Place making as a mediator for the vulnerabilities of economics-based infrastructure development: The Alexandra Square Review

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Mascotto-Carbone, Lucas

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University of Guelph

Abstract

Place-making is a multi-faceted theoretical approach to the design, planning, and even management of a community or development's assets, potential, and needs with the intention of creating public spaces or private accessible places that promote people's well-being. In a municipal setting, economic development is the process in which a city or region improves the economic and political well-being of its people by incentivizing and politicizing private sector investments for multi-residential, retail, financial, or commercial programs and developments. This technique of encouraging development in the form of built infrastructure to accommodate emerging economic trends comes with its rewards and punishments to the agents involved. However, place-making can often serve as a mediating factor that cushions the pitfalls of riding development on economic waves or act as a lifeboat to decaying urban forms; such as the case for the Undermount Offices at Alexandra Square located in downtown Hamilton, Ontario. A large two-building office complex built at towards the end of the post-war economic boom and host to a popular bar and grill restaurant which served as the heart of an office complex riddled with disaster, disinvestment, and the issues of a postmodern economy that plagued its existence. Moreover, after a series of rash decisions at City Hall at the turn of the new millennium, in a last-ditch effort to transform derelict and empty office towers in the downtown core, the Undermount Offices currently stand as a condo development with no shred of its rich social past that once kept it afloat nor any community involvement its supposed revival. Considering the climate of Rust Belt cities towards the end of the twentieth century it is easy to sympathize with local politicians at the time, but to protect our collective built environment in the future from the pendulum swaying of market economics, a new set of policies moulded out of place-making is to be explored.

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place-making, real estate development, participatory place-making, design, planning, built infrastructure, economic development

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