top of page

Exploring America's Best: A Year in Place-Making Review

Traveling across the country this past year, I've witnessed firsthand how cities and towns creatively shape their identities. From South Bend's innovative recreational spaces to Detroit's artistic endeavors, each place reveals a story of resilience, diversity, and community. The transformation of public spaces in South Bend, the culinary diversity of Syracuse, New York, Omaha's indie music scene, Philadelphia's nurturing of artists, and Detroit's revitalization efforts each offer a unique narrative.

These cities have impressed me with their attractions and left a lasting impact through their efforts to foster community and bring people together. As I share my experiences, I hope to convey the essence of each city, highlighting how they have become some of my favorite places and the stories they tell.

Image of Howard Park courtesy of

South Bend, Indiana: Recreation and Community

Howard Park in South Bend is a prime example of urban revitalization. A new man-made kayaking course, the East Race Waterway, has become a popular destination, creating a lively atmosphere in the city center. Other additions, like interactive playgrounds and outdoor event spaces, make the park a community focal point, illustrating South Bend's commitment to enhancing public spaces.

Image from the Salt City Market in Syracuse, NY.

Syracuse, New York: Celebrating Diversity Through Cuisine

The Salt City Market in Syracuse is a hub for celebrating culinary diversity. This market, featuring a variety of ethnic cuisines, showcases the city's multicultural heritage. Integrating shared commercial kitchens and event spaces fosters community and supports local food entrepreneurs, reflecting Syracuse's inclusive spirit and growing diverse population.

Image from the Made in Omaha store, a small, women-owned business dedicated to supporting the Nebraska community.

Omaha, Nebraska: Indie Music and Urban Revitalization

Omaha's connection to indie music, notably through Saddle Creek Records, has significantly influenced its culture. Beyond music, the city’s Millwork Commons district is a model of urban redevelopment, offering workspaces, hosting community events like Hutchfest, and featuring local businesses like Coneflower Creamery and Archetype Coffee. The city's renowned Henry Doorly Zoo, with unique exhibits like the desert dome, also plays a crucial role in community engagement and education.

Image courtesy of Scarlet Hernandez. Scarlet is pictured second from left.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Nurturing Artistic Talent

Philadelphia's REC Philly is an excellent example of a space dedicated to supporting artists. This facility exemplifies the city’s investment in its creative community, offering resources and opportunities for local artists to thrive. Stories like Scarlet Hernandez's involvement with REC Philly highlight how such initiatives can positively impact individual artists and the broader music scene.

Image of Detroit Institute of Arts from

Detroit, Michigan: Supporting Local Entrepreneurs and Culture

Detroit's Livernois Avenue demonstrates the city's focus on economic revitalization and cultural enrichment. Initiatives like Motor City Match empower Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises, fostering a diverse business landscape. The local art museum offers free admission to residents and is another key element in Detroit's cultural scene, making art accessible to a wider audience.

The Winston-Salem Strollway runs 1.2 miles through the southernmost portion of downtown, neighboring Old Salem Museums & Gardens.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Blending Art, Culture, and Cuisine

Winston-Salem's vibrant art district reflects the city’s commitment to cultural enrichment and community engagement. This area is a hub for local artists, offering a rich tapestry of contemporary and traditional art that embodies the city's diverse heritage. Culinary experiences at establishments like Sweet Potatoes showcase the region’s traditional Southern flavors, highlighting the importance of local cuisine in community identity. The enduring presence of the Moravian community further enriches the cultural landscape, preserving historical traditions and contributing to a unique and inclusive urban fabric. These elements exemplify Winston-Salem’s dedication to fostering a culturally vibrant and economically thriving community.

Traveling and immersing myself in different communities has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. This journey across America's cities and towns has been an insightful exploration of how place-making shapes communities. From revitalizing public spaces to nurturing local businesses and artists, I've seen unique approaches that contribute to cities’ distinctive character and sense of belonging. These experiences have been professionally enriching and personally fulfilling, illustrating the profound impact of cultural connections and community engagement in urban and rural development.

I encourage you to explore and engage with your local communities, discovering the places that unite and define them.


Let's Build Vibrant Communities Together

Interested in transforming your community with innovative place-making strategies and sustainable economic development plans? Fourth Economy is here to help. Our team specializes in crafting tailored solutions that bring spaces to life, fostering economic growth and community engagement. Reach out at: [email protected].


bottom of page