As the focus of the Gateway Planning efforts for the Downtown Owensboro Placemaking initiative move toward implementation, a common question often emerges. How does placemaking impact economic development?
Certainly a revival of any downtown generates economic activity through tourism, retail, and even residential developments, but the real impact is not necessarily about the economic activity, although that is critical. It is fundamentally about talent attraction and leveraging the urbanism in the downtown to distinguish the region from "everytown USA."
Christopher Leinberger says it very well in his recent book, The Option of Urbanism. "All the fancy economic development 'flavors of the month' do not hold a candle to the power of a great walkable urban place. Place-based strategies that create walkable urbanism will attract the broad spectrum of talent required to build a great and vibrant economy. Build a great place, offering the choice of many ways of living, including all kinds of drivable suburban and walkable urban options, and they will come-- young entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists, the skilled technicians, and the school teachers" (170).
Ultimately the Downtown Placemaking initiative is about creating an environment that attracts talented people of all ages.