Art of the Staycation & Why We All Should Take One

staycation-feature

When I was traveling the country discussing the findings of the Knight Soul of the Community project, I learned as much as I shared.  I always say interpreting research findings is a bit like reading tea leaves: you know what the findings indicate, but you still need source input to give it true meaning. Such was the case in some cities where we saw local perceptions of key areas, like social offerings or aesthetics, improve when nothing in actuality had been done in those areas over the past year.  I asked residents “what gives?”—how could your perceptions of this aspect of your place change so dramatically over a year when nothing new has been done to improve that feature? The consistent response I received from residents ended up being a very important takeaway for the entire research project.

Discovering the Staycation

Residents said during that time (a time when our national economies were suffering: 2008-2010) they couldn’t afford to leave town for vacation.  They had to stay home as part of a staycation, many for the first time.  And as residents rediscovered their place through the staycation, their perceptions of their place changed for the better causing them to rate key aspects of their place higher and feel an increased attachment to the place.  The important lesson for placemaking leaders was that sometimes you don’t need to “build a better mousetrap” in place, but provide opportunities for residents to (re)discover their place to see what there is already is to offer.

So as the “Place Seasons” are upon us, so is the decision to staycation or vacation.  If you’ve never done a staycation, you should try one. Especially if you are still dating your place, have been long-time married to your place, or are starting to feel some disconnection. It may change the way you feel about your place – hopefully for the better – and change your relationship.

That being said, there is an art to doing the staycation successfully.

Staycation Tips:

  1. Research as you would for a vacation. Go to the library and go online to find travel resources about your place.  Go to the tourism page, check out the local travel section in your library, ask friends for recommendations for new finds in your place, and go to AAA and pick up a travel guide for your city. You may be surprised what you learn.
  2. Unplug. We struggle to unplug on actual vacation so it will be harder when you are still at home.  Make a real effort here.  None of us are so critical in our work that if we stay off email, etc. for a few days the world will stop. Plan ahead and inform everyone you plan on completely unplugging and follow through.  If you don’t, this is the #1 way your staycation will fail and not feel like time off. Worst-of-all: it’s self-inflicted, so knock it off.
  3. Create your home as a bed and breakfast. Put fresh flowers around.  Transform your bathroom into a mini-spa.  Buy scrumptious food from a local bakery so you don’t have to cook breakfast.  After a day away exploring your place, ensure your home is as inviting as possible so you look forward to returning.  A big part of a vacation, after all, is feeling like you’re still on vacation even when you return to your lodgings for the night.
  4. Plan your time. Just like you would on vacation, prioritize things you want to do and setup daily itineraries.  You don’t have to plan everything, especially if that’s not how you usually vacation. You do need to incorporate some structure, however. Otherwise, because it’s your hometown, you may end up binging Netflix while checking your work email and paying bills.  Prepay for tickets, make reservations – do whatever it takes to make you hold yourself to the plans you want to make.
  5. Check Groupon, LivingSocial, and special events for time-limited deals. Until I get my DateYourPlace app up and running (a work in progress), use current apps to find local deals.  Everything from spa appointments to local attractions, find offerings and pre-pay to make sure you follow through.  Also, remember there are some events only offered the first Friday of the month (free museum admissions or special pop-up markets). There are also theater shows or special festivals that are time-limited.  Do your homework in knowing when those things are planned in picking your staycation dates and mark them in your staycation itinerary first.
  6. Do daytrips. Many vacation spots also offer daytrip suggested itineraries.   You should do the same on your staycation.  Check local tourism sites for daytrip options and pick one you’ve always wanted to experience.  They could be themed-tours (antiques, local artisans, flea markets) that allow you to create a multi-stop adventure.  They can also be destination-driven where you travel to a place for the day to enjoy.  Who knows—it may even become your Side Place. Also, look at local train schedules to see if there’s an option for a daytrip.  That way you can even lose the car and still enjoy the experience of the daytrip.

