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Livable Lesson: Placemaking

Public spaces planner Andrew Howard explains what makes a “successful place” and how communities can (and sometimes should) implement placemaking projects despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Andrew Howard

Photo Courtesy Team Better Block

Andrew Howard spray-painting a crosswalk for a demonstration placemaking project.

What makes a community distinctive? What makes a location a destination? How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed public places?

The Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kit


This tool kit is also a recipe book with step-by-step instructions and supply lists for several placemaking projects.

Order or download The Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kit, a free information- and photo-filled publication by AARP Livable Communities and Team Better Block.

"Placemaking" — sometimes referred to as "Placekeeping"— refers to the planning and implementation work that makes a location a place where people want to be and spend time in.

Placemaking results in places that distinguish a community or destination as being unique or attractive. Placemaking also involves making a location safe, walkable and, often, thriving and economically successful.

Andrew Howard, founder of Team Better Block (a design firm) and director of placemaking at WGI (a public infrastructure and real estate development firm) answers questions and explains the in’s and out’s of placemaking — both during the pandemic and in "normal" times.

Howard is a pioneer of "pop-up demonstrations," a process of temporarily re-engineering auto-dominated, blighted or underused urban areas to show how they can become vibrant destinations. Working in more than 150 communities around the world, the "pop-up" methodology (also called "tactical urbanism") is transforming urban planning, community outreach and public space design. 

Watch each of the two subject-specific videos below — or scroll down to see both segments in one video. 


Lesson 1: What Makes a Successful Place?

Any community can combine the three core elements of placemaking — something to do, somewhere to sit, and something to eat and drink — in order to create a vibrant public place that inspires people to gather. Such projects increase safety, health outcomes and economic investment.

Lesson 2: Placemaking During a Pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for people to safely gather, the core tenets of placemaking are a key to economic and societal recovery during this unprecedented time. 

Placemaking 101

Watch both videos with a single click.

The videos on this page were created by an external organization so might not reflect AARP’s public policies or advocacy positions, which can be found in the AARP Policy Book.  

The videos were filmed in 2020 | Page published February 2021

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