What Makes Your Place Great ? That’s the name of a contest inviting area residents to reveal their favorite undiscovered public spaces. It’s part of a larger project  promoting “placemaking” and the importance of lively neighborhoods and inviting public spaces.
Sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council  and the Chicago Architecture Foundation , the contest invites residents to submit a photo or video of their favorite local place along with a brief description of what it means to them and how it contributes to their community.
Prizes include passes to area cultural institutions – and winners’ spots may end up on a special CAF tour this fall.
It’s the second year of the contest.Last year 8,000 people voted online for 51 entrants.
Beyond showcasing special places, the goal is “to help people understand what goes into creating and sustaining great places in communities and how those places contribute to a healthy region,” said Mandy Burrell Booth of MPC.
“Sure, great places are fun to visit,” she said. “But they also can make communities more economically vibrant, connect neighbors, reduce stress, improve safety, and keep people healthier by giving them someplace they can walk to.”
Through its Placemaking Chicago  initiative, MPC is training planners from local agencies. “In some ways, placemaking turns traditional community planning on its head,” said Burrell. “Instead of starting with a budget item or a project list, it starts with people’s vision for their places.”
In 2007, MPC and the Project for Public Spaces  published a Guide to Neighborhood Placemaking in Chicago . It includes a step-by-step guide, a list of local resources, and seven case studies, ranging from the Bloomingdale Trail  to the drum circle at the 63rd Street beach.
The group is also partnering with the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area  to “activate” the Polish Triangle, where Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland meet.
Last year  they held an online survey and a two-day open house, where residents could help develop ideas for the space. Currently WPB is sponsoring a public art project  for local artists to present their ideas, which will be installed in vacant storefronts in the area.
Photo by Maureen Kelleher from NCP, Southeast Chicago goes from steel to green.