Spring Break and the Place Seasons offer a unique opportunity to deploy the staycation.  Subtracting the packing, TSA lines, airline travel, and expense, staycations are a great way to save money and rekindle the relationship that helps fuel your life: the one you have with your place.

staycation-shareable

Stay In Touch

Like what you’ve been reading? Be sure to stay-in-touch, and subscribe to The City Doctor Journal, a weekly e-newsletter with exclusive content, my latest blog posts, and more, delivered straight to your inbox.

SIGN-UP HERE

The “Side Place”

Not every place may suit all your needs.  There are times when people flee their places for one of their “Side Places.” These are places usually different from their home place (ideally, their Place Match) and meet the needs their current place does not meet.  Be it sun, surf, quiet, mountains, different culture, adventure, etc.

In a new place-centric reality, this world of tourism and Side Places is also changing.  I often say that the #1 customer for any tourism campaign is its residents. If your residents don’t see themselves and its place in your campaign, you’ve already gone off the rails in creating an authentic campaign, which is key today to making it effective.

But travelers are looking for more place experience.  From the popularity of real home lodging services like Airbnb to the reviewing of places as destinations (beyond attractions, restaurants and hotels) on travel sites, experiencing the place like a resident is the most highly sought travel experience these days.

So it’s okay if you have one Side Place (or more).  This could be a place you see every vacation, because that’s what vacation means to you. Alternatively, maybe vacation is an excuse to try someplace new.  That’s okay, too.  No one place will likely fulfill all of your needs forever, and a Side Place doesn’t mean you’ll leave your place. Or maybe it does.

Maybe. Just maybe you’ll stay in your place for vacation.  Maybe you are still dating your place to discover if you’re in your Place Match and vacation gives you some time to explore.  Maybe you’ve recently married your Place Match and are still in your honeymoon phase.  Or maybe budgets or work schedules are tight and a staycation is all that is in the cards.  Perfectly fine, as well.  Hopefully your place will provide wonderful opportunities for you to discover your place so your bond grows deeper.

But if you have a Side Place (for whatever reason), don’t panic.  It may feel like you are cheating on your place but there may be very good reasons for this Side Place, so let me help you navigate your split loyalty:

  1. Some places cannot fulfill all of your needs. You can’t make a beach or mountain appear where there just isn’t one. So maybe you need a glimpse of something else to still appreciate what you have at home without bitterness.
  2. We all need an escape. Side Places are often an escape.  Nothing serious.  Just an opportunity for a change of scenery and not a reflection of how you feel about your place.
  3. But be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. When you arrive at your Side Place, do you feel more “at home” than at your actual home?  Do you dread going back to your place, or do you miss it with longing, ready to go home? (Mind you, we are talking about how you feel about your place, not going back to work, daily routines, etc.)
  4. If you are traveling to a Side Places because you are thinking of jumping ship, remember you never decide on vacation to make the move. Instead, in addition traveling to those places, perhaps subscribe to the local paper, get to know the leadership and learn about the issues of the place that will be your reality when you are a resident.
  5. Place Matches can change over time. It is unlikely one place will be your Place Match across your lifespan.  So when it is time to move on, have the courage to move on to your next best match.  Nothing does more to diminish your own quality of life than being “stuck in place” (like feeling stuck in any relationship) so make sure you act in your own best interest as much as possible to live your best life.

Dating Your Place

dating-your-place_social-feature

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it is the perfect time to reflect on the dates that we’ve been on (both good and bad dates). Ones where we feel an immediate and lasting connection. And ones where we know right away (or pretty soon) that we never will. It’s not necessarily because the person is a good or bad. But more of the result of how much compatibility — that seed of belonging — we feel when we are with them.

Same is true for places. You have to get to know a place to determine if it is the place for you. And your conclusion is not necessarily a judgment about the place, but rather its compatibility with you.

