Community Building Just About Anyone Can Do

Whether you live in a diverse metropolitan area or a calm, tree-lined suburb, connecting with your neighbors to construct a feeling of community can be difficult. It’s easy to blame the men and women who live around you — or even yourself but the reason is often bigger than that. At times it’s the area itself and its absence of public space that prevent you and others from connecting.

Here we’ll explain to you how to modify your area to create a feeling of community.

Ben Herzog

The value of Public Spaces

Public areas allow neighbors to socialize and connect, whether they are playing with their dogs at a shore, watching children’s football games at a field or playing chess at tables at the park. “You discuss your streets, your parks, your sidewalks with your neighbors,” states Brendan Crain, communications director at Project for Public Spaces. “You are bumping up against one another and interacting. That builds community.”

A scarcity of usable public space limits opportunities to meet other people locally. But if that is true in your area, the good thing is that there is a very simple solution: defining or building public spaces based on your area’s needs.

Union Studio, Architecture & Community Design


The more valuable, important public spaces that exist, the more likely it is that people will use them together. That contributes to shared minutes and relationships.

Urban planners often refer to the process as placemaking. It’s based on locating and creating a neighborhood’s collective vision for a public space. Placemaking reexamines everyday spaces — streets, sidewalks, and empty parking lots — through the eyes of the men and women using them every single day. But does it work?

Many businesses across the United States have brought the concept of placemaking to areas. In Portland, Oregon, City Repair gathers groups of residents to construct decorate or around dilapidated intersections. Occasionally they paint the road, turn an empty lot into a garden or establish a free library. The colorfully painted intersection here in Portland’s St. Johns area, has beautified the road and encourages motorists to slow down.

Before Photo

Matthew Mazzotta

Without a public gathering space, the citizens of York, Alabama, felt disconnected from one another. Artist Matthew Mazzotta worked with the town to turn a dilapidated old house to a brand new unfolding outdoor theater where the entire community can congregate.

See more about this job

Schwartz and Architecture

Temporary Placemaking

naturally, there is a difference between seeing the demand for a public space and having the ability to make it. Raising money and going through local government stations can appear intimidating, so many residents implement temporary placemaking ideas.

Park(ing) Day is 1 example. It started in San Francisco but has spread to cities across the nation. Every year on September 19, people around the U.S. place quarters in local parking yards, reserving spaces all day and creating little parks for people to enjoy. The concept shows what can be accomplished with existing road spaces and other ways people can use them.

In San Francisco the program has resulted in the development of parklets Throughout the city throughout the Pavement to Parks program.

See more parklets in our Design Lover’s guide to San Francisco

The Better Block, based in Texas, reinvents public streets into an occasion or gathering space for one weekend, highlighting its potential for residents and local lawmakers. Here an empty stretch of road in Wichita, Kansas, turned into a contemporary parklet using a bike path.

Calling attention to a public space reveals the need to improve it. This doesn’t need to involve a lot of work, possibly: Placemaking can mean things such as having a knitting club meet in an amazing park, throwing a concert at the road or hosting a small craft fair at a quiet street. “This is particularly helpful in areas that are underutilized,” states Brendan Crain of Project for Public Spaces. “Even if it’s an awkward match, you are calling the community’s attention to it.”

What You Can Do

Take some ownership of your own neighborhood. Placemaking helps residents understand they have the ability to produce and shape the place where they live. “There’s something powerful about caring for the public realm,” states Maria Rosario-Jackson, an expert in urban planning and a senior research associate at the Urban Institute. “There’s the duty of caring for something larger than yourself.”
Start small. Maybe your dream of a brand new park is not possible yet, but you can assist your neighbors see how great it would be by hosting a neighborhood children’ play in your front yard. Do something temporary. Experiment before making any permanent changes. You do not have to bring out the bulldozers just yet — determine if your concept captures on first. Mow that meadow and host a couple of impromptu football matches, put a couple of Ping-Pong tables in an alley or establish a few food tables near that particular street. If it works, you will have a motivated group of people to help to make your dream a permanent reality. Bring out your life to the streets. Placemaking doesn’t need to involve anything out of this box. Just bring one of your daily passions or habits out. This could be something such as cooking, playing games, playing music (quietly) or perhaps working on a Wi-Fi hotspot. Find a leader. “An significant part creating a community is leadership,” states Rosario-Jackson. “Find a community leader to help create a culture of participation.” Communicate. Don’t let connections or motivation fade. Share ideas and keep in contact using a Google Group or your neighborhood-based social network Nextdoor.Learn more about placemaking at the Project for Public Spaces

Inform us : Can you see a way it to make your area a stronger community?

More: Novel It: Bring a Mini Library For Your Front Yard

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