Placemaking: Why We Do What We Do

Believe it or not, there are actual strategies that go into planning projects in and for communities. I know at times things can seem somewhat haphazard, but there really is a method to the madness. That said, what works in one place doesn’t necessarily translate to another. According to Project for Public Spaces (PSS), “placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.” Here at Hartwell’s Main Street Program, we do this through Main Street’s four-point approach of Design, Promotions, Economic Vitality, and Organization. Effective placemaking takes a collaborative effort between citizens, business owners, and government to create a place where people want to be. This weekend was a perfect example of that. We had several events going on in Hartwell. Plant sales, antique boat shows, and dog walks were all on the calendar. From what I saw, they were all well attended, safe, and fun events. It took volunteers, corporate partners, city and county resources, and participation from folks in the area to make it a great weekend. The goal should be to focus on place. This place. Hartwell. With that in mind, there are 11 key elements to placemaking. 1) The community is the expert. Specifically, the people of the community are the experts, and your voices are necessary. 2) Create a place, not a design. Design is not enough; there has to be a sence of vitality to the project as in, we cannot do without this. 3) Look for partners. In today’s world, there has to be a collaboration between public works, private investment, and civil society resources to fill gaps in our community. 4) You can see a lot by observing. Much can be gained from seeing others successes and failures. We can learn what to add and subtract from our communities by looking to other locations in the state and region. 5) Have a vision. It is not enough to say “be the best.” We can’t be the best at everything, that is reality. We can identify what we are really great at, what we are good enough at, and what we need to work on. Energy and effort should be placed in the latter category. 6) Start with petunias: Lighter, quicker, cheaper. Public spaces are complex. It is better to do a few small things really well before jumping on to enormous projects. Murals and community gardens are a great jumping off point. 7) Triangulate. “Triangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each other” (Holly Whyte). Resources may not get used if they are placed in the public space without much thought. If resources are arranged systematically, then they can be used and enjoyed by everyone. 8) They always say “it can’t be done.” Who are “they?” I often here about “they.” I hear, “they should do something about this or that” a lot. There will always be naysayers, but let me fill you in on a secret, “they” are you and me. We are guilty of getting in our own way at times. I promise it can be done, because people are out there doing it. We can do it too. 9) Form supports function. “The input from the community and potential partners, the understanding of how other spaces function, the experimentation, and overcoming the obstacles and naysayers provides the concept for the space. Although design is important, these other elements tell you what “form” you need to accomplish the future vision for the space.” -PSS. 10) Money is not the issue. When the community brings their resources together to accomplish all of the items we all say we want, many hands will make light work, and 11) You are never finished. Making our community great does not have and end state. If for no other reason, new technology comes along constantly and I promise you, we want it too. That said, we must be open to change, and flexible enough to seize opportunity when it presents itself. We started the 11 key elements of placemaking with the foundation of Hartwell as the place. Now we need to apply these 11 elements to our place.

Main Street Reaccreditation

I am happy to report that our Accreditation as a Main Street Program has been complete. Hartwell is again recognized as a Classic Main Street Community for 2019 at both the state and national levels. To achieve this, there are fourteen (14) categories that are audited. We must provide a map of our district, have an organizational chart, develop a mission/vision statement, have an annual work plan, provide all board meeting agendas and minutes, have a signed Memorandum of Understanding, provide a board roster, have bylaws, provide our annual budget, have a main street manager job description, main street staff job descriptions (we have volunteers), have a training log, have a national main street accreditation, and provide monthly community activity reports. This process will be changing to an oral interview and presentation for 2020 reaccreditation and I hope to receive as much if not more support for that process as I have for the 2019 process. Thank you to everyone who has contributed and participated in Main Street events. I am still the new guy and have a lot to learn, so it means a lot to me to have a team of folks willing to give their time and talent to our success.

