Jacksonville has been feeling a lot of love lately, from near and far, because of the Jaguars’ magical playoff run.
The magic ended in New England, one game from the Super Bowl. But keeping the love alive — as well as the resulting community pride and unity — can boost the city as well as the team, according to community development consultant Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places.”
“The trick is, when it’s happening, ride it,” said Kageyama, who will speak at two February events hosted by LISC Jacksonville, a nonprofit that helps revitalize and rebuild neighborhoods. “People are excited … Channel that energy into something a little bit more permanent, something that’s going to be around. Folks are going to see something about the city that they didn’t see before.”
Kageyama, 53, is the former president of Creative Tampa Bay, a grassroots community-change organization and co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit, an interdisciplinary conference. His mission focuses on making cities lovable and, as a result, loved by their residents.
“When children, pets, plants and even objects are loved, they thrive,” Kageyama wrote in his book. “The same is true of our places. When we love our cities, we will go to extraordinary lengths for them. We will sacrifice for them, we will push ourselves for them, we will tolerate their shortfalls, we will forgive their excesses — all because we see their true nature.
“When we have an emotional connection to our place, we are less likely to leave it and far more likely to champion and defend it in the face of criticism. We will fight for it,” he wrote.
Many people who live in cities with an NFL team have an emotional connection with that team, which can lead to love for the city. Kageyama suggested Jacksonville work to extend the playoff love between the city and the Jaguars beginning with, among other things, a Jags Appreciation Day the Friday before the Super Bowl, repeating the examples of fan support that occurred during the playoffs.
“Wear your Jags gear to work, to school … and maybe have a party downtown that evening after work. Turn LED lights to the Jags colors on buildings, in offices,” he said.
Such meaningful gestures — Kageyama called them “love notes” — are part of what makes a city lovable. They can range from flower plantings and pocket parks in challenged neighborhoods to water fountains, benches and street festivals, he said.
“A love note is something that endears a place to its residents, something that makes them smile or feel at ease, something that provides them with an emotional connection to their place,” he wrote.
Some of the emotional connections in a city are based on love notes or experiences initiated not by government or other official community leaders but by a group of people Kageyama called “co-creators.” They are entrepreneurs, activists, artists, performers, students, organizers and other concerned citizens.
“They build on existing elements, like infrastructure and institutions, and collaborate with others to make new things. They are also connectors and catalysts who in turn inspire others to get involved and contribute to the making of their community,” he said.
Sometimes co-creators become frustrated when their efforts are slowed or blocked by government bureaucracy or community intolerance. They continue where they are or move to another city and co-create. But they don’t stop.
“It’s in their nature, they almost can’t help themselves,” Kageyama said.
In a relatively small city like Jacksonville, compared to New York City or Los Angeles, they can have substantial impact.
“It’s both large enough for lots of opportunities and small enough [for individuals] to make a difference,” he said.
While in Jacksonville, Kageyama will be the keynote speaker at an LISC awards event honoring people who help revitalize neighborhoods, local versions of “co-creators.”
“The impetus for the awards was to draw attention to all of the work in community development that is happening in Jacksonville,” said David Pierson, LISC fund development officer. “People often define community development in terms of buildings and physical development, but it is a lot more than that.”
Greg Anderson, chairman of LISC’s awards committee, said Kageyama will bring an “important view,” some of which Jacksonville is already following.
“His book suggests that cities can be lovable and leaders should focus on things that create an emotional attraction to our community,” Anderson said. “Many of Peter’s suggestions are applicable to Jacksonville. As an example, he suggests that art and culture can create an emotional connection. We have used that strategy. … There are many new, interesting public artworks creating meaningful spaces downtown.”
Also, Kageyama suggested that infrastructure “can be interesting and meaningful,” he said. “There is no better example of this than our relationship with the St. Johns River. Public accessibility through river walks and riverfront parks continues to be an important strategy as we engage our citizens.”
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109