Event Venues

Great [Meeting] Places in America

The American Planning Association (APA), a not-for-profit educational organization focused on the development of vital communities, traces its roots back to none other than a conference: the first National Conference on City Planning in Washington, D.C., in 1909.

West Beverley Street, Staunton, Virginia • Street fairs along West Beverley attract large crowds of residents and tourists alike. Photo courtesy Staunton Downtown Development Association.

Fast forward to nearly 100 years later, in 2007, when APA launched its first Great Places in America program, recognizing “unique and exemplary streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces — three essential components of all communities.”

These “authentic places,” APA says, “have been shaped by forward-thinking planning that showcases diverse architectural styles, promotes community involvement and accessibility, and fosters economic opportunity.”

APA has just published its list of 2013 Great Places in America, and while not all of the 30 great neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces recognized are in meeting-destination hotspots, many of them are. And they all point to the role that intelligent design — which encourages people to walk and gather in community spaces — plays in a truly inviting city, whether you live there, play tourist, or inhabit briefly while attending a meeting.

Barbara Palmer spoke to urban planner Jeff Speck about just these things — and why convention centers should be part of a walkable downtown — in our August issue. Barbara touches on this topic again in this month’s cover story, where she highlights convention centers and conference hotels that make art part of their signature and their draw, for both the locals and meeting attendees.


Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.