8. Innovation-Driven Communities

Recognize that an open mind is crucial for innovation to flourish. This often implies exploring new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Herbert Simon (1969), in The Sciences of the Artificial has defined ‘design’ as the “transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones” (pg. 55). As a verb then, design is fascinating by the opportunities it presents for design professionals, planners, policy makers and advocates to make a difference and improve the lives of those whom they are meant to serve. Inherent in these dialogues is the understanding that a human-centered approach is taken, one in which people come first. To imagine the future, a preferred future, those who make decisions around the design and planning of cities and communities must be able to deconstruct the present, which implies an intellectual alertness to life around them—how do people live? What is important to them? And, what role can space and place play in supporting diverse lifeways?

Best Practices

PlaceMakers is Rochester’s prototyping festival allowing residents to see the many different ways public space can be transformed. Prototyping is the practice of creating, testing, and trying an experimental model of a new idea or object. Rochester’s Downtown Alliance wanted to involve a range of people to develop creative solutions to physical spaces. In 2016, 16 prototypes were tested over one weekend. Creative Crosswalks by the team RNeighbors aimed to nurture citizen involvement for positive community change by helping bring art to barren spaces and by emphasizing safe crosswalk space for one of the most heavily used pedestrian areas in downtown Rochester. This exploration of new ideas and ways of seeing public space allows communities to innovate and flourish, better serving the people who live and work there.


Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: Rene Lafflam of RNeighbors

Art has been noted as a vehicle for establishing and enhancing relationships among neighborhood residents who nurture their connectedness by helping, sharing, and encouraging each other while working on projects (Kay, 2000)–see examples at Project for Public Spaces. In 2013, Hennepin County Community Works collaborated with the City of Minneapolis, community artists, and community members to reimagine the future of Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis. As noted by a Hennepin County staff member who worked on the project, “We took our time in identifying various groups and talking with people, building relationships and finding out how best to engage different groups.” Using playful interactions like chalk talks, bus stop theater, and pop-up galleries the group generated ideas, which ranged from economic development to housing strategies, beautification, and livability, and helped create the small area plan for the Penn Avenue corridor.

Creative Placemaking

Hennepin County, Minnesota

Photo credit: createplace.org

Landfall, Minnesota is Washington County’s smallest city with a population of 742 people. Made up of 300 manufactured homes, Landfall is the most affordable community in the Twin Cities. The land was owned by James and Mitzi Olson who had lived in a mobile home during World War ll. Cognizant of the shortage of affordable housing in the area, they developed their site into a mobile home park, which was incorporated in 1959. “Those are mobile homes……So, if somebody brings a home into Landfall, it’s trailered in here, and then they move it onto a pad that gets setup for living,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. In the 1990s, a developer wanted to acquire the land for a luxury shopping mall or housing units, but the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority came to the rescue by purchasing the land and preserving this affordable housing community.

Twin Cities Most Affordable Community

Landfall, Minnesota