Great Cities Are Made of Great Neighborhoods

// City of Neighborhoods Aims to Unite Communities for a More Walkable, livable Tacoma

  • Diers

  • Metanovic

In an effort to inspire and lead Tacoma residents to create inviting, more people-friendly neighborhoods, Go Local and Local Life are teaming up to present a daylong event called City of Neighborhoods. Happening June 30 at University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT), it runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to help create attractive neighborhood identities and thriving, walkable communities across the city.

Justin Mayfield is executive director of Local Life, a Tacoma-based nonprofit that promulgates strong neighborhood identity, neighborhood cohesion and human-scale development, according to its mission statement. He explained that “City of Neighborhoods” is a way to describe the concept of neighborhoods being the building blocks of healthy cities.

“Neighborhoods are their own entity and make the whole of the city,” he said. “The idea is to have identifiable places and neighborhoods within the city that have strong culture themselves where people can live, work and play.”
Mayfield explained that while people know of Proctor District and the 6th Avenue area, for example, districts such as these around Tacoma tend to be known mainly through the businesses that call them home. This is where Go Local comes in, as its vision is to build community that supports and is supported by local independent business. Local Life represents the other side of the coin, so to speak, by bringing neighborhood residents into the picture to achieve the same vision of building community but through the residents who live there. Local Life and Go Local have now come together for the City of Neighborhoods event so that both merchants and residents can build a strong neighborhood culture right where they live.

“It really made sense for both of us to get involved,” Mayfield said of the new Local Life/Go Local partnership.

City of Neighborhoods will feature two of the best names in neighborhood development as keynote speakers. Jim Diers is the former head of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods. Under his leadership, hundreds of bottom-up projects, like the Fremont Troll, went into bringing Seattle’s neighborhoods together and helping them shape their own unique identities. Diers is the author of “Neighbor Power” and now spends his time traveling the world speaking about bottom-up community development.

Milenko Metanovic is a community builder and a visual artist with an international reputation and a professional career of more than 40 years. He has authored three books and leads the Pomegranate Center, a nonprofit that helps neighborhoods build gathering places.

“We found that these are the guys who made the most sense (to keynote City of Neighborhoods) because they focus on people on the ground and are great at communicating stories,” Mayfield said, noting how hearing stories of success would help provide a clear and confident vision for City of Neighborhoods participants wanting to improve their own neighborhoods here at home. “We thought stories would be helpful because they inspire people to know that others are doing it.”

Much more is on the agenda for City of Neighborhoods: five “rapid fire” 10-minute talks from knowledgeable local people on themes of community gardens, sustainable neighborhood design, intersection repair and many others; five optional themed “lunch huddles” at various restaurants surrounding UWT; and 20 workshops led by local experts and practitioners around the themes of placemaking and neighborhood development such as setting up a food swap for home gardeners to exchange their crops, and social justice concerns including how to help neighbors in hard times. There will also be a walking tour along Pacific Avenue during which tour leaders will point out the basics of what makes a neighborhood functional and attractive. In total, there will be more than 30 presenters at City of Neighborhoods.

Mayfield said he hopes that participants will be moved to get involved in City of Neighborhoods’ call for “bottom up community development” and help nurture a vibe in Tacoma neighborhoods like that of other great walkable American cities, from Ballard to Greenwich Village.

He explained: “Instead of the top coming in – whether that be large corporations or a government entity to develop the community – it’s the bottom saying this is what we want and we’re willing to work together and put in effort to make that happen. One of benefits of that tends to be the bonds that form among the people who work together on that because they’re working on a common goal together.”

Registration for City of Neighborhoods is $20 for the general public and $10 for students with valid school or college I.D. Visit


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