Creating Creative Places

Walkable communities are places that cultivate and celebrate creativity. This session will examine how communities are using art and placemaking to build connections and foster activity.

Moderator: Mukul Malhotra, Principal, MIG

About the Panel

  • Matt Leasure is a certified planner and professional landscape architect with 16 years of experience on a variety of urban design, parks and recreation, and private development projects. He is a Principal of Designing Local, where he leads projects which focus on placemaking and public space design. He is a proponent of public engagement as a fundamental element of the creative process and strives to weave local storytelling into each project. Matt serves as Advocacy Chair for Columbus Landmarks, Central Ohio’s primary historic preservation and urban design advocacy group, and is a lecturer at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture.

  • Jess Mathews’ passion and commitment toward people-centered places is unparalled. Through community engagemtn and building bulldog persistence, Jess creates places in our community where people interact with each other and the environment. She has achieved great success with her ‘PlaceMakes’ initiative which includes the West Cherry St ‘Re-Imagined’ Project, the 4th St, Gay St. and Franklinton Parklets, and her recent work at The Gravity mixed-use development project. The success of her many ‘citizen-led’ projects has motivated her to start her own consulting business: Epic Small Consulting. Epic Small helps communities execute small-scale placemaking projects that brings people joy, and helps move the needle toward more inclusive community design. Jess is also a bicycle advocate and has been featured at TEDx Columbus.
  • Jamie McMillen is the Vice President of Government Affairs for the Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors. Since late 2009, Jamie has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Realtors PAC totaling more than $1 million. She has worked with officials at every level of government to protect private property rights, remove barriers to homeownership, and ensure northeast Ohio is “Home for All.” Under Jamie’s leadership, ACAR has partnered on placemaking projects in Akron, Cleveland, Euclid, Maple Heights, and South Euclid. She currently serves as the chair of the Ohio Realtors Equal Opportunity & Diversity Forum and is the Ohio representative to the Realtor Party Member Involvement Committee at the National Association of Realtors. A native of Cadiz (kad-IZ), Ohio, McMillen has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Mount Union. In her spare time, she volunteers with the National Cabinet of Mount Union Women and Keep Akron Beautiful. She lives in the Firestone Park region of Akron with her Boxer (Ziggy) and Siamese (Jax).