5 Questions

By Beau Denton May 31, 2011

In the Name of Love

Peter Kageyama, co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit, is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places, a new book that explores the economic and development implications of the relationships between people and their cities. Kageyama will speak at the Sarasota Chamber’s “What’s Up Downtown?” luncheon on June 14 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota; call (941) 556-4046 to register.


How did you start thinking about our relationships with cities in terms of love?

For several years I’ve been traveling as an economic development consultant and working on creative economy projects. I met people who were doing some of the coolest, most interesting things in their cities, and the recurring theme seemed to be that they were absolutely passionate about their places. I got to thinking about that as a resource, this passion that people have to see something better for their community. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment, and a sense that they are doing meaningful work. So I wanted to tell that story, about amazing people and their projects.

And as money has gotten tighter—this is true in families and personal relationships as well—you start valuing different things. If you can’t buy a brand-new car or go to your favorite show or—if you’re a city—you can’t afford a new stadium, what do you do? How do you make your city feel better?

How did you determine a city’s “lovability”?

I looked at communications—the volume of communication, especially on social networking. I looked at LEED certification projects; if you love something you want it to be healthy, sustainable and socially responsible. I looked at grant makers per capita—not necessarily the pure volume of grants, but the number of grant makers [because] it means that they care and want to give back. Then we looked at quality of life: bike-friendly, walkable and pet-friendly. If it’s all about the car, it’s less about human interaction. Walking and cycling allow you to explore, improvise and discover new things about your city. And in a pet-friendly city, there’s a sense of activity and vitality.

What cities ranked well?

Some of the obvious lovable cities, like Boston, Chicago, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, are the star cities. They have that nice combination of amenities and dynamism, and certainly size helps. But the cities that really interested me were a bit surprising, like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City and Grand Rapids. Those don’t typically show up on the “best of” lists, but they are hotbeds for social innovation.

Great stories are coming out of Rust Belt cities about people doing amazing things, usually on a grass-roots level, to revitalize their communities—from crazy fund-raising ideas to new businesses to public art projects.

What’s your advice for people active in their communities?

On the grassroots level, don’t wait for permission. Cities need your energy and enthusiasm. If you’ve got something that you and your community want or need to do, don’t even wait for funding. If your city leadership is afraid of appearing frivolous, they turtle back in and say no to things that make a city engaging and fun. There are tools for raising money in innovative ways—if you can make a case as to why this is important, you can collect 10 bucks at a time and do extraordinary things. We can get a lot of love out of small investments.

What’s your advice for city leaders?

Excitement, enthusiasm, love for the city—these are resources. Figure out how to tap into that, because you can’t afford not to. Cities need to make a little room for beauty, fun and engagement. Those are the things that draw us to cities. Many politicians are afraid to make the case for art, culture, design and landscaping right now. Yet those are the very things that make cities worth living in.


For the Love of Cities author Peter Kageyama is speaking at Assignment Downtown Council’s “What’s Up Downtown” luncheon series, June 14, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. $25 in advance. To RSVP or for more information, contact Valorie Hillerich, [email protected], or call (941) 556-4046.
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