Ethical Redevelopment Principle #6: Place Over Time

“Rome was not built in a day." Great things take time to create. Ethical Redevelopment Principle #6, Place Over Time, asserts that place is a function of time—a sense of place grows and matures the more time people spend engaging in and within a space. 


Place is not just a geographical location. As geographer Yi-Fu Tuan illuminates in Space and Place, a space only achieves definition when it is given meaning—positive or negative—by people. Meaning emerges from the feeling or perception held by people about the place, and not from aspects inherent to the place itself. By living/working/doing things in a place, participants form attachments and relationships, and a sense of belonging is created—an identity coalesces.

Making a place cannot happen quickly. The element of time is crucial. Time permits intentions to be realized, and visions to become realities. With the participation of myriad neighbors, partners, stakeholders, and curious participants, a place becomes imbued with culture, soul, life, identity. This is an organic process. The identity of a place is not fixed; as needs of the people change, the place must adapt. The evolution of place can take years, and is entirely dependent on the affinities of people. Approach with patience the notion of place, or there may never be a there there.

Creating great places isn’t a linear activity. Sustaining them is even trickier.
— Daniel Gilmartin, Executive Director and CEO Michigan Municipal League in The Economics of Place

Place Over Time in Action

Hope Works is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) that “seeks to empower our neighbors to become active participants in and catalysts of a flourishing Woodlawn and South Side of Chicago community.” The CDC came out of a long, faith-based process, initiated by the opening of a satellite location in 2003 by the Portage Park-based Bethel Christian Church. The church, located at and in partnership with the University of Chicago, and lead by a white pastor from Tennessee, initially attracted mostly University students. Over time, Bethel attracted a more diverse congregation and in 2010 became the Living Hope Church. With a newly acquired building in Woodlawn sorely in need of renovation, Living Hope welcomed volunteers, offering food and shelter to anyone who lent a helping hand. After four years of hard work and direct community involvement, the Living Hope Church became a part of the fabric of its neighborhood.

In 2010, Hope Works CDC was established to facilitate and drive the growth of economic opportunities for Woodlawn families. The organization provides employment assistance, programs aimed at economic and cultural engagement, and works on issues of housing development. Hope Works recognizes that many systemic and personal barriers are faced by those who are under- or unemployed, and address these barriers through work on housing, transportation, and health care. From the website: “Ultimately, people are able to not only get jobs but keep them.” Over time, the church found its place and became a place itself, a resource for participants to increase their contribution to the larger Woodlawn community and find structure and self-sufficiency in their lives and those of their family members.


Have you been a part of a place, organization, or vision that you’ve seen grow, change, and become transformed by participation? Tell us about it in the comments section.