Davos, The World Economic Forum, and Hartwell

What is Davos? We hear about it on the news frequently. Well Davos is not a thing, it is a place. Every year, The World Economic Forum and national leaders meet in Davos, Switzerland to address poverty, economic growth, and sustainable development issues. Here at home, we think of Economic Development as bringing new businesses to the community. Economic Development has to be more than just ribbon cuttings. Economic Growth has to be about reducing poverty in our community. Back to Davos; world leaders came together three years ago and developed the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in order to address poverty and other development issues. This program is a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals that were developed at the turn of the century, and to date, extreme poverty has been reduced globally by 50%. Extreme poverty is defined as people living on less than $2 per day. There is still work to be done. Poverty is a global problem, but it is a local one as well. So how does an international plan help us here in Hartwell? How do we localize their discussions? Well, we often think of poverty as a problem in some far off land, in a less developed country, and the people who are affected by poverty as living in tribal societies or cram packed cities. You may be shocked to learn that the poverty rate in Hartwell is 22.97%. Nearly 1 in 4 people in our community are being impacted by poverty; this comes with secondary and tertiary effects like poor health, food insecurity, and limited equality for women and children. The good news is, Hartwell is doing something about it. We have a poverty taskforce that is working to address the needs of our community. We have an excellent civil society infrastructure in place working to identify and support folks right here at home. Of course our local churches do amazing work to support our community. I do wonder if there is room for a focused approach that brings all of these resources together, and I believe the answer is yes. The Global Goals found inside the 2030 Agenda are designed to take a holistic approach to policy creation and implementation. Below is an image of the 17 Global Goals. I want you to think of them as stackable. That is, if reducing poverty is the ultimate goal, you may need to start at another location to be most effective. For example, we may see Zero Hunger (Goal 2) as the greatest need. To address that, Responsible Consumption and Production (Goal 12) needs to be prioritized to keep Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6) at appropriate levels for cooking and hygiene purposes. This supports Good Health and Well-being (Goal 3). In turn, kids go to school regularly so they get a Quality Education (Goal 4), which means they get Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8). More money in folks pockets reduces poverty (Goal 1). When poverty is reduced, there are Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10), and when inequalities get eliminated, a more diverse population addresses issues like Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7), and Life Below Water/on Land (Goals 14 &15). The other interesting part about The Global Goals is success is already defined. There are 140+ targets and indicators that let communities know what success looks like. Policy makers need only add in local realities for a plan to take shape. By aligning all the good work that is already happening in Hartwell with the language found in the Global Goals, we can make giant strides towards implementing comprehensive plans that will reduce poverty in our community. It is easy to dismiss international discussions on development considering how far away these problems sometimes feel. The reality is, poverty and development issues exist here too. It is estimated that there is a $2 trillion dollar funding gap in development worldwide per year. This means locally, economic growth is required to be successful. The Global Goals provide a path to focusing policy in terms of taxation and efficient spending necessary to achieve positive results. For more information on The Global Goals, take a look at or

The Global Goals
The Development Landscape

The Center of the World

I have a limited perspective of this topic. That is, I have only been in Hartwell for nearly two years. So if this statement is controversial, I apologize. I am not certain we do enough to honor our indigenous heritage. The Cherokee Nation considered Hartwell Georgia the Center of the World. Yes, there is a historic marker, but it is barely visible as you fly down Highway 29. I think there used to be a store of some sort, but it has closed. I believe there is great opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion in our community by supporting The Cherokee. I wonder why we don’t? This is something that has been puzzling me for a few months. Maybe I’m wrong and I am just missing something. Cut scene to this year’s Hello Hart Magazine published by The Hartwell Sun. They have a wonderful full page history lesson of The Cherokee, how they interacted with Nancy Hart (the Cherokee called her Wahatchee or War Woman), how Cateechee entered our lexicon, and a description of the trading that took place here at the Center of the World. Personally I am going to do more to recognize our native tribe and the hardships they faced as they were pushed off their lands into Oklahoma. In my professional capacity, I want to organize a Center of the World event. I do not know what that would like yet, but I do know I am going to reach out to the Cherokee Nation for their input and blessing. We as Americans often get bogged down in the quagmire of blame in some of the troubled parts of our history. The Trail of Tears is certainly one of those black marks in our history. Celebrating The Cherokee Nation as an important contributor to our community’s history is a way to overcome some of this troubled past. I take pride in living in the Center of the World, I hope you do to.

