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The Popportunity Winter Market in Central Square, Cambridge, Mass. — an example of winter placemaking. Photo by Jonathan Berk, Patronicity.

Some cities and towns in Massachusetts — like Cambridge, Worcester, Salem and North Adams — are turning barren public spaces into popular destinations as part of a broader campaign to promote "winter placemaking" among cold-weather cities.

The big picture: These places and others are whipping up fun public installations — like fire pits, outdoor markets and light displays — aimed at coaxing people outdoors and shopping locally in the era of COVID-19.

The back story: Last year, as the pandemic hit, a group called Patronicity — born in Detroit, and dedicated to the curious art of "placemaking" — helped solicit ideas for ways that cities could "embrace winter as a fourth season to get outdoors, and not kind of hibernate," as Jonathan Berk, who spearheaded the project, put it.

  • 65 ideas were compiled into a guidebook called "Winter Places."
  • Among the suggestions: build mazes of festive trees; decorate streetscapes with yarn art; "create a warm and cozy outdoor living room."

Then, in November, the Boston-based Barr Foundation held a webinar series to encourage U.S. cities to try "winter placemaking," embracing the cold the way Canadian and Scandinavian cities do. Barr also started granting money to cities around Massachusetts to try things out.

  • "Since Thanksgiving, we've been sort of going 100 miles an hour, helping communities plan, purchase products, and then implement different winter placemaking ideas," Berk tells Axios.

Bonus: Berk told me about one strategy in Edmonton, Alberta, "They encouraged their local weather people to talk more positively about winter."

Go deeper

Tulsa offering $10,000 for people to move there

Oklahoma's second-largest city has been known as the "oil capital of the world." At right is the BOK Tower, Tulsa's tallest building. Photo: Phil Clarkin/Phil Clarkin Photography

Cities like Tulsa, Topeka and Savannah are paying (certain) people to move there, a way to diversify their communities and attract smart and interesting people.

Why it matters: In the "work from anywhere" world, mid-tier cities are betting they can draw talent and vibrancy from major hubs — and so far it seems to be working.

Changing the inflation conversation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inflation looks like it’ll run hot for longer than plenty of smart people thought it would. The conversation over just how much more Americans will have to pay for their stuff has taken on a new intensity, as supply problems show few signs of fading.

Why it matters: The rate of price growth has remained consistently strong in recent months — a time that some thought would bring cooling prices after an initial reopening spike. What goes on with prices will influence the decisions made by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Federal Reserve.

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday, via Axios night owl Hans Nichols:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.