The Prosperity Agenda: Festivals Helping Create Sense of Place in Our Communities

prosperity-agenda-thumbWe are right in the middle of another great Michigan summer – one that gives you a chance to get out, see the state – and maybe visit your favorite festival to see your town or a town nearby in a little different way. Some Michigan cities are really well known for their festivals. It’s hard to think of Traverse City without the National Cherry Festival, or Battle Creek without its world famous Balloon Festival. Around the state, almost every city and village has a festival of its own – a chance to carve out its own little sense of place, provide an economic shot in the arm, make its people feel welcome and to attract visitors from around the county, around the state or even around the nation and world. Just as important, a festival can help a community create an identity that has long-lasting benefits not only year-round but for decades. So I hope you kick back, enjoy the lighter side of our show, and listen as we talk to experts about the festivals just over, those to come, and some worth visiting in your region. My co-host for this month’s show is mlive entertainment reporter John “Gonzo” Gonzalez, who covers the state’s festivals, food and beverage scene. Our guests are Sue Bila, executive director of the Michigan Festivals and Events Association; David Lorenz, acting vice president of Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and Jon Witz, president of Jonathan Witz and Associates and a founder of the Arts Beats and East festival in Royal Oak. The Michigan Prosperity Agenda is a monthly radio show that challenges listeners to help make Michigan a better place to live, work and play by creating vibrant and prosperous local communities. It has aired on News/Talk 760 WJR since 2010. The hour-long radio program is hosted by me, Dan Gilmartin, CEO of the Michigan Municipal League (the League). The show is sponsored by the League and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The League’s next show airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, 2015 on News/Talk 760 WJR, but you can listen anytime at the League’s website or by subscribing to the FREE iTunes podcast. Learn more about the placemaking concept here as well as on this blog.

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Walk up style housing coming to Michigan in a big way

Walkable urban places are not just a phenomenon of coastal U.S. metropolitan areas. This report demonstrates that the market desires them in Michigan—and they are gaining traction. If this emerging trend in favor of walkable urbanism plays out in Michigan as it has in the (elsewhere) it will mean an historic shift away from the drivable development patterns that have dominated development for the latter half of the 20th century. The state could return to the walkable urban development pattern that predominated before World War II.”

- The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Michigan Metros


Last Monday LOCUS and Smart Growth America dropped a bomb on the Michigan real estate market. A good bomb, in my opinion, but a bomb nonetheless.

After decades of disinvestment in walkable urbanism in the Mitten State the new report from LOCUS shows palpable signs that walk up housing is coming back with a vengeance. Economic developers, residential builders and local officials throughout the state should heed the calls of the report.

Key findings of the report include:

  • After decades of disinvestment in the late 20th century, walkable urban places are making a comeback in Michigan, led by Grand Rapids and Detroit-Ann Arbor.
  • There is significant pent-up demand for walkable urbanism in Michigan.
  • The comeback of WalkUPs is evident in market trends. Rent and price premiums for WalkUP real estate have emerged over the last several years.
  • The rent and price premiums for walkable urbanism in the Michigan Metros are not as high as the current premiums in Washington, D.C., or Boston but the current premiums in these two metros may be the future for Michigan’s Metros.
  • Most of Michigan’s walkable urban places are still in a state of transition. Continued support and management by local leaders, patient investment capital, and federal, state, and local partnership is still needed.
  • Walkable urban places tend to offer both lower combined housing and transportation costs, as well as better access to jobs than drivable locations.
  • The development and expansion of walkable urban places will generate an economic return for the Michigan Metros and the State of Michigan.

From millennials to aging baby boomers, people from all walks of life are willing to pay a premium for this type of housing. The land use outcomes of such housing are positive and the cost of infrastructure pales in relation to drivable, less dense housing.

Older Michigan cities should see this report as proof positive that there is a bright future for them despite the economic struggles of recent decades and state policy that short changes them. It is now time that we fully grasp this economic momentum and create an environment where new walk up housing and mixed use development will combine with the countless other assets of the state to create an economic future that will have Michigan compete with the very best places on Earth.

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The Prosperity Agenda: Michigan is Redeveloping its Way to Economic Vibrancy

prosperity-agenda-thumbMichigan’s push to become a national leader in providing residents good-paying jobs, excellent universities, and vibrant places to live, is propelled by communities across Michigan that are embracing redevelopment and innovation. On this month’s Prosperity Agenda radio show on News/Talk 760 WJR we talk with community leaders across Michigan who using creative thinking and new ideas to improve their cities and towns. My co-host for this month’s show is journalist and author, John Gallagher. He previously covered urban and economic efforts in Detroit and Michigan and is known for his book “Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City.” Our guests are Jennifer Rigterink, manager of the Redevelopment Ready Communities Program at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Bill Wild, Mayor of Westland; and Elizabeth Schultheiss, executive director of the Albion Community Foundation, which helped restore the Bohm Theatre in downtown Albion. The Michigan Prosperity Agenda is a monthly radio show that challenges listeners to help make Michigan a better place to live, work and play by creating vibrant and prosperous local communities. It has aired on News/Talk 760 WJR since 2010. The hour-long radio program is hosted by me, Dan Gilmartin, CEO of the Michigan Municipal League (the League). The show is sponsored by the League and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The League’s next show airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, 2015 on News/Talk 760 WJR, but you can listen anytime at the League’s website or by subscribing to the FREE iTunes podcast. Learn more about the placemaking concept here as well as on this blog.

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Here is My Nominee for Best Art in an Alley. What’s Yours?

The Belt in downtown Detroit.Belt 5

Bedrock Detroit

Belt 3

Detroit Alley

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