Rethinking Housing

Recently, I attended the Georgia Housing Conversation at the Georgia Aquarium sponsored by Georgia Power with members of Hart County’s Chamber of Commerce. Hartwell is not the only community facing housing shortages as industry grows, and it was important to hear from experts in the field about innovative ideas to solve the problems associated with obtainable and workforce housing shortages. This meeting was followed up by Hart County’s Housing Taskforce just a few days later. At this meeting, Dr. Jeffery Dorfman of the University of Georgia, gave a compelling lecture about the realities of creating new housing. This blog will report about what I found most interesting. Dr. Dorfman started his lecture by saying there are three types of economic growth: “1) some growth will come to matter what, 2) some growth will be missed no matter what you do, and 3) there is a middle ground that can be impacted by policy choices…this will decide your fate.” This sentiment was echoed in the Georgia Housing Conversation.

I want to tell you about Cost Burden. HUD defines cost-burdened families as those “who pay more than 30% of their income for housing” and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.” Add in the cost of transportation, getting to and from work, many people are spending 50% of their household income on housing and transportation alone. In my mind, this describes a best case scenario. Many people may have student loan and credit card debt on top of that. This creates incredible strain on personal economies, especially because housing costs are rising as much as 42% while income is increasing at only 10%.

So what do we do? One thing is stop limiting options. Yes, you may not want to live in a duplex or quadplex, but that doesn’t mean somebody else might not want to. The point is allow for zoning that doesn’t restrict options. Another thing could be as simple as reviewing codes and ordinances for outdated restrictions that hinder development. Third, don’t reinvent the wheel. Many solutions exist in “the good ‘ol days” that people often wish for. Cottage courts, granny suites, and guest suites are making a comeback to solve workforce housing problems. Our College and Career academy is turning out high school graduates that are making $20 an hour. Let’s give them a place to live in town so that paycheck stays here too. Fourth, approximately 2000 households are needed to support a vibrant downtown. Walkability to and around downtowns are what baby-boomers, millennials, and Generation Z want, let’s give it to them. This reduces the cost of providing services to the community by the city and county. Finally, addressing density through lot size distribution. This doesn’t mean shrinking lots necessarily, it just means using what you have more efficiently.

It would be impossible to squeeze two days of discussion in a blog. I have already ran long as it is. If you would like to continue the discussion on housing, or if you are a developer and want to come to Hartwell, give me a call.

Vote Hartwell for Top Main Street Program!

Hartwell Main Street is Vying for $25K Cash Prize in National Contest Recognizing America’s Main Streets

 Vote now to advance MAIN STREET NAME to the next round

Hartwell, Georgia. – On February 25, Independent We Stand, a national small business movement, kicked-off its fourth annual America’s Main Streets contest to help consumers, small business owners and Main Street organizations reward a deserving Main Street with $25,000 in cash and sponsor-related prizes.Hartwell Main Streetin Hartwell, Georgia is among this year’s nominees.

“Our Independent We Stand America’s Main Streets contest shines a light on the pride business owners and communities take in their Main Streets,” says Independent We Stand co-founder Bill Brunelle. “We know small businesses on these Main Streets help them thrive and have a measurable economic impact. This contest is a chance to share those stories with people from coast-to-coast.”

Hartwell Main Street has worked to promote the historic culture of our community and help to develop economic opportunities for years now. If we win the cash prize, Hartwell Main Street will finish Constitution Alley and address other opportunities that are needed.

Our community has an incredible spirit of volunteerism. Everyone works hand in hand to make this a great place to live, work, and play. This prize will certainly help us Live well, Play well, Hartwell!

