Innovation in the Hands of the Community

Pictured: Charlotte Lamb and Monica Carney Holmes

City of Charlotte Placemaking Grant Program: Winner of the 2019 Region of Excellence Local Government Innovation Award 

Innovate: (Verbmake changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products

The perception that innovation costs money or requires technology often deters local governments from pursuing new practices. Sometimes innovation is merely using a new or creative methodThat’s exactly what the City of Charlotte sought to accomplish with the Placemaking Grant Program. It puts innovation in the hands of the community. 

Charlotte Lamb, Associate Urban Designer and Planner for the City of Charlotteprovided us with information and resources to show how they are empowering communities to make improvements. The Placemaking Grant webpage describes the program as “a community-building initiative that will support quick-win, transformative projects throughout the city to create and enhance community vibrancy, safety and identity through:  

  • Activation of leftover and/or underutilized spaces,  
  • Streetscape improvements
  • Art and beautification efforts and 
  • Creation of community gathering spaces. 

Besides quality of life and economic benefits of placemaking, this program gives neighborhoods a chance to get creative, builds relationships and trust between community members and local government, showcases a certain culture of a community and empowers the community by showing pride in projects they complete. 

Lamb said, “What we found is that public art is deeply personal. People have strong opinions on how their community is represented through that art and how they reflect back on each other.” 

So how does this work? The City Council approves a budget to use towards this program. After the community forms an idea, representatives gather letters to show neighborhood support and submit an applicationAn interdisciplinary placemaking panel scores applicants on design; impact, need and visibility; participation and collaboration; and innovation. The projects are also mapped out to make sure they are spread out geographically and socio-economically. The full process usually takes one full year to complete.  

Didn’t win a grant? Anyone can be a place maker through communityled placemaking. The Placemaking Hub on the City’s website has step-by-step guidelines and resources for processes, procedures and permitting to improve public spaces. If you’re interested in implementing a Placemaking Program at your organization, visit the City of Charlotte’s Placemaking webpage for more information. 

 Written by: Lauren Tayara

Pictured above: Wildflowers on 12th Mural project. The final design was inspired by the artwork that children from the neighborhood created at a community engagement event held across the street from the mural site. The artist is Melissa Wineman. To see more Charlotte Placemaking Grant Projects visit the Charlotte Urban Design Instagram.