In my book, Place Match: The City Doctor’s Guide to Finding Where You Belong, I provide some tips in dating your place. Here is a preview:

  1. Date it for a while before making a commitment. Shotgun weddings are often shaky at best. Research indicates that people’s attachment to a place can generally first peaks at the 3-5 year mark. So take your time, if you can, in getting to know the place before making a permanent financial or personal commitment. You may not even make it to the 3 year mark if you determine early on that it’s not the place for you.  No need to string each other along.
  2. Don’t decide while on vacation. This is like eloping to Vegas when you’re still in the early stages of dating. Again, not generally advisable. Being a vacationer in a place, even over many trips over time, is going to be much different than living there.  Ask any vacationer turned resident.
  3. Don’t choose potential place partners based on top 10 lists. Online dating is an option, but the profiles only represent one data point. So these top 10 lists of “best places to [fill in the blank]” are also just one data point on your search.  Remember, a place that looks good on paper (ranks highly), is only truly good if it feels right to you. The data crunchers may or may not be measuring things that would make a world of difference to you living there.
  4. In general, we feel the highest sense of belonging and attachment to places where we enjoy: (1) the opportunities for positive social interaction, (2) the physical attractiveness with the place, and (3) where we feel accepted to be ourselves. Notice how those three factors aren’t really that different than the top things we often look for in a partner.
  5. Do get to know the good and the bad about your place. As Dr. Phil says: “Never marry anyone until you’ve seen them with the flu.” You have to also know the “bless your heart” moments about your place to see if you still feel the willingness to love it anyway and even help it through the rough spots.
  6. On a related point, don’t seek perfection in your place. No relationship is perfect.  No relationship is perfect.  No place is perfect. Or goal with our relationship with place is similar to our goal with our partner: resilience.  Bad days, stresses and challenges are inevitable, but how well do you bounce back together is the true test.  If resentments build, challenges are not satisfactorily solved, or connection is lost, then a sustained relationship is less likely.
  7. Notice how you feel in the place. As humans we take cues from our environment constantly and draw conclusions as a result. We either feel like we thrive, belong, are accepted and just feel good in the presence of people and places that we are compatible with.
  8. Be ok with a “for now” Place Match as you’re dating. The truth is our needs in our relationships can change over time as we change, grow and experience over time. Some places are a just a better match for a fresh college graduate, while others are much more aligned for families with young children or seniors.  Sometimes one place can be “the one” for you through all your life stages.  But more often than not, it won’t be. So realize that your Place Match may change over time.
  9. It’s ok to have a “side place.” I’m going to tread carefully here in making parallel comparisons to our relationships with people. But not every place may suit all of your needs.  I often hear people say that they are having an affair with another city, perhaps seasonally or as they prepare to make the leap to another place.  This happens so don’t be surprised if it happens to you.
  10. Even after you marry your place, date nights with your place are critical for the bond of belonging to endure. Relationships have to be worked on and invested in to survive. Date nights with your place can help in keeping that connection alive and also serve as a good litmus test on how well the relationship is going in general.

People have really responded positively to this idea of “dating your place”.  So much so that the Date Your Place app and related products are in the works! Residents like the idea because it gives importance to the very important decision of where you’ll live and gives a roadmap to the process.  Leaders also like the idea because it presents an easy framework for understanding some sometimes complex place concepts, while encouraging them to ask some important questions: What is our dating profile as a place? Loveable? Struggles to put itself out there? Hard to get to know? Presenting a false front that creates a “bait and switch” feel to residents? Good on paper but not in real life execution?

Our relationship with place is among the most important of our lives.  For it will affect every aspect of our lives.  So give this decision the thought and consideration it deserves by effectively dating your place before making the commitment.

dating-place_green

Sign-up for email updates!

* indicates required



Realtor.com features PLACE MATCH

I was recently featured on REALTOR.COM, talking about my new book, PLACE MATCH. You can read the full article or an excerpt below.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to find the right place?

