Four years after he helped spark the Vibrant Communities movement, inspiring Elkhart County residents to invest not only their time and energy but also their emotional attachment, Peter Kageyama is returning to speak at The Big Event on Wednesday, January 22, at the Lerner Theatre.

Kageyama’s message about the importance of quality of place was a hit with the beyond-capacity crowd of more than 600 who filled the Crystal Ballroom and an adjacent room.

The conversations that ensued about what residents loved about their city and what they wanted to be further developed or improved led to the formation of a 77-item Action Agenda. The proposals included steps to beautify downtowns and neighborhoods and make public spaces more vibrant and inclusive.

“Four years ago, we had a conversation that lit a bunch of fires. This year we’re going to celebrate those fires and figure out those next steps and where we’re going to take this,” Kageyama said.

In his first two books, Kageyama highlights the importance of the arts, parks and green spaces, aesthetics and community events. He wrote of the importance of “co-creators,” community leaders who led from grassroots to create lasting positive change, and a city’s “love notes,” gestures that build emotional attachment. He says emotions such as love for a place hold a tremendous influence on how residents experience their city.

“What I didn’t fully apprehend (then) is how important those things are to a community,” he said. “I have a deeper understanding of how it all fits together.

Kageyama’s latest book, “The Emotional Infrastructure of Places,” was published last fall. His insights will inform his talk on January 22.

As cities seek to rebuild streets, bridges and other public infrastructure, they need to consider seriously the emotional impact of those changes and not merely as projects to be engineered.

“Let’s think about this stuff in a more holistic way. (Projects such as new streets or bridges) will have a generational impact … we have to live with it for a long time, and when (a project) lives a long time, its qualities manifest itself (over a long period of time).

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