Encouraging nostalgia toward a specific city spot is both a nice idea and an opportunity for community growth.

Encouraging nostalgia toward a specific city spot is both a nice idea and an opportunity for community growth.

You know that favorite street corner or part of Downtown that just makes you smile when you pass through it, or even entices you to slow down and stop to enjoy it? That's placemaking, and it's not just another pretty face, says internationally known community development consultant Peter Kageyama.

Good placemaking "actually encourages us to come back and linger or shop there, smile and feel good about it, even as we momentarily pass through it," Kageyama says. The emotional attachment placemaking creates can even elevate a community's ability to attract and retain its desired workforce, he says. As such, placemaking is increasingly recognized by the broader business community as an important economic development tool, he adds.

Columbus' two Downtown-area special improvement districts, Capital Crossroads and Discovery District, featured a keynote by Kageyama during their joint annual meeting in November. He is an Akron native and author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and a follow-up book, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places.

Columbus examples of good placemaking range from as large in scope as Easton Town Center to as specific a site as a Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Scoop Shop. "That's a placemaking institution. I see a line out the door on a summer night," with people then taking their treats to a nearby bench or strolling through the adjacent area while they eat, Kageyama explains in an interview before his SIDs presentation.

Placemaking as huge as Easton "is a rare opportunity. Most of the time it is going to be on a very small scale, one building at a time," Kageyama says. "There is something competitive about it as well," he adds. "I'm still in shock every time I go to the Short North because I remember what it was. Now I'm starting to see things happen back into the neighborhood."

Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of Capital Crossroads and Discovery District, sees placemaking as "a form of enlightened self-interest." Businesses and individuals will pay more "to be in locations that make them feel good, important, inspired," he says. That's a reason the SIDs have accented Capital Square with oversize planters designed to complement the Statehouse and are working to improve Lynn and Pearl alleys, "our little piece of Paris," he says.

Next up-the Discovery District. That SID is holding meetings with area residents, businesses and students, "asking them to tell us how they view and value that neighborhood," Ricksecker says. Then Columbus urban design firm MKSK will suggest projects to "express those values," he says.

As an example of a successful placemaking project, Ricksecker points to the Short North arches. "It's really interesting to see what happens when you celebrate a place. The arches have generated an investment that might not have happened or might have happened more slowly had they not been installed."