Activating Adelaide's precincts: placemaking through culture, arts and events

Tourism Cultural industries Arts Entertainment Place (Philosophy) Urban renewal Adelaide

Creating vibrant and successful spaces is the core of place-making that empowers communities and offers touristic opportunities and thereby boost economic, social and environmental returns. Main streets and precincts are spaces which form focal points of urban activity. They compete for human and financial capital and appear to be essential in the era of experience economy, which requires unique and memorable experiences as economic offerings. Evidence from other cities suggests that arts, culture, tourism and events are powerful tools in regenerating and activating urban spaces, and they can deliver more vibrant, healthy and economically robust communities.

Despite this, there is limited evidence-based research to inform key stakeholders in Adelaide about effective placemaking strategies through the use of arts, culture, tourism and events.

This project develops better understanding of placemaking strategies employed in metropolitan Adelaide, highlighting successes, challenges and opportunities in this area. The report provides an overview of the findings obtained from 20 in-depth interviews which were conducted in metropolitan Adelaide with 28 representatives from 10 local councils and 10 business associations.

Key findings: 

  • Placemaking generates economic development by showcasing offerings, increasing exposure for local businesses, foot traffic and visitors who buy goods and services
  • Placemaking assists in regenerating urban spaces and creates behaviours and experiences by encouraging and guiding visitor behaviour 
  • Placemaking brands a precinct, giving it an identity, transforming it, making it unique
  • Placemaking is often community-centered as Council officers seek to meet local needs

Culture, arts and events have various roles in placemaking and assist in all of the above by creating:

  1. Vibrancy and attention
  2. Foot traffic
  3. Image & identity
  4. Showcasing offerings
  5. Building social capital
  6. Changing precinct use and visitor behavior


Key challenges: 

  • Financial and human resource constraints 
  • Stakeholders need to be actively engaged while meeting different interests of each stakeholder
  • Placemaking needs to fit Council and community vision, needs, image and identity of the place 
  • In order to be successful, places need to feel unique with a context-specific strategy
  • Place makers need to plan and measure long-term impacts of place activation activities in order to make evidence-based decisions
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