At Southwest, we are in the business of connecting people to what’s important in their lives. Often, the important moments that happen during those connections include a special place—somewhere that has meaning, that brings people together, that creates a sense of belonging and a sense of community. It takes effort and a process to create great public places like neighborhood parks, community gardens or downtown squares. And it’s called Placemaking.
You may wonder why Southwest Airlines would be talking about Placemaking. After hearing of an organization called Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and learning about the work they do with Placemaking and the unique role that the approach plays in creating great public spaces across America, we were intrigued. The Placemaking phenomenon is a crowd sourcing meets urban planning movement; it involves many people in the process. It is the realization that while planners can give a place structure and access, it is the community that gives it heart and vibrancy.
At Southwest, we have always put People first in the decisions we make about our business. And what attracts us to Placemaking is that it, too, puts People first – only in the process of designing and improving public spaces; it is a concept that puts the process and what the People want ahead of the design. We believe that public places are truly the hearts of local communities – the communities where our People call home and where our Customers love to visit. As a result, the idea of creating and revitalizing public places is one that spoke to the heart of who we are.
We wanted to experience this for ourselves, so Southwest collaborated with PPS on two Placemaking projects in Detroit, Mich., and Providence, Rhode Island. In Detroit, we worked with PPS and the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) to create a beach in Campus Martius to serve as a fun and relaxing community gathering place for workers, families and children. In Providence, we worked with the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy to create a fun destination for arts and crafts and interactive play to bring the local community together and help enrich activities in Burnside Park.
Through our work with PPS we have seen firsthand how public places have the power to revitalize local communities – generating pride and a sense of belonging that translates into greater community engagement, economic development, and increased quality of life. And we strongly believe that Placemaking is a social movement that needs to reach the mainstream.
Today, MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning released pioneering research on Placemaking. MIT’s new research, which proves the power of Placemaking in strengthening communities across the country, will help the Placemaking concept reach the mainstream. Southwest is proud to have helped make this research possible, and we look forward to continue to see the Placemaking approach and emphasis on putting communities and People first continuing to grow. If you’d like to read the research, “Places in the Making,” go here.