First, create a wish list for the place you want. What kind of place are you seeking, given where you are in your life—kid-friendly, retiree destination, walkable, cultural offerings, quintessential experiences that you crave? Just as we know the kind of person we are seeking as a partner, we should know the kind of place where we would thrive.

Next, spend some time there—date your place. And just like you should probably see your potential life partner with the flu before you marry, you have to learn about the challenges of the place. What are the issues the place is facing? Do you love it enough to want to help, or at least accept it, warts and all?

A Tale of Two Cities: Perception vs. Reality in Place

You may have seen my Facebook/Twitter posting on The Miami Foundation’s launch of its project, Our Miami: Soul of the City.  This important project takes on the Herculean task of cross walking the Soul of the Community perception data with real life administrative data to see if perception matches reality in Miami-Dade County.

The Foundation plans on using these findings as a guide to help inform their own funding, strategy and mobilization efforts and engage the community, particularly around young talent recruitment and retention.

I am proud to have been part of the project team and am excited it’s finally launched!

Many times, people’s perceptions of their place don’t match the reality.  Sometimes, different groups – by race/ethnicity, age, income levels, etc. – can experience the place radically differently.  Many of our places are experiencing a “tale of two cities.”

So where do you focus? And what do you fund?  Working in the Foundation world for over 10 years now and being a community practitioner for about 17 years, I know these are questions that come up again and again because differentiating perception vs. reality is basic to all of the work.

Fact is, people make all sorts of important decisions based on their perceptions – and many of these decisions have significant economic implications. Decisions about where to live, who to vote for, what laundry detergent to buy, etc. are all based on perceptions.  The field of behavioral economics is about this, well, reality.

Placemaking requires us to work both sides of the equation. That’s one of the reasons I applaud The Miami’s Foundation efforts.  All placemaking research – or benchmarking or community indicators projects – should have both perception (public opinion) and reality (administrative data) components.  One without the other only tells part of the story – both combine to give a true perception of place and person within environment.

I think you start with gauging perceptions.  Because it is these perceptions that will be the basis of daily decisions that will affect your place. In Our Miami, we had this perception data thanks to the Knight Soul of the Community findings.  But then we needed corresponding administrative data.

I knew finding administrative data that matched the public opinion data would be difficult.  (What’s the administrative data equivalent to openness? Hate crimes? Or for aesthetics? Tree canopy? Or social capital? Local memberships?) But going through this exercise with the Foundation and our data partner, Florida International University, I saw first hand our imperative need to update our place measures if we are to be effective in our efforts.  Sometimes we had great cross walk indicators, sometimes we had to get creative in our indicators and sometimes we simply had nothing reliable to use.  Take a look and see how we did.

In the Fall, The Miami Foundation will seek proposals and fund $500,000 worth of ideas coming out of this project.  My bet is what will be funded will be a combination of celebrating what Miami is getting right, moving perceptions to match reality where people are harder on the place than the facts show, and investing in the place to move administrative data needles to live up to the perceptions Miamians currently have.

And Miami will be better for it.

 

The Ticking Clock: Place Attachment Through the Years

In a meeting with a Mayor a year or so ago, we were discussing the imperative of community attachment.  Talking about new residents and the ticking clock for integrating them in the community fabric before you lose them.

“So how long do I have, doc?,” Mr. Mayor asked me, what I think he thought was a rhetorical question.

Everyone laughed.

“Looks like around 5 years,” I answered.

Everybody stopped laughing.

“You know that?,” someone asked.

“Well, we are seeing it pretty consistently in the data so far,” I answered.

We found that community attachment generally peaks at the 3-5 year mark and then drops off, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.  And when attachment drops, two things can result: people leave or people stay with their disenchantment showing up in big and little ways.

Why does attachment drop after 5 years and even more pronounced after 20 years?  I asked folks as I traveled around.  The 6-10 year residents talked about things there no longer fitting their needs or not liking the current direction the place seems to be going. The 10-20 year folks generally said that the place just isn’t what it used it be.

