How to Make a Great Place– Top 26

Being the tech-savvy Millennials that we are here at RenewLV, I happened upon a tweet from our friends at Sustainable Cities that I felt I had to share with you to get your input.  The folks at Project for Public Spaces authored the initial post, who also happen to have a connection to the Eastern Gateway project in Bethlehem after doing some work here a few years ago.  After taking Rep. Bob Freeman’s class at Lehigh University about growth management and what “place” really means (and passing with high marks, I might add), I found this particular list intriguing.  Put these 26 items into play in your life, and you will have designed a “great place.”

The following list is excerpted from the new e-book How to Design Our World for Happiness, edited by Jay Walljasper and the ace team at On the Commons.

  1. Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions.
  2. Notice how many of life’s pleasures exist outside the marketplace—gardening, fishing, conversing, playing music, playing ball, enjoying nature, and more.
  3. Take time to enjoy what your corner of the world offers (As the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire once declared, “We are bigger than our schedules.”)
  4. Have some fun. The best reason for making great places is that it will enliven all of our lives.
  5. Offer a smile or greeting to people you pass. Community begins with connecting—even in brief, spontaneous ways.
  6. Walk, bike, or take transit whenever you can. It’s good for the environment, but also for you. You make very few friends behind the wheel of your car.
  7. Treat common spaces as if you own them (which, actually, you do). Pick up litter. Keep an eye on the place. Tidy things up. Report problems or repair things yourself. Initiate improvements.
  8. Pull together a potluck. Throw a block party. Form a community choir, slow food club, Friday night poker game, seasonal festival, or any other excuse for socializing.
  9. Get out of the house and spend some time on the stoop, the front yard, the street—anywhere you can be a part of the river of life that flows past.
  10. Create or designate a “town square” for your neighborhood where folks naturally want to gather—a park, playground, vacant lot, community center, coffee shop, or even a street corner.
  11. Lobby for more public benches, water fountains, plazas, parks, sidewalks, bike trails, playgrounds, and other crucial commons infrastructure.
  12. Take matters into your own hands and add a bench to your front yard or transform a vacant lot into a playground.
  13. Conduct an inventory of local commons. Publicize your findings, and offer suggestions for celebrating and improving these community assets.
  14. Organize your neighbors to prevent crime and to defuse the fear of crime, which often dampens a community’s spirits even more than crime itself.
  15. Remember streets belong to everyone, not just automobiles. Drive cautiously and push for traffic calming and other improvements that remind motorists they are not kings of the road.
  16. Buy from local, independent businesses whenever possible.
  17. Form a neighborhood exchange to share everything from lawn mowers to childcare to vehicles.
  18. Barter. Trade your skill in baking pies with someone who will fix your computer.
  19. Join campaigns opposing cutbacks in public assets like transit, schools, libraries, parks, social services, police and fire protection, arts programs, and more.
  20. Write letters to the editor about the importance of community commons, post on local websites, call into talk radio, tell your friends.
  21. Learn from everywhere. What can Copenhagen teach us about bicycles? India about wellness? Africa about community solidarity? Indigenous nations about the commons itself? What bright ideas could be borrowed from a nearby neighborhood or town?
  22. Become a guerrilla gardener, planting flowers and vegetables on neglected land in your neighborhood.
  23. Organize a community garden or local farmer’s market.
  24. Roll up your sleeves to restore a creek, wetland, woods, or grasslands.
  25. Form a study group to explore what can be done to improve your community.
  26. Think yourself as a local patriot and share your enthusiasm.

To be honest, I think some residents of the Lehigh Valley already do many of these, which is why the Lehigh Valley is such a wonderful place!  But we want to know what you think.  Anything you would add to the list or take off?  What would you recommend we focus on first and foremost to make the Lehigh Valley an even better place?

You can also share your thoughts for the future of this great “place” by visiting

Posted on July 18, 2013, in Neighborhoods and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good list! And it’s great to see many folks here are already practicing some of these, as you suggested.

    It’s hard to disagree with any of the 26 points, but some of them don’t go far enough.

    I think the warning in #1 (‘Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions’) could be stronger — even if such a solution is possible, it may be a band-aid when what we need is to fix the system.

    #6 (‘Walk, bike, or take transit whenever you can. It’s good for the environment, but also for you. You make very few friends behind the wheel of your car.’) winds up emphasizing meeting people, but doesn’t mention the important health reasons. And it’s not just about exercise: we have a serious problem with air pollution here in the Lehigh Valley, much of it coming from vehicles. You only have to look at the endless stream of vehicles, most containing only the driver, to conclude that this is a really stupid system!

    And #19 (‘Join campaigns opposing cutbacks in public assets like transit, schools, libraries, parks, social services, police and fire protection, arts programs, and more.’) also needs to go further — we not only need to protect these community assets from funding cuts, we need to protect them against privatization, which almost always leads to poorer services and higher costs in the long term.


  2. Good points, Peter. I just read this article focusing on redefining a “sustainable city” that I think encompasses a lot more aspects of sustainability. We often get asked about other aspects of sustainability, like education or community participation. Here’s just one more perspective, but I’d love to hear others’ definitions. Bristol-based Glenn Vowles, does have a somewhat more specific list:

    Getting around

    The retention and improvement of locally available facilities, services, and jobs and the availability and use of local resources.

    Far better, cheaper, more extensive public transport; much better cycling and pedestrian provision.

    Environmental quality and quantity

    Protecting, enhancing and if possible increasing open, green, natural spaces; biodiversity enhancing developments.
    Adopting and achieving high land, air, water and environmental quality standards.


    Education for sustainable living.

    Waste and energy

    Innovative low carbon and low waste systems and designs; local energy saving and the micro-generation of energy.
    Waste avoidance, reuse and recycling.


    More local, ethical and organic food availability; more home and allotment grown food.

    People and participation

    People taking personal responsibility to be more environmentally-friendly.
    Inclusive, informed, genuine public participation in community life.

    Policies and performance

    Open, involving, accountable, ethical attitudes and policies.
    Broad-based measures of progress – social, economic and biophysical.
    (Read the article at

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