Project for Public Spaces

Chief Executive Officer

To Apply

PPS has retained the services of Harris Rand Lusk to conduct this search. Inquiries, nominations, and applications may be directed in confidence to:

Anne McCarthy, COO and Senior Director
Harris Rand Lusk
122 East 42nd Street, Suite 3605
New York, NY  10168

E-Mail your application to eperry@harrisrand.com

Please put the phrase “PPS CEO” in the subject line of your e-mailed application.

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Its pioneering, multi-faceted approach to the planning, design, management and use of public spaces branded as “Placemaking” helps citizens transform their communities into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve the common good.

PPS was founded by Fred Kent in 1975 to expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, PPS has completed projects in more than 3000-plus communities in 47 countries and all 50 U.S. states and is the premier center for best practices, information, and resources on placemaking.  Formed in 2013, over 1800 people from 83+ counties worldwide are members of PPS’ Placemaking Leadership Council.

In recent years, Placemaking has become a global movement as “Public Space” and “Placemaking” are now being understood as a means to address the global challenge cities and communities face today.   As a result of these developments, PPS is evolving into a very different organization than it has been in the past, and is seeking to expand and grow its impact. PPS has been working on city, state, and global projects for many years and strong leadership of the organization at the management, staff, and board levels will be needed to continue to advance the organization’s progress.  Partnerships with major national and international organizations offer much potential as well. PPS already has innovative and high-profile programs partnering with Southwest Airlines, The Brookings Institution and the Bass Family Foundations. Those relationships need to be strengthened and built upon.

PPS’ founder and longtime leader is retiring from the day-to-day management of the organization.  As a result, the Board of Directors is seeking an exceptional leader with experience in and a passion for building communities as PPS’ next Chief Executive Officer.

The Position:
The CEO of Project for Public Spaces is the leader of the organization and is responsible for the overall direction and management of the organization.  The CEO reports to the Board of Directors and the ability to work closely with and be responsive to the Board is critical.

The CEO must be dynamic and entrepreneurial about developing opportunities for PPS, and will have the power and presence to advocate successfully and passionately on behalf of PPS in the public and private sectors.  The position is a critical, highly visible one requiring a demonstrated ability to work with other non-profits, local community organizations, city and state governments, regulatory and NGO’s, as well private sector entities in the United States and internationally.  While working collaboratively with staff across the organization to ensure success, the CEO is ultimately responsible for the business development, growth, stature, financial health, and image of PPS locally, nationally, and internationally.

Desired Skills and Experiences:
There is no perfect candidate. No candidate will have mastered or possess all of the skills, characteristics, and attributes described herein; rather, the ideal candidate will bring a mix of experience, qualities, and established track record in order to deftly lead strategic planning and change efforts in an organization operating in a dynamic environment:

  • The CEO must be a strong and skilled organizational leader. The CEO needs to support a framework for future growth in the business as well as continuing to empower the highly skilled and experienced staff to fully realize their potential as senior professionals and program/project leaders.
  • The CEO should have a demonstrated commitment to and experience with placemaking, or a related discipline. The CEO must have a strong sense of mission and an understanding of the social and political forces shaping public space revitalization globally today.
  • The CEO must be a leader and consensus builder who is able to promote cooperation, collaboration, new partnerships and form constituencies while advancing the core goals of the organization.
  • The CEO must be a highly skilled fundraiser and effective at creating partnerships with major philanthropic institutions and major companies and who can represent PPS to the nonprofit funding community and potential non-profit and private sector business partners.
  • The CEO must be a strong financial manager. PPS is substantially supported through earned income. The CEO s manages an operations team that can successfully manage and expand this significant fee for service practice within the constraints of a nonprofit organization.
  • The successful candidate should be an excellent communicator, politically astute, a strategic thinker and planner, and a problem solver. Other personal qualities include integrity, commitment to PPS’ mission, respect for diversity and the ability to collaborate, inspire and motivate.


Leadership and Management

  • Leads PPS and works closely with a senior leadership team to advance PPS programs, thought leadership, and goals. Provides overall control, direction and coordination of PPS’s operations, finances, and staff, setting goals and objectives, assuring that they are achieved in a strategic, timely, and cost-effective manner.
  • Fosters a culture to attract, retain, and leverage the strengths of staff. Ensures there is a positive and collaborative working environment.
  • Develops and maintains relationships with key figures in government, non-profits, community and civic organizations and other stakeholder groups both domestically and internationally.
  • Stimulates new initiatives and promotes PPS’s public policy agenda, collaborating with staff, partners and the Board that will effectively advance PPS’s role in the global Placemaking movement.
  • Ensures management of effective advocacy programs from conception, design and implementation.
  • Works with the Board to expand their leadership capacity. Cultivates a strong partnership with the Board of Directors in setting policies consistent with the mission of PPS.


  • Takes a leadership role in driving a collaborative process with the Board of Directors, staff and partners to develop one and three-year goals, objectives and operational plans for the organization, with milestones and performance measurements to guide strategic and operational decision-making.
  • Ensures organizational goals are met, and identifies and recommends required resources to the Board of Directors for discussion and approval.

Legal and Financial Oversight

  • Oversees preparation of the annual budget and other necessary financial documents. Provide information and justifications for Board of Directors in its budgetary review and approval process.
  • Ensures that PPS meets its legal, regulatory, and ethical obligations, operates in accordance with all policies and guidelines approved by the Board of Directors or under their authority, and with the highest integrity.

Additional Qualifications:

  • 10+ years of experience in leadership in relevant field.
  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline; advanced degree strongly preferred.
  • Excellent written, oral, and facilitative communication skills.
  • Personal qualities that include integrity, commitment to PPS’ mission, respect or diversity and the ability to inspire and motivate

Compensation is commensurate with experience.
PPS is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


122 East 42nd Street, Suite 3605, New York, NY 10168