The recently established Great Places Commission believes that placemaking is all about creating communities that are thriving and resilient. There are so many factors that make a community a thriving place to be and one that is often overlooked is the importance of marketing and the brand being created alongside the physical and community investment.
An everyday example of this is Craigmillar in Edinburgh, where our Castle Rock Edinvar office is based. The area has been undergoing regeneration for more than a decade with millions of pounds of investment in new homes, community facilities, transport connections, retail and leisure. The latest phase of development has seen additional affordable housing, market sales, a retail centre and plans for a new school. The number of homes built in Craigmillar over the last decade will come in to the 1000s, which is no mean feat.
With all this investment we would expect the image and perception of Craigmillar to have shifted over time, surely an important element if placemaking is about creating thriving places where people will want to live.
In 2006, Craigmillar was branded the most poverty-stricken area in Scotland outside of Glasgow. The reality in 2018 is that this situation has improved and yet the image of Craigmillar from the past still lingers.
The very word ‘thriving’ embodies prosperity and growth and to achieve this it is widely accepted that placemaking has to be about more than the bricks and mortar. In the city of Edinburgh, the engine room of the Scottish economy, the population has grown from 2003 to 2013 by 9.5 per cent. It has a high quality of life, one of the highest employment rates in the UK and the highest gross value added per capita outside of London.
The average gross disposable income per resident is higher than Bristol, Leeds and Manchester. It is widely recognised as an international tourism destination and a festival city. All of these are the right ingredients to create a thriving community. The question is whether the regeneration and marketing of Craigmillar has built on the strength of this brand.
Craigmillar cannot thrive in its own bubble, outside of the wider market and cultural influences in the city. It needs to build a trusted brand that reflects what the community can offer and ensures that they benefit from the strength of the surrounding economy.
Marketing of Craigmillar should be a core part of the wider regeneration and placemaking strategy. Successful places are not just created through physical and community change. To thrive they need to have a long-term brand and marketing strategy directly connected to community needs and people’s emotions.
How a community behaves, what people say or hear about it and how it looks all play a part in people’s perceptions of a place. Branding pulls these three areas together and through good marketing and communications will make Craigmillar better understood as the flourishing community it is becoming today.
Richard Jennings, managing director, Castle Rock Edinvar.