Towards Equitable Placemaking: Incorporating Adaptive Reuse for Cultural Sustainability
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This capstone project aims to explore the current framework of creative placemaking and its critiques to envision equitable urban development through adaptive reuse that respects the past, honors the present, and imagines a sustainable future for U.S. cities. Following World War II, thousands of city properties were abandoned during suburbanization causing widespread blight and vacancies. Urban living has become popular again due to the rise of the Creative Class, inspiring governmental agencies and arts organizations to utilize creative placemaking as an economic development tool to revitalize city neighborhoods. But with creative placemaking comes consequences of displacement for marginalized populations due to increased property values, globalized aesthetics, and social and cultural transformations. How can the intrinsic benefits of creative placemaking be supported equally to its economic prosperity in order make placemaking both sustainable and equitable? This research proposes the incorporation of adaptive reuse into placemaking initiatives to alleviate displacement of marginalized communities following the four Pillars of Sustainability—economic, environmental, social, and most importantly, cultural. It is also important to consider our everyday lexicon and imagine new terminology that supports equitable practices, such as placekeeping instead of placemaking to provide a sense of belonging within a community. Case studies were conducted between The ARTery in Milwaukee, WI and Activating Vacancy in Dallas, TX in order to analyze equitable placemaking processes and purposes, while also examining their sustainability impact on surrounding neighborhoods. While there is no solution for gentrification yet, policy changes, attitude shifts, and economic incentives for adaptive reuse in placemaking can support sustainable communities.