(what sustains Guelph for you?: 13) All-Star Entrepreneur Crista Renner on The Importance of Space

photo (10)“What sustains Guelph for me? The places and spaces. The gathering spots where people meet and greet, connect and share, celebrate and grieve. The farmer’s market, splash pads, parks, cafes, libraries, trails and the U of G campus are among the places – and spaces - that embrace Guelph’s economic, environmental, social and cultural pillars of sustainability.

I came to Guelph as a newly-married 24-year-old stranger with no connections, friends or sense of community, desperate for a sense of belonging. The first link was found on a ball diamond.

As my circle grew, I began to understand and feel connected to what was going on in my new city by weekly visits to the market. Kids came along and I planted stronger roots at the Norm Jary splash pad, the nursing room for moms at the local Sears, on the swings at Riverside Park and sing-songs at the library. We continue to evolve, offering places for business, government and non-profits to nurture ideas at places like 10 Carden, Innovation Guelph, and the Guelph Chamber. Mrs. Black’s Boarding House and the Guelph Arts Platform bring together artists, ideas & energy.

Packed Coffee Houses – with origins that encouraged political openness, and the flourishing exchange of ideas – are abundant in our downtown core. The Joint, Planet Bean, Red Brick and With the Grain are always busy with moms, dads, neighbours, friends, volunteers, students, colleagues and potential business partners leaning in to discuss life, death, and everything in between.

The Project for Public Spaces  (PPS) says a great public place offers at least 10 uses or ‘reasons to be there’ to engage citizens and motivate residents to revitalize their communities. I consider Market Square at City Hall to be one of those places. People meet to splash in water, skate on ice, eat lunch, watch movies, listen to music, conduct business meetings, look at art, create art, shop, meet for coffee, and even to pay bills…

Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being. What will sustain Guelph? Highly-collaborative, forward-thinking, community-building spaces and places that foster ideas that originate from the hearts of our community.”

-Crista Renner, WiseNow

Crista Renner is a Guelph-based entrepreneur, as well as an instructor of Social Entrepreneurship and Marketing at Conestoga College. She is also a community volunteer with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and she is in the midst of launching WiseNow, an organization dedicated to fostering greater understanding among generations in the workplace. crista@wisenow.ca