Three Excellent (short) Videos on Building Great Places

Here are three excellent videos that explore how we can improve the places where we live and build communities that thrive, compliments of the Michigan Municipal League’s video vault.

“Fall in Love with the Problem”- Josh McManus, on civic engagement (25 mins)

“Building Fantastic Places”- Chuck Marohn, on the best urban form (21 mins)

“Lean Urbanism”- Andres Duany, on breaking down silos for urban development (37 mins)


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The Prosperity Agenda: Placemaking Vital in Making Michigan Prosperous Again

prosperity-agenda-thumbPlacemaking is essential to restoring Michigan to prosperity and creating communities that people love. It’s about turning “that community” into “my community.” On our next Prosperity Agenda  radio show on News/Talk 760 WJR we discuss placemaking and economic development. My co-host for this show is Kirk Pinho, real estate reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business. Our guests are Tom Ivacko, Manager of the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP); Mark Nickita is a Birmingham city commissioner and the former mayor of that city as well as co-founder of the award-winning design firm Archive Design Studio; and Auburn Hills City Manager Pete Auger, the newly elected president of the Michigan Local Government Management Association. The show airs 7 p.m. Feb. 26 on News/Talk 760 WJR, but you can listen  and 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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Engaged Communities A Key to Long-Term Economic Success

In Michigan we are in the process of reinventing ourselves.

Mark's Carts in Ann Arbor, the state's top food truck spot

Mark’s Carts in Ann Arbor, the state’s top food truck spot

Once the premiere manufacturing hub of the western hemisphere, Michigan has struggled in recent decades with a weakened economy associated with de-industrialization and the corresponding shrinking of our cities. The Big 3 automakers and Detroit stand as our most obvious examples of change, however the vast majority of industries and communities throughout the state were affected by the industrial apocalypse as well. As a result, the state’s per capita income fell from 18th among the 50 states in 2000 to 35th in 2013 and college attainment fell to 33rd.

If you’re expecting the next paragraph to read like an obituary then you may be surprised. While the state is still realigning itself to compete in the new global economy, Michigan stands as a leader in areas of community based development and placemaking.

Innovative economic models and authentic, grass-roots led engagement efforts literally dot the landscape from one end of the state to the other. At the League we’re working with partners across the state to enact a long-term, more sustainable pattern of growth that can serve the state well long into the 21st Century and I can tell you that the innovative capacity that we witness is truly remarkable. Creative placemaking is chic in our state, in big cities and small towns alike. And…. (sshhh don’t tell anybody) the folks at city hall are actually helping with the efforts and, in many cases, even leading the way. With the recent passage of best-of-its-kind crowdfunding legislation I expect the flywheel to begin turning even faster.

So don’t let the naysayers or the recent weather fool you, it’s an exciting time to be in the Rust Lake Belt! Our best days are ahead.

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Crowdfunding Opportunities in the Mitten State

Michigan is on its way to becoming a small business, start-up mecca in part because of the passage of the state’s new crowdfunding law. Unlike Kickstarter types of campaigns that create a platform for individuals to donate to a project, this law actually allows individuals to invest in businesses and causes similar to how individuals purchase stock in publicly held corporations. In short it is a steroid for entrepreneurs, civic activists and innovators of every type.

The Michigan Municipal League and its partners will be spearheading the efforts to create unique, community-based crowdfunding networks throughout the state. Creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and programming government to support them is a major focus of the League’s Partnership for Place strategy. Check back to the EoP blog for updates.

In the meantime, check out these links (1) (2) for information on strategies for crowdfunding. Your thoughts and ideas on providing for a positive roll-out are welcomed.

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All-Season Cities Must Program Public Spaces Year Round

It is easier to program space in the summertime. The weather is great, people are looking for a reason to enjoy the outdoors and merchants open their doors and spill their goods onto the sidewalks.The kids are out of school and there are plenty of opportunities for parades and festivals. Energy is everywhere.

Don't Be This Guy

Don’t Be This Guy!

And, then… Winter Hits! It gets cold. In some places it even snows. Windows close, people bundle up and foot traffic around public spaces declines.

Oh the humanity.

Some places, however, refuse to give in to Mother Nature. They program amazing weather appropriate functions and find creative ways to make sure that public spaces are enjoyed year round. Some utilize special features- heated sidewalks, public fireplaces and temporary warming structures. Others look to provide winter specific programs- ice sculpture competitions, dog sledding races and holiday events. There are programs aimed at kids, too- tobogganing through downtown (a personal favorite), skating and outdoor learning experiences.

Be This Guy!

Be This Guy!

Programming space, when done correctly, is a 24/7/365 endeavor. It is important at all times of year and in all types of weather. For ideas on what to do in your community check out the following links:

The Winter Cities Institute

The Project for Public Spaces

The National Main Street Center



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