A sense of place has always been important to people, and we do not have to look far to see this. Religious traditions have intertwined people, place, and the divine time and time again. Place is crucial in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) for defining society, divinity, and the relationship between the two. We see this continuing even today as the importance of the Holy Land continues to exist at the heart of millions of Christians, who see the Bible as authoritative in their lives.
Yes, God, people and place are inseparably intertwined in the Hebrew scriptures. In the Hebrew Bible, the word maqom, is most often translated as “place” carrying with it a sense of purpose rather than a sense of emptiness. It is a location where something belongs — and many times in the Bible this is a place of worship.
The importance of place grows out of conversations between our experiences and the physical surroundings. Think about the historical places you have visited. In these historical places, you take time to hear the stories and get a sense of how the physical surroundings are part of the stories. I think about a recent trip to Washington, D.C., and the many historical places we visited. In those places, we heard story after story that were shared about the places we visited. Places that are important in the birth of our country. Places that hold history, which is important for us never to forget!
Yes, people love places. It is true, and there is a love that bubbles up deep within our souls when we think about places like home … where we come from … where we live … where we work and play. Place is important to us as individuals and it is also important to us as we vision the future of our city.
The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), which was founded in 1975, is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. PPS encourages cities, like ours, to build our communities around places. PPS’s pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs. It is a hands-on approach that inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of the community. When we do this, the connection between people and places that they share is strengthened, and this is exactly what Piqua is doing as we dream and vision for our future!
We began this kind of dreaming and visioning many years ago with the Fort Piqua Plaza. Yes, what was once a dream is now a reality and Fort Piqua Plaza now serves as a focal point for our city. We, as citizens of Piqua, have a strong sense of connection to Fort Piqua Plaza as a historic landmark in our city and building our city around places, such as this, is what is leading us and it is what others outside of our city are noticing. Yes, and we are getting noticed because of what we are doing and how we are dreaming and visioning for our future!
This past Tuesday, the City Commission made a historic decision for the future of our city. We passed a resolution that allows us to employ Gamble and Associates Architecture + Urban Planning to begin the construction documents for the Riverfront Development. David Gamble, the consultant that we have been working with on this project, will be contracted to perform professional design services for our downtown public park space. This decision shows the developers that have shown interest in our dreams and visions that we are serious and the city is bought into the dreams and visions we have for our future.
By stepping forth boldly in this way, we will begin the transformation of this public space into something that all citizens will also have a strong sense of connection to as this place will carry with it a sense of purpose and not emptiness. With the history of this place and the canal as its focus, the renderings of what could be that line the halls of the Piqua City Building speak of history, speak of purpose, speak of gatherings both formal and informal, and with that they speak of the beauty of who we are as a city. A city where a river runs through it and our Riverfront Development will be a place where we can come and experience all the river has to offer both visually and physically as well. The Great Miami River is one of our greatest assets!
People love places. Yes, place is very important to us as individuals and it is also very important to us as we vision the future of our city. My friends, our future is bright and our future is closer than we think. THIS is Piqua! And THIS is EXCITING!
Kathryn “Kazy” Hinds is the mayor of Piqua. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.