"For The Love Of Cities'' By Peter Kageyama

Looking around the room at Studio@620 the other night, the people present stand out like "grains of sand on a beach to make up the totality of place,'' to quote Peter Kageyama in talking about his new book "For The Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places.''

There at the front is Bob Devin Jones, founder of the Studio@620 in downtown St. Petersburg and representative of the "co-creators'' Kageyama credits as being key to feeling the love for urban living no matter where you call home.

Across the room sits Katee Tully, executive director at the Morean Arts Center, and Helen Levine, head of external affairs at USF-St. Petersburg. Seated in the front row is St. Pete Chamber of Commerce president Chris Steinocher and his two pre-teen sons.

Nearby: Julia Gorzka of Brand Tampa; Louis Buccino, director of community relations at Citi; Guy Hagen, new technology guru at Tucker Hall; and Michelle Royal, board chair of Creative Tampa Bay.

They are among some 70 or so global travelers -- YPs, Gen Xers, Boomers; men and women reflective of Florida's rich diversity -- who show up to listen as Kageyama talks about what led to his first book and why cities matter.

"Who really makes a city?'' Kageyama asks. "It's those citizens who have an emotional connection with the place who make the difference.''

Kageyama bonded with the idea of writing a book in January 2010 when he presented 20 slides about the love of cities at a Pecha Kucha performance at the Studio. He spent the next several months writing, often at wifi cafes like Kahwa Coffee in St. Petersburg. By November 2010, the manuscript was to an editor for final review. Today the book is available on Amazon.com.

Creating Positive Change

The essence of what he writes is truly reflected in his March 2011 Tuesday night audience, a crazy blend of agitators / co-creators in their own spheres who show up for a book-signing event in his honor. All are imaginative, innovative, energetic and in some fashion key players in what makes St. Petersburg and Tampa the lovable cities that they are.

All seem eager to share ideas and engage in conversation about the strength of their own emotional ties to their cities, attracted by what Kageyama calls "love notes'' written by residents, community leaders and city engineers.

Love notes as in canopies of trees, wide sidewalks, bubbling fountains, hip cafes, waterfront parks, pastry shops, spring flowers, fun spots, tea shops, independent book stores, funky galleries, bicycle paths and, yes, shuffleboard courts that appeal to a certain mindset forming a creative community's collective sense of place.

"For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places''
emphasizes the added value of creative entrepreneurs and public amenities in creating a sense of place that attracts, nurtures and retains city residents in Tampa Bay, one of America's best known but least understood regions.

Yes, we're all about tourism and retirement here in Tampa Bay, but as Kageyama points out, we're so much more.

"How can we change the narrative about St. Petersburg?'' a gentleman in the crowd asks, saying something like: "When I go over to Tampa, all of my friends say, "Oh, my gosh. I'm so jealous of what St. Pete has going on with Beach Drive and the arts and all.' But when I travel to New York or Chicago, people still think I live in an old folks home! How can we change that?''

One co-creator and one love note at a time, Kageyama recommends.

One Love Note At A Time

Change comes in small increments that add up to make a large difference, he writes. Adding just 1 percent more creative entrepreneurs to our population, for instance, would exponentially grow the energy and enthusiasm for tackling some of our greatest challenges as communities.

"The outputs of these engaged citizens will make their places authentic and distinct from every other place,'' Kageyama writes. ''And the prolific co-creators will be seen as prized community assets the way that major employers and major institutions are currently viewed. They are and will be an increasingly key part of the mix of successful communities.''

Not that success is all about smarts. Or all about creativity. Or all about love.

To thrive, communities require a healthy mix of people and places teeming with remarkable talent, innovation, diversity, environment.

But, "love will prove to be the difference between good enough and great, between functional and engaging, between leaving and "I think I'll stay,'' Kageyama concludes.

Kageyama's paperback (a quick and inspirational read) comes in the middle of a national challenge issued by CEOs for Cities to grow talent in cities. CEOs for Cities opened registration earlier this year for the Talent Dividend Prize, a three-year competition to increase college attainment in major cities. According to its website, "CEOs for Cities' research shows that 58 percent of a city's success, as measured by per capita income, can be attributed to post-secondary degree attainment.''

While false perceptions and the bird's-eye view of a city are often what pass for its reputation, Kageyama writes, what you can see and touch up close and personal better reflects reality and makes you fall in love.

Even T-shirts and murals on walls, he writes, can make a difference. The statements made by art tell a lot about how people feel about and why they love their city.

Indeed, Kageyama worked with STL Style, a creative design shop in St. Louis, to make cool tees that boldly shout in red, C-I-T-Y.

City as in "For The Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,'' a love note from Kageyama to cities everywhere that will prompt you to more closely examine your own relationship with where you live, work and play.

Diane Egner is the publisher and managing editor of 83 Degrees, a weekly online publication that is designed to change the narrative about the Tampa Bay region one story at a time: a new narrative for a new economy. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is the publisher and managing editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. 
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