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
  • 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 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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Creative Place-Based Projects in Michigan Compete for Excellence Award

While state government officials in Michigan are drawing criticism for their strange course of actions, local communities continue to do impressive work.

Jackson Armory Arts Village

The city of Jackson won in 2008 for turning a 19th Century prison into a thriving live/work arts village

Twenty communities in Michigan are vying for recognition in the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Awards (CEA). The CEAs represent some of the best place-based work going on in the Mitten State. The group of 2015 entries highlight amazing local partnerships and the civic leaders who are making them all happen.

Are you looking for a model to retrofit aging big-box retail establishments? We’ve got one. How about a multi-city transportation plan? Well, we’ve got one of those. A model for a citizen led community mural project? Yep, that one too!

Check out this link to see all of the innovative projects from big cities and small towns in transportation, green initiatives, economic development and cultural celebration. And, for the first time ever, you get to vote on your favorite projects! The public gets one online vote per day for each of the four categories.

The awards are highly sought after in Michigan and represent the best the state has to offer. Previous winners represent a wide array of true community excellence.

To find out more about the transformational place-based work in Michigan buy our latest book. It is an easy read and chalk full of ideas and models that anybody can take home to their own special place.

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Great Places, Great Spaces

Campus Martius from my seat on the south lawn

Campus Martius from my seat on the southern edge

I’m spending the day in downtown Detroit. The temperature is 75 degrees and the skies are blue. I’ll save you the written lecture about community resiliency. (You’ll find plenty of that in my past blogs on the site)

Ten years ago Campus Martius was a complete mess and Capitol Park was a deserted urban wasteland. The truth be told, I have lived in and around Detroit for most of my life and I didn’t even know Capitol Park was a thing until a decade or so ago.

The third floor residents common space in the newly renovated Albert on Capitol Park

The third floor residents common space in the newly renovated ‘Albert’ on Capitol Park

Today Campus Martius is an award winning space and the unofficial gathering place for Detroiters of all walks. It is a world class space smack dab in the middle of downtown that any city would love to have within its borders.

Stevens T. Mason

The statue of Michigan’s ‘Boy Governor’ in Capitol Park

Capitol Park is still a few years away from its own 2.0 life, but the energy in the area is palpable and construction teams are working on restoring buildings in every corner of the park. It is truly remarkable and proves that doesn’t take forever to turn a place around.

In the months ahead I’m looking forward to seeing what Capitol Park has in store for Detroit. It has everything that one could ask for: history, location, beautiful architecture and, now, a boundless future.

Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus



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