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What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been!

We did it! The #PlacemakingTrain is nearing its final stop after a wild week that took us from Jackson, Mississippi all the way to Hudson, New York with four stops in-between at Chicago (IL), Fort Wayne (IN), Erie (PA) and Rochester (NY).
Trip Highlights
We stopped in Jackson, Mississippi  to attend and speak at a national Neighborhood Economics conference. The gathering was fabulous with many African American faith leaders exchanging best practices about developing their property to build affordable housing and mixed-use opportunities to their neighborhoods. We learned a lot about capital stacks from incredible projects like the #40AcresAndAMall campaign that rised $60 million in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. Jackson was an ominous backdrop for the conference as the controversial HB 1020 bill  has setup a separate justice and police system for Jackson's black residents, being deemed as new Jim Crow laws. In attendance were PlacemakingUS friends, Joe Minicozzi of Urban3, David Erickson, SVP of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and Tim Soerens of Parish Collective who helps put the conference on.
We had a brief 12-hour stop in Chicago, Illinois where we got off The City of New Orleans train and onto the eastbound Lakeshore Express. At this midpoint in the trip, we said farewell to Ethan Kent from PlacemakingX who had ridden the rails with us all the way from Atlanta and we welcomed Evan Snow of Zero Empty Spaces, who joined for the rest of the trip. We checked out some of the city's grand architecture, park spaces and public art and had a delicious lunch with architect and placemaker, Katherine Darnstadt, who filled us in on all of the local efforts.
It's not possible to convey here all the wonder and charm we encountered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We were welcomed by active placemakers in the arts, economic development and place management led by the wunderbar woman of Fort Wayne, Cornelia Schulz. She took us downtown to meet with the Downtown Improvement District, tour the murals in the "Double plus," a network of placemade alleys that are part of downtown's shiny Gehl-produced public space plan. We were impressed by the work of local curator, artist and placemaker, Alex Hall, whose touch could be felt everywhere we went downtown. Another impressive site was the Electric Works district, a $600 million adaptive re-use of Fort Wayne's General Electric office campus (Schenectady, take note). Chapman's Brewing Company Owner and Union Street Public Market boardmember, Scott Fergusson gave us the gold star treatment with a rooftop tour, visit to soon-to-be-built-out spaces and treated us to lunch at Seoul Kitchen, an authentic local restaurant with great food that previously had a less desirable location than in the new market. Other Fort Wayne treats included the Open Walls mural practice area, speaking with local leaders at Wunderkammer Company We were very grateful to Dan Swartz who took us to the North East Indiana Regional Partnership, took us to Johnny Appleseed's Grave, broke bread at the Old Gashouse Restaurant, admired architecture of Eero Saarinen, drove us after midnight to the train station, which was a solid 30 minutes from lovely Fort Wayne.
In Erie, they did a better job covering our trip than we coud, we even made the local TV news. In addition, here's what Erie Arts & Culture head, Patrick Fisher, had to say about our visit which happened to fall on his last day at the post before moving on to take the helm at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council: "In the summer of 2021, PlacemakingUS visited Erie, as part of their Roadtrip to Recovery. They were touring the nation to meet community builders and to learn how cities were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and what their plans were for funds slated to be distributed through the American Rescue Plan. We had the pleasure of leading their tour in Erie and introducing them to a number of community partners.

Today, we welcomed back Ryan Smolar of PlacemakingUS. He was accompanied by Evan Snow of Zero Empty Spaces, an organization that creates affordable artist studios in vacant storefronts. On my last day as Executive Director of EAC, it was great to lead them around the city and provide an overview of what we’ve been up to over the past two years. We also made sure we showcased the work of community partners.

The East Side Renaissance spoke about the investments they’re making along Parade Street. While on Parade Street, we visited Kraus Department Store to discuss the important role they play in the community. We also took a tour of UK Supermarket to congratulate them on 10 years of business and have a conversation about how New American markets provide food access in parts of the city deemed food deserts by the US Census.

The United Way of Erie County provided an overview of the work they’ve been leading through Erie’s community schools and how they see education as one of the critical pathways to resolving poverty. Together, we spoke of the Safer Walking Routes to School and what we have been collaboratively working to achieve through a large-scale mural initiative. We visited the Remnant Store and Judie Pentz talked about what the mural on her building has meant to her and how it’s increased their business.

Erie Downtown Partnership shared their vision as a Business Improvement District for Downtown Erie. They highlighted some of the initiatives they’re pursuing to activate downtown and make it a destination.

And finally, FEED Media Art Center gave a tour of their ambitious and inspiring adaptive reuse project, during which Noté Peter George gave us a preview of the work he’s created during his EAC residency with FEED."

Let's Meetup After?

Can't catch the train? Let's converge at one of these upcoming events/festivals or let us know what's happening in your neck of the woods!

Join us at:
Photos for this newsletter contributed by Evan Snow, Zero Empty Spaces.
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