Why Sense of Place Matters to Development
“A place is only a place.” If you are well-versed in traveling and experiences, you may cast doubt upon author Frank Herbert’s words. They are only true if you deprive a place of its character. Places carry meaning, memories, cultures, and people.
Integrating Sense of Place in development transforms a simple place into a home, a neighborhood, or a community. People from various walks of life can feel welcomed, whether they’re visiting or starting a new chapter in their lives.
The geography, architecture, and environment can all create open arms for newcomers and legacy residents alike. Greenspaces, educational centers, and walkways can provide a sense of rootedness by highlighting local history and ecology.
When you consider Sense of Place in context with its surroundings, not only do Neighborhoods flourish but their people, too.
How Sense of Place Spurs Local Action
The strength of a community lies within the health of its residents and their connection to each other and their space. When members of a community develop a Sense of Place, their willingness to bond with others becomes a powerful tool. Neighbors congregate and communicate with one another to bring new ideas. People are willing to engage in civil discourse and discuss plans for the future of the community. In short – they care about where they live. They derive a sense of belonging and identity from their community and seek to nurture it.
The camaraderie that develops amongst those who feel Sense of Place is the foundation for preservation and evolution. When you have a good sense of where you are, you can dream about what would make it even better. Perhaps there’s a need for outdoor spaces, better grocery stores, and cultural centers. This combination of love, connection, and vision can mobilize neighbors to help each other thrive long-term. In the best scenarios, the neighborhood itself has been planned to promote thriving, too.
How Sense of Place can lead to more equitable, thoughtful urban planning
Developing a community with an eye toward strengthening its identity innately involves planning for people. And when neighbors are welcomed and able to mix, plans can incorporate a wider variety of perspectives and needs.
Take, for example, accessibility. A space that is built to contain walkways, ramps, and elevators eases the lives of people with disabilities. Accessibility ensures disabled neighbors will be able to gather and connect with others, offering their unique insights into the neighborhood. Their insights get incorporated into the next iteration of neighborhood growth, further strengthening local inclusivity. In this way, planning for a strong sense of place becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of thriving.
If you are new to the concept of Sense of Place, we recommend taking a look at our online course, Empowering Communities to Thrive. This six-part series will guide you and your organization in ways to have a deeper conversation about who you are, what you are doing, and how to have a more impactful future. You’ll learn about the foundational concepts that allow you to build a strong Sense of Place, and a thriving community.