Connecting placeshaping, product development, and residential quality of life

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nice place to live is a nice place to visit. Destination marketing and economic development teams often have the keenest knowledge of what their strengths are in terms of providing a quality experience – and which weaknesses they could shore up. It makes sense, then, that an increasing number of place brand and marketing organisations are becoming key players in the development of their place, from the lived experience to the products available.

Ahead of City Nation Place Americas 2023, we reached out to a few of our speakers to understand why they believe it’s important for destination marketing and economic development organisations to be taking an active role in both placeshaping and product development, and the ways in which they’re contributing to the overall quality of life in their places.

Why is placeshaping becoming a priority for destinations?

A healthy, vibrant destination is one that has balanced the needs of visitors, residents, and businesses. “We believe that the experience of place transcends attractions,” explained Vic Isley, President & CEO at Experience Asheville CVB. “They leave a lasting impression on the hearts of guests and embody community pride for residents. We aim to deliver meaningful experiences that ignite creativity and enhance connection and belonging for those who visit or live in our community.”

Shaping places is about putting your community’s unique stamp on a place. “Placeshaping isn’t just an opportunity for economic development organisations to help tell stories about what makes communities special – sometimes placeshaping is the story,” outlined Chris Lane, President & CEO of Economic Development Regina. “Any narrative needs continual care and feeding. That’s where continued placemaking work can play a vital role.”

Fostering resilience through placemaking

Our speakers highlighted a variety of ways in which they’re contributing to both the development of their place and the quality of life for their community, including regeneration of downtown areas, developing art and cultural venues, prioritising green spaces, and implementing new systems that encourage visitors and residents alike to respect the place they’re exploring. In doing so, it is clear that they’re also working to increase the resiliency of their place too. Mixed-used developments, experiences that interest both visitors and residents, and more aesthetically pleasing spaces all contribute value to your place. They also help make your place more resilient to shock – whether that’s a sudden drop (or increase!) in visitation or even an environmental disaster.

“Visit Lake Charles has significantly increased its efforts to be part of the product development process in our community,” shared Kyle Edmiston, President and CEO of Visit Lake Charles. “After two devastating hurricanes, VLC partnered with the Community Foundation of SWLA [Southwest Louisiana] to create ‘Just Imagine’, a 50-year plan for resilience and economic investment into the community.”

The strategy encompasses ten different projects, from protecting the area from coastal floods, to investing in the waterfront and downtown areas, to increasing affordable housing – and all aim to ensure that whatever the future holds, Lake Charles has the tools on hand to thrive and survive.

Colorado has also been taking a strategic, place-led approach to resilience, by analysing destinations in the state through the lens of where they’re at in the destination life cycle [emerging, intermediate, established] and then creating specific focuses to help destination move through that life cycle or to protect their current position. “One example is a new “Friends of Lake County” initiative that is being launched by Visit Leadville-Twin Lakes,” Andrew Grossmann, Director of Destination Development at Colorado Tourism Office, explained to us. “As they are transitioning from the intermediate phase to the established phase, they are increasing educational programming related to outdoor recreation in the county to reduce impacts on public lands.”

Promoting collaboration through placeshaping

For Visit Lake Charles, placeshaping and product development initiatives are also part of their toolkit to promote collaboration between different place stakeholders. One example that Kyle highlighted is the new Mardi Gras Museum that Visit Lake Charles has recently received the grant for, something that will be instrumental in revitalising an older part of the community. “This process has bought VLC to the forefront of partnerships between local municipality government, the parish government, and local economic development agencies,” Kyle shared. “It is critical to our community to have all agencies at the table to discuss and strategise on how to best create new economic opportunities for our destination.”

Explore Asheville’s Vic Isley also emphasised the importance of a collaborative approach to secure a resilient future for your place. Over twenty years, Asheville has invested in over 46 projects, such as greenways, art and cultural venues, wayfinding, and events.  Continuing on from that, Vic told us that “through long-term collaboration with local governments, non-profit organisations, and other community stakeholders, our team and advisory committee can invest future funding toward an intentional, collective vision that creates more opportunities for our community to thrive and prosper.”

Highlighting your quality-of-life proposition through placeshaping

Destination marketing and economic development teams are expanding their scope beyond solely driving economic growth to also look towards stewarding their place and nurturing their quality-of-life proposition. “A key reason for this shift is that the quality of visitor experiences are strongest when destinations have been able to strike a healthy balance between these variables,” Colorado’s Andrew Grossmann shared. “Those destinations that achieve this balance will be better positioned for long-term success.”

While Andrew speaks from a tourism perspective, the role that placemaking can play in growing residential quality of life is also evident on the economic development side. Regina’s Chris Lane highlighted their Audacity Mural Project which leverages public art to tell Regina’s narrative through 25 murals in the city. “While each mural is a separate individual expression, they all tell a small piece of Regina’s story,” Chris continued. “It’s placeshaping at work.”

Asheville’s Vic Isley also emphasised the link between placemaking and developing your quality-of-life proposition and that this plays an important role in converting visitors to residents. “Responsible destination management can lead resource stewardship and contribute to sustainable economic growth,” Vic told us, “with visitors supporting the level and quality of experiences beyond what our small mountain community could sustain alone.”

Kyle Edmonton, Andrew Grossmann, Vic Isley, and Chris Lane will be speaking at CNP Americas 23 this June 7-8th.  Join us in New Orleans to learn from their experience and to learn how you can connect the dots between tourism, economic development, and residential quality of life in your own destination. Check out our agenda here to learn more!

Missed the event in person? Don't worry...

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.