Seems to me that the attachment drop with these two groups comes from two basic sources:

(1)  community change and development not well managed, not well supported and ultimately not well received (not ok)

and

(2)  a place that’s a match for you in your first 5 years, may not be in the next 5 or 10 years (probably ok).

Communities have to change to stay current, vibrant and modern.  To evolve their narratives as places, be innovative and roll with the punches.

But I’m a big believer that you don’t (and can’t) attach people at any cost.  Frankly, places should be able balance attachment with mobility: “we want you here as long as you want to be here and we are a match for you by being the best us we can be.”

If people can’t attach to your place by it being the best it can be, then they can leave to their greater match – or they can stay feeling little to no love for your place.

Have you been to a place where a large group of people aren’t attached to it?  It affects the community dynamics and capacity of that place at almost every level.

Fact is: unloved communities do not thrive as well.

Recognize the current reality that at around the 5 year mark residents typically experience their highest level of attachment. Of course, there are some outliers.  In a few places, we saw the newest residents have the highest level of attachment, meaning people showed up there ready to love it. In a few other places, the lifelong residents are the most attached.

All of these are unique gifts for the community to leverage for their best advantage. But no matter where the attachment peak is in your place, the goal is to maintain close to that level through effective place change management, honoring place identity, and mobility.

 

Soul Renewal Via Newfoundland

VIRDIS, a place branding company in Newfoundland, did a blog post on Soul of the Community recently.  From the VIRDIS homepage:

from Virdis Branding

Interesting conceptualization of their niche in the placemaking world.

Here’s the post that introduces how they are using Soul of the Community and placemaking principles as their work as a company for a place evolves: http://virdisbranding.com/place-matters/.

It never ceases to amaze me that over two years since the last data collection in 2010, Soul of the Community continues to be cited and talked about by so many around the world.  It’s still being rediscovered every day.  An almost daily ‘Soul renewal,’ if you will.

Yet, I can understand the captivation. As I said in my soon to be released TEDx speech in Long Beach, it has transformed the way that I too think about place.  I started the project as a social capitalist and ended as a placemaker.

Telling the Placemaking Story With Data: Two Simple Tips

Thank you, first of all, for at least clicking the title and being willing to read this post.  I know data presentation strategies may not light you up with excitement.  But if you are in the placemaking field, it’s an area that you have to be pretty sophisticated about if you are going to tell a placemaking story effectively, whether you like it or not. So in return for you agreeing to read this, I promise to try to not get too convoluted and detailed.  Just two quick tips that you can use today to prep for your next place talk tomorrow.

First and foremost, the word “causes.”  Don’t use it. Any academic – and many journalists these days – will seize on you using it and make you pay.  Because I guarantee you, no matter how great your placemaking research is, you are not justified in saying it.

When you say “causes” using social science data, you are saying that you are able to prove that one thing (or a number of things) causes another to happen. You have:

  • rejected other explanations,
  • identified all the things that make the other happen,
  • studied the phenomena with enough people that you can generalize the finding with relative certainty, and
  • this is a biggie for us placemakers – accumulated enough data over time to know the temporal ordering of the relationship – that is, what comes first to make the other happen.

No, you haven’t.

We will never really establish causation in the real world, only in the laboratory if we are really, really lucky and follow the strictest of guidelines and even then some will be dubious of your causal claim. We don’t work in a lab anyway—we work in the real world of place.

Most of the time, especially when we are early on in the research discovery process, we start with correlations.  Simply stated, a correlation is a relationship between two things – where you find one (say, community attachment), you find another (say, local economic growth).  Does that mean attachment causes growth? Nope. Could there be more to the story? Undoubtedly. Other things about the place could be also be (read as: will likely be) affecting that relationship.  For example, cities that have high attachment that are also innovative may experience even higher levels of local economic growth than those that don’t have that combination. Testing this would require more sophisticated research models than a simple correlation.

