Up close and personal with the Power of 10+

Last year, I came across a concept from the Project for Public Spaces: The Power of 10+. They describe it as such:

Places thrive when users have a range of reasons (10+) to be there. These might include a place to sit, playgrounds to enjoy, art to touch, music to hear, food to eat, history to experience, and people to meet. Ideally, some of these activities will be unique to that particular place, reflecting the culture and history of the surrounding community.
Enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the boardwalk in the morning in Halifax. Photo by me.

Enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the boardwalk in the morning in Halifax. Photo by me.

Somewhat in contrast with my recent post on Chesterton (re: The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason.”) PPS suggests aiming for 10+ human scale things to do/enjoy in a place.


Testing 10+ on visitors

I had the opportunity to contemplate these different approaches this week when my family visited me in Fredericton from across land and ocean. When I learned that my brothers and mom were inbound, it was clear to me that this would become one of the best weekends of my life. My sheer joy at living in this funny little place perplexes people, including my family to a degree. FINALLY, I thought, they'll know why I'm so partial to this place by experiencing the small pleasures of my workaday life themselves. Finally, they'll get to sit on my porch with a beer while I inspect the peas and mustard greens. Finally, they'll head out for an errand on foot, without having to guess if it's walking distance or give a thought to parking. Finally, they'll hop on a bike with me and be cruising through birch-lined trails within five blocks of the front door. Maybe I delight in this lifestyle more than another person would, but at the very least my family would get it because they get me.

Normally the challenge when entertaining is to keep everybody entertained. Not so for me nowadays. As I thought about all the small detours and traditions that delight me everyday - those moments I really wanted to share with the people I love - the list became much longer than our time allowance. And yet, almost every item on the list could not be advertised in any meaningful way in a travel brochure. For example, you can bike all over the country. Biking itself is not a special attraction. But never have I lived in a place where long trail rides through the city and along waterways are so easy and seamless that they become a part of life. Hopping on my bike here and going for a 30km ride takes virtually no planning, effort, risk taking, or motorized vehicles. That gratitude cannot be communicated, only felt.

My family came and went and it was indeed a superb weekend. We didn't have time to do even half the things that I wanted to share with them but every moment was spent well. I suppose we did do 10+ things:

Scenes from a neighbourhood walk.

Scenes from a neighbourhood walk.

  1. Porchin' it, daily
  2. Basketball at the park
  3. Picking up our walkable beer at the Brewtique
  4. Highropes
  5. Duking it out at the board game café
  6. Dog-walking around our homey downtown neighbourhood
  7. Running into neighbours and friends all over the place
  8. Farmers' market
  9. Ice cream on a sunny day
  10. Bouldering with a few buddies at the university rock wall
  11. Lunch at our favourite hole in the wall
  12. Browsing the fancy kitchen store
  13. Chitchatting with my running club coach
  14. Visiting that great little shoe store and their store dog
  15. Visiting that great home store and their store dog 
  16. Exploring Fredericton's latest and greatest pop-up shop by local artisans
  17. Going out for dinner

Other than the highropes, all that stuff is just a day in the life. How many of those experiences could a city intentionally create or solicit? Not much because they mostly come down to family, friends, neighbours, or local entrepreneurs. We are the people that make our places worth being in. The city can design incentives, designate public spaces, provide resources, and get out of the way, but we have to do the heavy lifting.

10+ in your own hands

The Power of 10+ is a heuristic to help target placemaking activities. It seems to be aimed at more institutional placemakers but after this family visit, I've started thinking: what am I doing to add to that list? When my neighbours entertain guests from out of town, what am I doing that makes them proud to show off Fredericton? My porch is looking pretty good (a neighbour from a few blocks down even shouted up to us last night: "This looks awesome - I've been watching the progress every day on my walk home from work!" Yippee!) but what else can I do?

What are the 10+ things on your list? Are they tourist destinations or everyday experiences?

Our recycled porch lights.

Our recycled porch lights.

GRACEN JOHNSON is a communications designer living in The Maritimes. While she finished her MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration in 2013, she has never stopped studying the city. Gracen thinks of her day-to-day as participatory action research, diving into the question of how Strong Citizenship can transform a city. She wears many hats trying to crack that nut herself, including as the designer and coordinator of an accelerator for small businesses that build community. She also freelances around the vision of "Projects for Places we Love" and has a video blog called Another Place for Me.

This year, Gracen is sharing field notes on her experiences with Strong Citizenship. In this regular column, you'll get snapshots of life as a friendly neighbour in a quintessential Little City that feels like a Big Town.