How does placemaking contribute to economic return?

With population growth in South East Queensland accelerating at a rapid pace, local urban ecosystems are undergoing significant change. For the past 6 months, the CoDesign Studio Brisbane team have focussed on strengthening and supporting innovation economies through transformation, with huge benefits resulting from applying a locally-led placemaking approach within this context.

We’ve previously mentioned the contribution to culture and sense of place our Palmwood’s collaborative economic development and activation program made for this hinterland community in South East Queensland.


One year on, our team have returned to see what lasting impact the program has had for the community.

Sarah, local business owner of Homegrown Cafe tells us preparations are underway for the third annual Village Harvest event and regular celebrations are occurring on the lawn.

Whilst most appreciate the enhancement of our public spaces, significant changes can be alarmingly taxing to the business community. Ordinarily, we would expect a 50% downturn across business’ impacted by major construction projects.  This project, which delivered a program of activation to encourage visitation and promote the local centre reported no downturn.

The evidence of success was seen in the creation of a new independent business alliance between traders opposite the new town square.

12 months later, these businesses continue to meet regularly to support one another, collaborate around activations and discuss improvements for shared public assets and ultimately to build the profile of their town.  The collaborative placemaking approach utilised empowered, inspired and upskilled local traders which enabled them to take control of their future and will see lasting impacts on the local economy.

Great innovation happens through great placemaking.

It's not only within our local centres that collaborative city-making methodologies grow and support economies. CoDesign have been working with Economic Development Queensland,  Moreton Bay Regional Council and others to unpick the core ingredients of a successful innovation precinct and to establish strong local networks that are the seed to new ideas.

We are about to embark on a journey with Lat27 to facilitate a  design challenge workshop that draws on local experts to collaboratively design a public space. The ‘innovation ecosystem’ exists at the nexus of three key assets (Brookings Institute):

  • economic assets (entrepreneurs, businesses and institutions),
  • physical assets (public spaces, streets etc) and
  • networking assets (places and programs that encourage cross-sector networking).

The role of public space within these precincts is to foster relationships that trigger cross-sector networking and collaboration.

During the design challenge workshop we are exploring three ideas:

  • Learn from start-up thinking and break through our risk-averse industry. To achieve innovation, new ideas need to be trialled at a rapid pace.  How can we use a tactical urbanism approach within public spaces to prototype, measure and excel innovation?
  • Utilise a collaborative city-making approach to establish new networks outside of those commonly seen within buildings.  The workshop itself is a great way to new networks of experts across many sectors to collaborate around the shared goal of a new public space.
  • Design and program the space to attract groups of people.  We know that new connections are far more likely to occur in places that attract groups of people.  This is because there is a greater chance of meeting new people through a mutual acquaintance.

CoDesign is always keen to collaborate on projects which support our economies, shape our communities and build stronger industry networks. Why not see if we can work together to create lasting impact for your neighbourhood or city.