Fred Kent

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"Everyone has the right to live in a great place. More importantly, everyone has the right to contribute to making the place where they already live great."


A pioneering public space advocate and practitioner, Fred Kent is the founder of the global placemaking movement. Mentored by William H. Whyte and Jane Jacobs, Fred founded Project for Public Spaces(PPS) in 1975 to put into practice and popularize their ideas. The community-based processes, tools, and thousands of communities he and PPS worked with, laid the foundation for what placemakers are now applying, and innovating around, in many corners of the world.

The placemaking movement is built on five decades of Fred tirelessly introducing “transformative agendas” to overcome obstacles to better public spaces, supporting communities in diverse contexts across the globe, and fundamentally advancing the agency and capacity of people to participate in the shaping of their public places.

Fred was educated by luminaries like Margaret Mead and Barbara Ward while doing undergraduate and graduate work at Columbia University during the 60s. He organized an Academy for Black and Latin Education(ABLE) in 1968, with funding from Mike Bloomberg. In 1970 Fred led the organizing of the first Earth Day in New York. He then started New York Mayor Lindsay's Council on the Environment, and co-founded the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in 1973. Fred worked closely with William “Holly” Whyte on his “Street Life Project,” assisting in the public space research that formed the foundation of Whyte’s movie and book: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, before founding PPS to apply and expand the work.

As the 43-year President of Project for Public Spaces, Fred led placemaking projects in thousands of communities, trained over 10,000 people in placemaking, and led PPS’s successful transformation to a movement building non-profit until 2018. To continue to support the placemaking movement, Fred and Kathy Madden, founded a new non-profit organization, the Placemaking Fund and created two operating programs, the Social Life Project and PlacemakingX.

Fred continues to consult on select challenging and high profile projects, while writing regular articles, including his signature social life rich images, sharing what he has learned over his career.

New York
United States
Social Life Project
Founder of the Placemaking Movement
PlacemakingX Role(s)
Thought Leader
Placemaking Fund
Senior Advisor
Transformative Agenda Focus
Architecture & Planning
Economic Development & Innovation
Streets & Transportation

Placemaking is...

Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.

First placemaking encounter

Favorite childhood place

Favorite Place

Fun Fact


Since 1975, Fred has worked on thousands of placemaking projects, including Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square in New York City; Discovery Green in Houston, TX; Campus Martius in Detroit, MI; Main Street in Littleton, NH; Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, Canada. In addition to projects, Fred has led trainings across the world for audiences such as the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the National Parks Board in Singapore, representatives from the City of Hong Kong, the Ministry of Environment in Norway, the leading Dutch transportation organization in the Netherlands, Greenspace in Scotland, UK, numerous transportation professionals from US State DOTs, and thousands of community and neighborhood groups across the US.

More recently, Fred has led some of the large placemaker projects including Cape Town Waterfront, Crystal City in Alexandria, VA., Museumplein in Amsterdam, Downtown Detroit, Harvard University's main plaza, and Harvard Square for Cambridge and Harvard. He has also overseen major projects with Southwest Airlines as part of the Heart of the Community campaign. A partnership between PPS, UN Habitat, and The Ax:son Johnson Foundation resulted in a global campaign (The Future of Places) and the establishment of a Placemaking Leadership Council aimed at bringing placemaking to countries around the world. Fred has also been intimately involved with the expansion of placemaking into a global agenda, helping to achieve a level of international engagement that rivals other major international development efforts.

Key messages

“When you focus on place you do everything differently.”

“It takes a place to create a community and a community to create a place.”

“It takes more skills than any one discipline can offer to create a place.”

"If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places."

"Placemaking is community organizing. It's a campaign."