The second annual conference, held July 30, aims to involve community stakeholders in different revitalization efforts within their own community.
The second annual PlaceKeepers Minority Developers Conference will be held at the OSU Discovery Building (300 NE 9th St.) July 30.
Northeast OKC Renaissance created the conference in 2021 as part of its mission to “ensure that residents and stakeholders participate in the revitalization of their community.” Organizer DeAndre Martin said the theme this year is A New Approach.
“The theme underlines the need for new approaches to ethical development, and so the topics covered will be somewhat unconventional,” Martin said. “Jabee Williams and Kris Kanaly have a session on public art and development. Cornel Wesley is joining us to talk about economic development in Birmingham, Alabama, especially how cities create policies that don’t always have minority stakeholders in mind.”
Martin said they coined the term “placekeepers” in 2019, when they were talking about a future conference.
“Most people are familiar with placemaking, the process of turning an abandoned or neglected part of a city into a spot where people want to be,” Martin said. “They activate an area for the community, but often those changes are produced by people who don’t live in or have businesses in that area, and so the changes aren’t always what the residents want them to be.”
As an example, Martin talked about the importance of public parks, and how families and communities use them for birthdays, holidays, quinceaneras, and other gatherings.
“If a board or committee decides to build an amphitheater in the park, it’s only a good idea if the community who uses it needs the amphitheater,” Martin said. “The community’s needs and usage of the park should dictate development. The people who live there know what they need and want.”
The conference and ongoing mission of PlaceKeepers is “to empower the community to be builders and developers of the community they want to see,” Martin added.
The conference is just one program among many PlaceKeepers offers. Potential stakeholders and developers can also sign up for five-week, 25-hour cohorts that offer real estate developer training to interested parties. Martin said they’re currently getting two cohorts a year but would love to increase that number.
“The conference allows us to cast a much wider net than the cohorts do,” Martin said. “The problems we’re working against aren’t restricted to NE Oklahoma City. We need to look at different models for different areas, and the conference makes that possible.”
PlaceKeepers cohorts welcome potential developers and those with a general or vocational interest in development. Martin said that city officials, neighborhood organizations, and others connected to development benefit from the opportunity to have intelligent conversations with outside developers as part of PlaceKeepers educational component.
One of the presenters at this year’s conference, Rees Architecture, will talk specifically about how those conversations can benefit community stakeholders and developers. They call their projects community-driven design, because each begins with pre-engagement sessions before plans are even drawn up. The meetings solicit community feedback, which then factors into design and development choices.
The conference will have three plenary sessions and three blocks of breakout sessions. The conference runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and more information is available at www.neokc.org/pkc.