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Opinion: Placemaking starts with belonging

Truth Be Told

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All of us who live, work and play in Springfield have been receiving love notes from our city. Have you ever thought about that?

I recently learned the concept from author and speaker Peter Kageyama, who travels the country encouraging people to truly love their city and open their eyes to the ways a city loves them back. I’m really into the concept. Now, I’m seeing love notes everywhere.

Although not from Springfield, Kageyama points to the yarn bombing at Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street, the murals on storm drains downtown and the revamped, though still unofficial, Springfield flag as a handful of the city’s love notes to its residents.

The love notes concept identifies those attributes that make a city unique, memorable and engaging. Kageyama recently spoke on loving your city and actively working to make it better to 275 young professionals attending the first YP conference, SGForum, put on by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s The Network.

The concept of love notes has everything to do with placemaking. I’ve been hearing this buzzword more and more at community events and in everyday conversation. Placemaking is broadly defined as using planning and design to create public spaces that people want to live, work, play and learn in. It’s truly the heart of economic development. Why does anyone pick one city over another? Surely, it’s the people and the available opportunity, but then there are those attributes that collectively create a sense of home.

Some of my favorite examples of placemaking/love notes from Springfield include the revolving art on display through Springfield Sculpture Walk; the French fries sculpture fronting the Springfield Art Museum; the beautiful storefronts and sidewalks lining Commercial Street; and the beauty on display at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park.

By embracing our access to the outdoors and supporting the talented artists who call Springfield home, we’re winning at the placemaking game.

Of course, there’s more work to do. But that’s on all of us.

“Most people think city-building is someone else’s job,” Kageyama said at the June 7 forum. “How do we allow more of us to roll up our sleeves and get a little dirty?”

Following Kageyama’s presentation, the chamber’s Ryan Mooney moderated a panel with Ozark Greenways Inc.’s Mary Kromrey and the city’s Jason Gage and Mary Lilly Smith. They hosted a live survey through Menti.com and asked the YPs gathered, “What is the one thing Springfield needs?”

The answers were curated into a word cloud, and answers that received the most votes were the largest. Among popular answers like “outdoor music venue,” “convention center,” and “Trader Joe’s,” one answer was dominant: “diversity.”

I saw that word get bigger and bigger as votes were cast. That need for diversity of people and thought clearly resonates with our city’s young professionals.

The connection to placemaking became immediately apparent to me:

Efforts toward placemaking amount to nothing if people aren’t welcome. Placemaking means everyone has a place and everyone belongs, and no amount of culture, character or art can make up for members of our community feeling unwanted or afraid.

A recent report from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt analyzed 2018 vehicle stops statewide. The numbers from the report, which analyzed race and the prevalence of traffic stops, were jarring.

Statewide, black motorists are nearly twice as likely to be pulled over by law enforcement than white motorists. In Greene County, that jumps to three times as likely. And in Christian County, it’s over seven times more likely. In the Springfield area, all other races were at or below 1 on the disparity index used, which means there was no disparity in traffic stops when compared to the population of that race in the city.

This is one symptom of a problem faced by communities across the country. Racism, bigotry and unchecked bias are a pervasive and ugly monster with no easy antidote. But that’s why we have leaders across the city addressing the issue. That’s why we have to call it out and talk about it. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the only way we win at the economic development and talent attraction game.

At Springfield Business Journal’s first Economic Growth Survey forum held June 12, panelist Steve Edwards of CoxHealth said, “We’re not as diverse as we could be. I’m thankful education and hospitals are leading the way. … I’m afraid there is a stereotype that we don’t like outsiders. That’s some of our best talent.”

At the YP forum, Kageyama created a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for what makes a great city. At the base is functional and safe, and that’s followed by comfortable, convivial and interesting/fun.

As we’re dreaming and visioning for how to best address the top needs on the pyramid, we cannot forget the foundation.

Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at ctemple@sbj.net.

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