The first round of voting in the contest began as soon as Hartwell Main Street was nominated and runs through April 21. All nominations and voting take place on

Important dates:

  • February 25 to April 21: “America’s Main Streets” nominations and quarterfinalist voting
  • March 4-8: “Great American Red, White & Q” road trip
  • April 29 to May 26: “America’s Main Streets” semifinalist voting
  • June 3: “America’s Main Streets” winner announced
  • July 4: “Main Streets Make Us Better” event; “America’s Main Streets” winner announces plans for $25,000 grand prize

Additional contest prizes include:

  • STIHL Equipment Certificate for $1,000 worth of STIHL equipment good at any STIHL dealer in the U.S.
  • Do it Best Corp. $500 shopping spree
  • Free One Day Downtown Assessment from Flip This Town
  • Nationwide Marketing Group $500 shopping spree
  • PPG Paints $500 shopping spree
  • Public relations and social media recognition
  • A special plaque for the winner to proudly display

For more information on Hartwell Main Street, visit: or contact Jason Ford at 706-376-0188.

Presenting Sponsor:

STIHL Inc., America’s number-one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment, is the founding sponsor of Independent We Stand and the presenting sponsor of America’s Main Streets contest. The company follows a unique distribution strategy in the handheld outdoor power equipment industry, choosing never to sell products at big box stores, but instead remaining loyal to its 9,000+ authorized local STIHL dealers nationwide.

Supporting Sponsors:

About Independent We Stand

Independent We Stand is a nationwide movement of independent small business owners whose mission is to inspire other small business owners to better understand and celebrate their locally-owned status while educating consumers about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting them. The Independent We Stand movement is sponsored by STIHL Inc. STIHL products are sold through more than 9,000 authorized local STIHL dealers from coast to coast – not big box stores. Associate sponsors include Nationwide Marketing Group, PPG and Do it Best Corp.

#KeepHartClean #LovingWhereYouLive #LeadershipHart

Please join Leadership Hart and Leadership Hart Youth on April 27th to support Economic Development, Community Pride, and Earth Day (a few days late) by helping to clean litter up from our roads and in our own yards. When new business comes to town to potentially pick Hartwell as a new home, little things like litter on the road could be what crosses us off the list. Remember site selection is really site elimination. Let’s work together, through the community pride that is already here in Hartwell, to make a good impression when these job creators come to town!

The Main Street Approach


A vision of success alone is not enough. Communities must work together to identify key strategies, known as Community Transformation Strategies that will provide a clear sense of priorities and direction for the revitalization efforts. Typically communities will find two to three Community Transformation Strategies are needed to help reach a community vision. These strategies will focus on both long and short-term actions that will move a community closer to achieving its goals.

Implementation of these strategies is carried out through work that aligns with the four key areas Main Streets have been using as a guiding framework for over 35 years: Economic Vitality, Organization, Design, and Promotions, known collectively as the Main Street Four Points.

Economic Vitality

Revitalizing a downtown or neighborhood commercial district requires focusing on the underlying Economic Vitality of the district. This work is rooted in a commitment to making the most of a community’s unique sense of place and existing historic assets, harnessing local economic development opportunities and creating a supportive business environment for small business owners and the growing scores of entrepreneurs, innovators, and localists alike. With the nation-wide growing interest in living downtown, supporting downtown housing is also a key element of building Economic Vitality.


A strong organizational foundation is key for a sustainable Main Street revitalization effort. This can take many forms, from a standalone nonprofit organization, to a program housed in a municipality or existing community development entity. Regardless of the organizational type, the focus is on ensuring that all organizational resources (partners, funding, volunteers, etc.) are mobilized to effectively implement the Community Transformative Strategies.


A focus on Design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart. Main Streets enhance their appeal to residents and visitors alike with attention to public space through the creation of pedestrian friendly streets, inclusion of public art in unexpected areas, visual merchandising, adaptive reuse of older and historic buildings, more efficiently-designed buildings, transit oriented development, and much more.

Keep Hart Clean

Leadership Hart and Leadership Hart Youth are partnering together for this year’s community project. As an economic development goal, LH and LHY are organizing a community clean up event. Often times, when economic development professionals bring potential businesses in to look at sites, they will want to see the community. If the roads are littered with trash, it can be enough to remove any community from the potential list. It is with that in mind that #LoveWhereYouLive and #KeepHartClean was developed. On April 27th, we invite the community to come together for a few hours in the morning to clean up our roads. We hope to see you there!