Sense of Place and the Power of Uniqueness—Worthington’s Greatest Asset
Community planner and educator Ed McMahon begins his talk with a single image (above) and a simple question:
“Where is this?… Is that Albany, Allentown, is that Providence, Pittsburgh, is that Tampa or Topeka? Who can tell?”
I came across this TED Talk recently, and I think it has a lot to say about Worthington. I hope you’ll check it out. It speaks not only to our present—why we want to live here, visitors choose to come here, and businesses decide to locate here—but also to our future. A number of the most long-term, consequential issues now before us relate to our built environment and, underlying it all, the land itself—how do we value it, steward it, and use it, in the interests of some or the benefit of all? This talk, with insight and wisdom, speaks to these issues.
This talk has broad persuasive force because McMahon makes his case with economic arguments and numerous examples (home values, tourism, etc.) of the monetary value of differentiation and the power of uniqueness. These financial considerations complement the aesthetic, sociological, and psychological/spiritual viewpoints that infuse his remarks throughout. His presentation, like the topic itself, is holistic.
I particularly hope that if there are any readers of this post who see these issues primarily through the lens of profit-driven development, that you will pause to consider the validity and meaning of these ideas for our community. I hope we can all embrace the principle that the “highest and best use” of land in Worthington can’t be found solely on a spreadsheet. Rather, the true value of any land-use development is its contribution to the preservation and enhancement of our unique sense of place.
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB5tH4rt-x8
Ed McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC, believes that Place is more than just a location on a map. Place is the unique collection of qualities and characteristics–visual, cultural, social, environmental–that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one city or town different from another, but it is also what makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.