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Placemaking on the Plaza

Not so long ago, the corner at 6th and Broadway in downtown Concordia seemed destined to become a display lot for gravestone monuments. Those plans were not set in stone, and the monuments found a better resting place at another downtown location. The corner, which was laid bare by a 1999 fire that destroyed five storefront buildings, now rises again as Broadway Plaza.

The philosophical underpinnings of this renewal are grounded in the concept of placemaking. Google this term, as I did in March of 2014 when I first saw the word, and you will quickly land on the site of the Project for Public spaces, where you will find this definition:

“With community-based participation at its center, an effective placemaking process capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people's health, happiness, and well being.”

Part of my work as your city manager is to dream of what might be. The Project for Public Spaces site lit up my dreamspace. More from them:

[Placemaking] is a crucial and deeply-valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives. Placemaking shows people just how powerful their collective vision can be. It helps them to re-imagine everyday spaces, and to see anew the potential of parks, downtowns, waterfronts, plazas, neighborhoods, streets, markets, campuses and public buildings.

I already felt “intimately connected” to the 6th and Broadway corner because for ten years I had my place of business across the street. From my desk, I could look out my window at the patchy grass and the peeling wall. Often my attention drawn by a traveler who was using the lot to walk their dog. While the dog did its business, I would congratulate myself on the upscale quality of my view.

Broadway Plaza will still accommodate traveling canines (with doggie doo bags), and it will have a few other amenities as well. How did we decide what should go there? In the spirit of placemaking, we asked you! The more than 100 people who attended a tent party on site in June of 2014 were asked to list ideas and then to vote for the ones they most favored. The top choices were a stage with proper wiring, bathrooms, a water feature with dancing water, a move screen, and a clock. Keep your eye on 6th and Broadway in the next few weeks, and you will see all of these and more take shape.

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