Answer Man: DMC ‘placemaker’ aims for big impact

October 5, 2018


Editor’s note: Enjoy this Classic Answer Man column from Aug. 26, 2015.

You’ll be glad to know, I’ve decided not to run for president. Why would I want to be president when I’m already the Answer Man? Plus, I’ll enjoy life a lot more over the next four years than President Trump will.

Dear Answer Man, I read in your fine newspaper a few weeks ago that the Destination Medical Center Corp.’s Economic Development Agency has hired a “director of economic development and placemaking.”

What in the world is a placemaker?

I checked with DMC and was told that Patrick Seeb, whose hiring was announced Aug. 12, asked for “placemaking” to be added to his job title. Seeb was formerly executive director of the St. Paul Riverfront Corp. for 20 years.

A statement from the DMC EDA says this about the “placemaking” business:

“Adding the term Placemaking to Patrick Seeb’s title is a reflection of DMC’s commitment to go beyond the traditional notion of economic development (business recruitment, land assembly, incentives, marketing) toward an understanding of the importance of high-quality, appealing places as a strategy for attracting talent, visitors, new investment and lifelong attachment to a community.

“Placemaking is building the place that will attract an educated workforce and 21st century jobs,” the statement says.

Perhaps. It also sounds like DMC mumbo-jumbo to me.

“Placemaking” is described by the Project for Public Spaces as “a crucial and deeply valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives. Placemaking shows people just how powerful their collective vision can be. It helps them to re-imagine everyday spaces and to see anew the potential of parks, downtowns, waterfronts, plazas, neighborhoods, streets, markets, campuses and public buildings.”

As you may recall, the DMC master plan calls for all kinds of new “places” in or near downtown, from Discovery Square and Central Station to Downtown Waterfront. All would involve a lot of new construction and infrastructure, in what would be one of the most complete rebuildings of a city since Baron Haussmann went to work on Paris.

Who would play the role of the Baron in Rochester’s remodeling? Maybe Seeb.

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