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Placemaking is Local Terraforming

Science fiction novels often talk about terraforming where astronauts and space travelers remake an inhospitable asteroid or moon into a beautiful paradise. Some people have taken advantage of the downside of the recession to try some local terraforming on vacant lots and vacant buildings.

Through the “Space in Between” contest, sponsored by the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) you can honor individuals and groups in the greater Chicago/Gary/Milwaukee region who have taken it upon themselves to transform vacant spaces into community places, through Placemaking.

Placemaking is a community-based approach to planning, designing and managing great public places. Now through Aug. 31, the “Space in Between” contest is seeking submissions from people who temporarily turned a place that was forgotten, ignored, vacant, transitional, blighted, or misused into a community asset.

Anyone age 16 or older in the greater Chicago metropolitan region who has led or participated in a creative reuse of vacant space since the market crash in 2008 may submit one entry. Metropolitan Chicago includes the City of Chicago and Chicago suburbs located in Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties in Illinois; or in Lake, La Porte and Porter counties in Indiana; or in Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties in Wisconsin. For more background on the value of temporarily repurposing vacant space, read Novara’s post on MPC’s blog, The Connector, Putting Vacant Space to Use, In the Meantime, and visit

The contest submission period will run from Wednesday, June 27, to Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Each entry should include:

  • Original photos or videos documenting a contestant’s creative temporary use of public space in metropolitan Chicago since 2008; and
  • A 250-word-or-less description of how this temporary project or use turned a place that was forgotten, ignored, vacant, transitional, blighted, or misused into a community asset.

Contestants will find a complete list of submission guidelines and instructions at

Four winners will be selected: two by Placemaking Chicago’s Review Panel, and two by public votes online at between Sept. 10 and Oct. 5, 2012. Winners will receive cash prizes and the chance to tell the story of their favorite temporary use of a public place at an awards ceremony on Nov. 1, 2012.

The Michaels Organization is a generous sponsor of the contest.

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