United States

All communities face certain challenges. But some people see challenges as opportunities. On Placemakers, we bring you stories about the spaces we inhabit and the people who shape them. Join us as we criss-cross the country, introducing you to real people in real communities — people who make a difference in how we travel, work, and live. You’ll never look at your community the same way again.


The Warrior on the Hill  

Washington, D.C., may be the political center of the free world, but its

670,000 residents don’t have a say in the national legislature. What they do have is a

“non-voting delegate” in the House of Representatives. Eleanor Holmes Norton can

introduce legislation and vote in committee, but she can’t vote on the House floor.

Over the course of 13 terms, the so-called “Warrior on the Hill” been fighting to

change that.

Building a Better Bike Share  

Philadelphia has made a mission of making bike share attractive to low-

income and minority residents, trying to buck the national trend of bike-share users

being white, rich, educated, and male. The city has moved bike stations into

nonwhite neighborhoods. It’s used ambassadors. It’s hired a multiracial team to run

the bike-share program. And it’s tried and abandoned other ideas, in an attempt to

break the social stigma of riding a bike in poor neighborhoods.

Recidivism and Reentry in Crime-ridden Chicago.  

When Bennie Lee was only 13 years old he became a leader of the Apache Vice Lords, an African-American street gang on Chicago’s west side. In and out of prison for years, Lee eventually landed on death row in the aftermath of a deadly riot at the Pontiac Correctional Center in Illinois. Lee was acquitted, set himself straight, and is now helping the formerly incarcerated imagine a life on the outside.

Placetaking: Squatting for House and Home  

After punk singer Steven DeCaprio learned how to legally acquire tax-

defaulted property in Oakland, California, by squatting, he decided to grow a

movement of political “squatter-activists” to take over the land. The group, known

as Land Action, seeks to provide access to land for purposes of social justice and

environmental organizing.

Bigger, Better, Greener  

A decade ago, a tornado wiped out the small town of Greensburg. But the town decided

to rebuild -- as a totally green community. Ten years out, has green rebuilding program been

successful, and is this a model that might be used by other towns? Or is going green harder

than it seems?

A Soft Landing in Missoula  

Mary Poole has been a nurse, an arborist, a jewelry-maker, and a mom. But she’s never

been a politician or an activist. At least not until one heartbreaking photo from halfway around

the world changed everything for her. Now she’s on a mission to make her hometown of

Missoula, Montana, home to refugees fleeing conflict globally. But not everyone in this

conservative state is happy about it.

Paid Podcast: Mapping Urban Renewal  

Over the last 40-plus years, Detroit has seen its economy falter and its population dwindle, leaving thousands of homes empty and starting a downward spiral of neighborhood decay. In this episode, join host Brian Babylon as he digs into how Loveland Technologies has used city support and funding from JPMorgan Chase to build an innovative crowdsourcing platform to help heal Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Internet for All  

Chattanooga, Tennessee, has a lightning-fast, publicly-run broadband network that has

attracted a lot of tech talent to the city. But as the city builds an economy around technology,

one thing is becoming apparent: There’s a gaping divide between those who are tech-savvy,

and those who aren’t. In some neighborhoods, as few as one in five households has an internet

connection. Can Chattanooga bridge its digital divide?

The Matriarch of Spirit on Lake  

Spirit on Lake looks a lot like any other apartment complex built over the past few years. But something very specific sets it apart from nearly every other apartment building in the nation: It’s an affordable-housing development aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors. It was the brainchild of someone who deeply understands the unique challenges of this community – because as an 82-year-old transgender woman, she’s part of it.

Self-Gentrifying in the Bronx  

Majora Carter embraces the idea of “self-gentrification” in her native South Bronx. She founded a park in a spot slated to become a waste-transfer facility. She hires local gamers to test software and provide customer service for major tech outfits. And now she’s opened the first boutique coffee shop in Hunts Point, a marginalized neighborhood that, once upon a time, she swore she would leave forever.

Mighty Tieton  

It’s no secret that climbing rents are driving many creative entrepreneurs out of popular urban centers. When Seattle book publisher Ed Marquand stumbled across a dearth of cheap real estate in a struggling small town not far from the big city, he thought he may have found a solution to the problem. But will Marquand be received as a knight in shining armor, or a colonizer come to conquer and pillage?

They Tore Down Hell  

Atlanta wanted an end to its public housing projects-- no more pockets of

poverty, crime, and despair. In the 1990s, the city started tearing the projects down,

replacing them with mixed-income neighborhoods. The shining success story of this

effort? East Lake, which turned “Little Vietnam” into a safe, beautiful community.

We’ll meet the people who made it happen. When so much can go wrong, how did

East Lake get it right?

The Cheerful Hurly-Burly  

To understand the stories we'll tell on Placemakers, you must understand the ultimate placemaker: Jane Jacobs. She lacked formal training in city planning but became an urban visionary who promoted dense, mixed-use neighborhoods where people interacted on the street. She also became the nemesis of New York master builder Robert Moses. On our inaugural episode, we'll explore Jacobs' legacy and how the ideas and ideals of "Saint Jane" hold up today.

Coming Soon: Placemakers  

Starting August 1, host Rebecca Sheir introduces you to people facing challenges and trying to make a difference in 18 different communities across America. 

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