City Doctor makes a housecall to St. John’s

Decisions about public places tend to get people fired up. From the harbourfront fence to CBS’s newly proposed downtown core, nothing sparks a debate faster than someone proposing what should be done with a space that belongs to everybody.

On March 2nd, a packed house of 150 gathered at the Rocket Room for Happy City’s “I Love NL” event to talk about public places, and how to make shared spaces beautiful, fun, welcoming, and livable.

The event featured Dr. Katherine Loflin, an urban planning consultant from North Carolina self-described as the “City Doctor” who joined a panel discussion about the concept of placemaking.

Placemaking is a term that came to prominence in the 1970s to describe the process of creating parks, streets and harbourfronts that will attract people because they are pleasurable or interesting. This approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces focusses on creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being, as well as economic development.

“With such a great turnout for the event, it’s clear that this is a topic on a lot of people’s minds,” says Dave Lane, chairperson for Happy City, the non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging public dialogue around civic issues. “We all have a sense that there’s something special about our place, and we have an opportunity to make them the foundation of a successful city.”

Loflin was joined by local panelists Neil Dawe, of TRACT Consulting and VIRDIS place branding, who is a landscape architect by trade, and Sheldon O’Neill, of the provincial Office of Immigration. At the event, O’Neill discussed the province’s objective to triple immigration over the next five years.

The event was held in partnership with The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, and Tract Consulting, and was supported by Town of Torbay and Rocket Bakery.

Happy City St. John’s blog can be found at


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