And we always have to get more sophisticated. We have to remember that correlations should only be a starting point in research. It’s an important step, but a first step just the same.

Yet, even with the most sophisticated models (to find all the variables affecting the relationship) and with years and years of data (to establish temporal ordering of events with enough numbers of people), the best we can really say is that one thing (say, attachment) is the leading indicator to another (say, local economic growth).

We are not there yet.

So if the word “causes” is out, what can you say when you find a correlation? Well, many things.  Using the Soul of the Community example, “attachment is associated with local economic growth”.  Or “there is a relationship between attachment and local economic growth”. Or “where you find higher levels of attachment you usually find higher levels of local economic growth” (depending on the strength of the correlation).

But as former VP of Communications at Knight Foundation once told me, “That sounds so much more wordy, jargony, awkward and well, frankly, disappointing than just saying attachment causes local economic growth.”  Yes, it does.  But stand firm. It’s always a balance in what social science research rules say we can say (and not overstate our case) and our exuberance over an exciting new finding in a developing field, when credibility is key.

Secondly, sometimes no change in findings from one year to the next is a huge discovery.  Having a finding stand the test of time means you have been able to replicate the finding, even if it’s just a simple, yet all important correlation.

In 2009, when the Soul findings showed that social offerings, aesthetics and openness were most related to resident attachment AND the average attachment levels across the 26 places held, I was thrilled.  When we had our team meeting to discuss some asked, “what’s newsworthy about this story when it’s the same as last year?”

Don’t fall in that trap of thinking that something you already told ‘em last year isn’t news this year.  Considering what happened to the economy in the places we studied, the fact that those main things held AND that attachment levels didn’t plummet in every place was very important.  It provided further evidence that attachment to place was not as much about local economies, but instead these “softer” things about a place.

Gallup said that the 2009 economy gave the Soul of the Community model “its biggest test” and the findings held and held again in 2010.  And because we framed the findings as no new news is big news, the story was huge and got a lot of play.

Data presentations in any social science field can be tricky.  As placemakers, we have more eyes on us lately as some of our discoveries can be counterintuitive to some and groundbreaking to many.  Having a balance of orator, researcher, practitioner and public relations skills helps – so do multidisciplinary teams to provide the checks and balances needed between proper scientific discovery and just shouting “Eureka!”

Us and Them: Thoughts on Placemaking and Tourism

I’m often asked if tourism and placemaking can really coexist in a place. It’s an important question as many destination cities and wannabe destination cities depend on visitors to supplement or as the backbone to their economy. But often building place for “them” comes at the expense of place for “us.”

Indeed tourism is ALL about a sense of place. People can get generic attractions in a lot of places so the question becomes why would they come to your place to vacation OR is building all those features just happening at the expense of place? Visitors want a place experience these days, not just attractions. And best tourism strategies are capitalizing on that trend.

There are places that have realized they sold out their sense of place for tourism. We all could name some. Now residents don’t use the amenities that bring the visitors there, like the beach for example, because that’s for visitors and it’s an atmosphere that residents don’t really want to be a part of. But at the same time, they don’t know who they are without those defining amenities. Yet, they certainly don’t want to bite the economic hand that feeds them. It’s a tough spot.

This is what happens when you do old school tourism at the expense of place. Now they have to work hard at keeping the visitors coming, getting local talent to stay and stop residents from leaving. They are getting hit on all fronts. And there is deep regret that is hard to undo.

Fact is the staycation is probably one of the few bright spots in the economic fallout. Many people can’t afford to go somewhere else for vacation and have to rediscover their own place. Cities that are placecentric are reaping the rewards of this and the attachment of their residents often increases. (“Hey, I didn’t know we have this. This is great! Beats the TSA line…”). Not only that, attached residents are asking others to come visit them there so they can show off their place. Realize this trend and focus on the staycation as a new economic revenue stream. But remember, doing it right means complementing the place, not working against it.

