12/09/2010 05:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Reclaim Urban Spaces to Create Community-Oriented Places

After highlighting the key ingredients that help sustain the "local living economy" in Bellingham during a recession, the Journey of Action team traveled to Portland, Ore., a truly progressive, community-centric city. The locals all share this "pride of place" mentality. We had the great fortune of connecting with Michael Cook, the Placemaking Coordinator for City Repair.

City Repair began in Portland with the idea that localization -- of culture, of economy, of decision-making -- is a necessary foundation of sustainability. By reclaiming urban spaces to create community-oriented places, they plant the seeds for greater neighborhood communication, empower their communities and nurture their local culture.

Michael took the JoA team on an incredible adventure to various neighborhoods where he works with communities and schools to creatively and positively transform the places they call home. During the tour, our imaginations awakened as we witnessed creativity, bright colors and unique mythological designs, and collective action taking place on a large scale. As Michael so eloquently expressed, the activism of placemaking involves an individal discovering their own story, dreams, passions and finding that point where it intersects with the worlds' needs. That is where you express your story and manifest yourself in your environment and connect with it through your own passions.

Our experience with Michael and City Repair made us realize that our cities are based on the grid plan, and it is much easier for people to feel isolated and sadly be disconnected from their own neighbors. The neighborhood places for communication and gathering that develop naturally in non-grid cities must be specifically planned for in grid cities. Sustainable communities are built when people work together for mutual benefit.

We hope that this webisode inspires you to reach out to your neighbors and create a project that involves the entire community: whether it involves creating a wall mural, planting an urban garden, community composting, a potluck, or shutting down the streets for a music festival. It is time we begin to focus on sustainable practices in every facet of our lives. Where and how will you begin?