Placemaking Pays Off in the Place and in the Making

Creeque Alley Plein Air

Cheyenne’s Celtic Musical Arts Festival took over Depot Plaza downtown this weekend.  The usual Fridays on the Plaza offered up high-octane Celtic grunge leading up to a romping good time with Celtic Americana of The Elders, a favorite from my KRFC days.  Put together some food, some music, some folk art and even some weekend rain couldn’t keep the crowds away.

The Elders in Cheyenne

Us community development types call this sort of thing “Placemaking“:

The concepts behind placemaking originated in the 1960s, when writers like Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte offered groundbreaking ideas about designing cities that catered to people, not just to cars and shopping centers. Their work focused on the importance of lively neighborhoods and inviting public spaces…

Placemaking is both design and management.  Here in Cheyenne, the Depot Plaza is a fairly new place, carved out of half a square block of parking during a 2001-2006 renovation of the historic (1886) Union Depot.  This block itself once was the location of the Burlington railroad depot, and later the bus depot.  Where once people gathered to come and go, today they gather on the Square for all sorts of festivities, from New Years Eve to the big Kiwanis pancake feed for Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Cheyenne Depot Square

The Depot Plaza is a place, and it has been made, but there is constant making to be done to keep it a safe and vital part of the community.  As the Project for Public Spaces explains:

Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces. More than just creating better urban design of public spaces, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of activities and connections (cultural, economic, social, ecological) that define a place and support its ongoing evolution…


I expect that the rank and file residents of my community (and yours) don’t call this sort of thing anything.  Its the sort of thing−the place, and the event−that most folks don’t miss if its not there.  But when it is there, a well designed community space invites activity, and the activity provides value to the space.  Its not easy, but when it is done right it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Kudos to a few of the people Placemaking in Downtown Cheyenne:


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