions and get around them eas­ily so that they are fully in­clu­sive.

Great pub­lic spa­ces do not have to be de­sign-heavy, multi-mil­lion-dol­lar projects – what mat­ters is that they can gen­er­ate change and pos­i­tively im­pact com­mu­ni­ties. In fact, some­times the most ex­cit­ing spa­ces are low cost and in the most un­ex­pected lo­ca­tions. Roof­less build­ings, with the po­ten­tial to be­come gar­dens, cof­fee shops or con­cert spa­ces, are one such ex­am­ple.

3. Build on emo­tions

When de­vel­op­ing Place­mak­ing, use emo­tional and phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences to en­hance the project. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ences will sus­tain the life of the project in the long term.

4. The test of time

For a great Place­mak­ing project, you need to con­stantly re­de­fine and im­prove the area. El­e­ments such as seat­ing, out­door cafes, pub­lic art, land­scap­ing and mu­rals are ex­am­ples of im­prove­ments that can be ac­com­plished over time. Re­spond and adapt to the on­go­ing changes of the com­mu­nity’s needs and em­power man­age­ment with the flex­i­bil­ity to adapt to that change and fol­low up on wear and tear of ameni­ties.

5. Sup­port lo­cal economies

Aim to gen­er­ate a pos­i­tive im­pact on lo­cal economies by sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses and at­tract­ing fur­ther in­vest­ment to the ar­eas. Through this sup­port, you are pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­nesses to flour­ish, as well as of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences to visi­tors.

Keep in mind that mak­ing a place is not the same as con­struct­ing a build­ing, de­sign­ing a ho­tel or de­vel­op­ing a com­mer­cial zone. Us­ing Place­mak­ing in a process that isn’t re­ally rooted in the com­mu­nity’s par­tic­i­pa­tion di­lutes its value. As more com­mu­ni­ties en­gage in Place­mak­ing and more pro­fes­sion­als refer to it in their work, it is im­por­tant to pre­serve the true mean­ing of the process. When peo­ple of all ages, skills and so­cio-eco­nomic back­grounds can not only en­joy a place, but also play a key role in its iden­tity, cre­ation and main­te­nance, then, and only then, will gen­uine Place­mak­ing suc­ceed.

At UMC, we have em­bed­ded Place­mak­ing within our busi­ness pro­cesses and built our rep­u­ta­tion on cre­at­ing as­sets that de­liver pos­i­tive change for the com­mu­nity. With ev­ery de­vel­op­ment we un­der­take, we aim to make some­where a bet­ter place. Our Place­mak­ing strat­egy draws on the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence we have ac­cu­mu­lated through suc­cess­ful schemes and ex­presses how we will con­tinue to an­tic­i­pate the so­cio-eco­nomic, tech­no­log­i­cal and cul­tural changes that will shape the great places of the fu­ture.

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