What is Sustainable Placemaking?

Sustainable Placemaking is about the transformation of the City of Pickering from a suburban community to a sustainable city.

It's about transforming the City into a unique place that celebrates its past, capitalizes on its existing attributes and assets, while planning for today and future generations. It does not rely on conventional planning processes - the journey to achieve a truly sustainable city requires new and innovative ways of doing business. Sustainable Placemaking is one of Pickering's 5 Corporate Priorities.

Sustainable Placemaking addresses two interrelated areas of interest:

a) Building a Sustainable City, and
b) Living and Working in a Sustainable City.

Graphic:  Building a Sustainable City and Living and Working in a Sustainable City


The City's approach to Sustainable Placemaking is founded on 10 Principles:

1. Draw on the expertise of the community
It is essential to recognize the talents and assets within the community. Residents and business people know about the history of certain places, how they function from day to day, what is important to preserve, and what needs to change. Some of these knowledgeable people are not those who regularly participate in public consultation exercises, and the City needs to seek out their knowledge. Sustainable placemaking begins with fact-finding conversations with those who know and use a place.
2. Encourage collaboration at all levels 
The City cannot carry out placemaking on its own. Partners are needed at every stage to bring about change and contribute new ideas. Partners may include members of local organizations or community groups, those working in community institutions, builders, developers, landowners and business owners and many others. The earlier these partners are involved in the process, the better.
3. Go beyond design codes; pay attention to function, appearance, and experience
Placemaking is not a matter of simply following design guidelines. What looks good on paper may not work on the ground. Guidelines represent best practices, but best practices from elsewhere may not respond to the specific requirements and opportunities of a particular place in Pickering. Placemaking is as much about exceptions as it is about rules. Keep asking: Is it beautiful? Is it comfortable? Is it welcoming and accessible to all? Do people want to use the space?
4. Aim for zero impact as the ideal, in carbon and other footprints
In making each decision, choose the path that will lead to the best environmental outcome in the long term. Consider: Will this choice reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Encourage people to walk instead of drive? Improve air or water quality? Reduce consumption and waste? Lower the use of non-renewable energy sources? Contribute to residents' health? Since we need to live within the constraints of our planet, it's important to keep the size of Pickering's ecological footprint as small as possible.
5. Design and plan for people
In making each decision, choose the one that will increase social interaction, that will be inclusive rather than exclusive, that offers opportunities for encounters and conversations. The City of Pickering's public spaces (parks, streets, sidewalks, open spaces) should be welcoming to people of all ages and all cultures. This means paying attention to seating, safety, sightlines, noise levels, pathways, sun, shade, and shelter, and all the other details that make people feel comfortable in public.
6. Strive to make Pickering a distinctive community
Placemaking is about creating memorable spaces that people associate with a specific location. It is about respecting geography (the lake, the creeks, the farmlands, the hills) and history (Pickering's pioneer, industrial, and civic heritage). Every place in Pickering should be recognizably part of the City, distinguishable from other places and cities.
7. Adapt to change
The world is constantly changing. Some changes we can predict, such as the gradual aging of the population. Others we cannot always foresee, such as sudden economic shifts. Still others we are only just beginning to understand, like climate change and the impact of new technologies. The best way to cope with change in the face of uncertainty is to monitor actions and interventions, and use the information to shape future decisions.
8. Learn by doing: use pilot projects and experiments to test new ideas
Because change is occurring quickly, there is little time to create elaborate plans that may be out of date by the time they are made public. A more flexible way to respond is to keep experimenting with programs and policies to find out what works and what doesn't. Sometimes all that is needed are small tweaks and adjustments over time. Sometimes the changes need to be bold and rapid to seize unique opportunities. Some experiments will be more successful than others, but the only failed experiment is the one that was never tried.
9. Keep moving in the right direction; the journey will never be finished
Because change is constant, there is never a point at which everything is perfect, finished, complete, although improvements can be seen over time. Sustainable Placemaking is a journey, not a destination.
10. Strive always to achieve the greater public good
Great places are built by the community and for the community. Meeting our current needs must not compromise the needs of future generations.