GreaterPlaces – 2015 Innovation Award Winner

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting the 2015 Innovation Awards winners announced at this years New Partners for Smart Growth conference. This installment will focus on GreaterPlaces which won the Innovative Tool Award.

GreaterPlaces began as a book concept presenting design and policy innovation to address neighborhood concerns with density and infill development. However the pace of innovation in this field is not a good match for static formats like books and pdfs.  Luckily, interior décor sites like Houzz and Architizer have established good models for interactive, visual design resources.

Using lean startup techniques, the GreaterPlaces team began testing website design for presenting case studies in 2013.  The original site, debuted at the 2014 New Partners conference, aims to solve several different problems facing urban design:

  • Planning silos by sector and audience
  • Ineffective public processes
  • Association paywalls that restrict access to the best resources and networking
  • No one accessible, organized resource with an honest focus on “this is how we got great results”
  • Expensive, narrow sales channels for innovative and/or small firms

Most of all, there did not seem to be a resource taking advantage of Web 2.0: social links, interactivity, intuitive design, in-app organization and more.

This spring, GreaterPlaces will release its “beta” site with more features. So how will it work?

  • User uploaded examples of placemaking, policies and plans: The main product is a trove of case studies, photos and examples of urban design.  We will use data to give continuous feedback to authors and users in order to create case studies that deliver the best information.
  • Interactive forums: Like Houzz, users can post design challenges with streets, economic development, transit, sprawl repair and more.  Community members can respond with their firm or city’s solutions.
  • Marketplace for Goods and Services: Later this year, we will introduce an online marketplace.
  • Future features: users gave us more ideas than we can build on our current budget. If you have ideas, please send to

So what will the impact be?

  • Accessibility: an open source site for all the various stakeholders. Too many good resources are locked behind professional paywalls or lost in the Google-sphere.
  • Efficiency: City design is now a siloed affair, which favors processes by individual sector. By aggregating all topics in one place, we can better understand, present and find solutions for the interlinking aspects of placemaking and governance.
  • Innovation: How many times do we deal with intractable status quo outcomes? Leveraging the best of the web, data and social, we have new tools to spotlight new ideas, smaller firms, and multi-purpose investments.

How can you get started?  You can visit and sign up now.  You will get a monthly newsletter and the ability to upload your work and participate in online forums. Please contact Lisa ( for more information and please sign up.


Critter Thompson

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