If you know your narrative, capitalize on it through the physical landscape and culture of the place and communicate that effectively and broadly, you inherently become a more interesting place to visit in today’s market. Remember, today people seem to want more of a full place experience, not just attractions. Take a look at the comments on Trip Advisor page for any place and you’ll see people evaluating destinations much more comprehensively these days.

Just as your narrative is the basis from which all good placemaking ideas come, not seeing the connection between tourism and place will be a critical flaw from which all bad ideas will come. Not to mention the pushback from residents if development primarily for tourists jeopardizes sense of place and to then add insult to injury, it does not necessarily mean tourists will be more attracted to come. You will have just felt like you sold your place’s soul for not much return. And nothing good comes from that.

Why Don’t I Love Living Here (When Placemakers Say I Should…)?

Recently, I was asked to weigh in on the current conversation sparked by this piece that called into question Richard Florida’s Creative Class Theory and the subsequent response from Mr. Florida.  One of the underlying issues the interaction brings up is how a place can have all the right things on a placemaker’s checklist and people show up there and still not love it.  As Mr. Bures states in Thirty Two:

“…this brought us to Madison, Wisconsin. It wasn’t too far from our families. It had a stellar reputation. And for the Midwest, it possessed what might pass for cachet. It was liberal and open-minded. It was a college town. It had coffee shops and bike shops. Besides, it had been deemed a “Creative Class” stronghold by Richard Florida…”

Here’s the thing.  I’m going to say it, because it’s a critical point.  You can go to a city that you should love and find that you just don’t.  Just because the city is welcoming, invests heavily in public art, has a great downtown, prides itself on its parks, and innovates to attract young talent doesn’t mean that everybody that shows up there (even a placemaking disciple) is going to love it.

Because all places are not, should not, and cannot be the same.

The Knight Soul of the Community Project found that social offerings, aesthetics and openness matter most in attaching people to where they live.  But just having those things is not enough.  It is the city’s unique interpretation of those aspects of a place that draws you in and connects you (or not) to the city’s soul or identity as a place. And you just know when it happens for you.

Take me for example. I just moved from Miami back to my home state of North Carolina.  I lived in Miami for 10 years.  I gave it every shot, but I couldn’t sustain attachment to it really.  And no one could argue that Miami doesn’t have all the requirements on paper to be a great place to live by the placemaker’s standards: social offerings, openness and aesthetics out the wazoo.  And goodness knows I want to live in a place that adheres to the placemaking best practice model.

Yet, it didn’t work for me, especially now, as the parent of a 5 year old.  I needed a different take on social offerings, openness and aesthetics.  I needed less high-rise building living and more neighborhood for my aesthetics. I needed less party all night on South Beach and more farmers market for my social offerings.  I needed not as much 10,000 languages being spoken and more hometown civility for my openness.

Which brings me to this.  Even when you are attached to the place, it doesn’t mean you love everything about it or you love everything much more than other residents who aren’t attached to it.  In the Knight Soul Project, we found the difference between attached and not attached residents is their ratings of social offerings, openness and aesthetics.  Both groups rate safety, for example, similarly. So in that case we are pretty comfortable in saying that perception of social offerings, openness and aesthetics about a place drive attachment versus when you’re attached you just love everything about the place – because that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m always asked for examples of what other places are doing, and I keep a ready supply.  (Keep me posted of what I should know about by emailing me here.) But I always start by saying: “These ideas are for inspiration not replication.”  We just can’t look on each other’s paper in doing placemaking.  We have to do our own work.  Because unless a placemaking idea is adapted for our particular place, it can feel, well, out of place (pun intended) to residents.

Instead ask the question: what is our city’s unique take on social offerings, aesthetics, or community culture of openness? And to do that, you need to know the identity and narrative of your place.  But that’s another blog…