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Beginner-Level Placemaking Recipes

10 pop-up demonstration projects that can inspire lasting change

This article is an excerpt from The Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kit, a free publication by AARP and the planning and design firm Team Better Block. The beginner-level projects shown below are good for people who are new to placemaking, are looking for quick and easy community projects and/or are new to or uncomfortable using power tools.

All photos by Team Better Block


Alley Activations

Alleyways are among the most underused public spaces in America. Draw attention to them by adding cafe-style chairs and tables, and overhead decorations such as paper chains (shown), banners, LED string lights or even colorful umbrellas.  

Activated Alley with Paper Chains

Newnam, Georgia

Colorful Crosswalks

A bright, colorful, artistic crosswalk alerts pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to its presence, which makes the street safer for all users.

Colorful Crosswalk

Des Moines, Iowa

Community Stage

Place a slightly raised platform on lawn, sidewalk or closed street and the performers among us — whether they're 2 years old, 22 or even more seasoned — will take the stage to sing, dance, tell a story or simply pretend.

Outdoor Community Stage

Buffalo, New York

Outdoor Games

Successful public spaces offer activities and support active uses. Ping-pong tables and cornhole boards are fairly easy to create, and the games are fun for people of all ages.

Outdoor Games

Columbus, Ohio

Pop-Up Roundabouts

Also called traffic circles, roundabouts force vehicles that are passing through intersections without traffic lights to slow down. Creating a temporary roundabout by using paint and hay bales lets a community test the solution’s effectiveness.

Pop-up Roundabout

Greensboro, North Carolina

Pop-Up Shops

Allowing a business to briefly occupy a vacant retail location activates an unused space, provides the community with a destination, and enables entrepreneurs to explore the economic viability of their service or product.

Pop-up Shops

Bethel, Vermont

Public Art

Murals, sculptures, mosaics, interactive displays and other outdoor art installations enliven spaces and often provide information about a community’s history and culture. Public art displays are also a great way of lauding and promoting local talent.

Public Art

Columbus, Ohio

Raised-Bed Gardens

Planting crops in beds that people don’t have to stoop or sit on the ground to use is an age-friendly way to grow fresh produce in one’s own yard or a community green space.

Raised Garden Beds

Buffalo, New York


Everybody sits! Public seating is an essential ingredient in placemaking. Benches, chairs and other forms of outdoor furniture invite passersby to linger, visit and enjoy a shared community space.

Pop-up Seating

Pittsfield, Massachusetts


Directional signage is referred to as “wayfinding.” Its strategically placed arrows, mileage indications and other useful information help people get where they are going and make a community feel more welcoming.

Pop-up Signage

Columbus, Ohio

Find "recipes" for how to create the projects shown above:

Page published November 2019

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