Are You Wondering About How to Make Your City Attractive? Here’s How-

Here’s a short video that is worth the time to watch.

With “How to Make an Attractive City,” Swiss writer Alain de Botton declares a six-point plan that all cities should follow. The video is a little bit urban design, a little bit energy and a little bit of a manifesto about scale that ultimately aims to place a city in the happy spot between “chaos and boringness.”

It is well done. Check it out. Thanks go out to The School of Life.

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Public Spaces, Community Places is a Big Success

Check out some great crowdfunding opportunities at Public Spaces, Community Places. The program is a partnership of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Patronicity and the Michigan Municipal League.

The whole thing is simple- envision a placemaking project in your community, use the platform to get it funded and receive a matching grant via MEDC. It’s that easy!

The ideas are amazing. Take a peek at the projects, donate if you’re able and bring your own ideas forward. Twelve have already met their goals for funding and other projects are online now. There are trail head projects, art spaces, community gardens, greening of alley ways, and more.

Crowdfunding (peanut butter) and placemaking (jelly). The perfect match!

Rosedale Park

North Rosedale Park Community House in Detroit


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Farmers Markets: Highly Visible and Hugely Popular Once Again

Which came first, the city or the farmers market?
Like the proverbial chicken and egg, I’m not sure there is a right answer. You really can’t separate the two. The existence of one pretty much requires the other. Here’s what the history books say about it:
The ancient village of Uruk in Mesopotamia became what’s now considered the world’s oldest city around 3450 B.C. The first farmers markets are thought to have originated in Egypt over 5,000 years ago when farmers along the Nile brought their fresh produce to sell.
See what I mean?

Flint, Michigan

Flint Farmers Market

From those earliest roots of civilization, food has helped define a place and its people. Climate and geography dictate which plants and animals will grow…and how those food sources are acquired and eaten help to shape the local culture.

We are what we eat.
By popular definition, a farmers market is a place where the food goods are produced locally and vendors sell their own products. So it makes perfect sense that a farmers market can be the perfect catalyst for creating an authentic sense of place.
For a while it looked like we’d forgotten all that. Vibrant cities and farmers markets gave way to superstores and urban food deserts…while fast food chains tried to make it all look pretty much alike.
I’m happy to say it looks like we’re coming back from that cultural brink. Today there are farmers markets all over the world again. The smallest ones might be no more than three or four vendors on a sidewalk. Tokyo, Japan has the world’s largest with over 1,700 stalls.
Here in Michigan, farmers markets are once again a highly visible and hugely popular part of the urban landscape. Each has its own unique atmosphere, vendors, produce, and products. In fact, I’d wager that a good foodie could guess which city they’re in just by wandering through its farmers market.

And we are not alone.

Port Austin Farmers Market

Port Austin Farmers Market

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of operating farmers markets in the U.S. has grown from 1,755 in 1994 to 4,685 in 2008 and 5,274 in 2009. That’s a rise of 300 percent in a 15 year span. The USDA projects they will continue to grow at a healthy 10 percent rate per year.
The “why” isn’t surprising. Devotees will tell you there’s nothing more personal and social than belonging to a local food community. A farmers market can be a magnet and focal point for everything that’s unique about a city or village.

There is more to read in The Review about the rebirth of the local farmers market, the new breed of producers and consumers who have embraced it, and the role they all play in strengthening a community’s sense of place.

*From my column in The Review

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Tough Love for Architects in Charleston- and Lessons for the Rest of Us

I recently came across an enjoyable blog called Buildings are Cool by architect Steve Ramos. In his most recent post Steve covered the hurricane-like effect that Andres Duany recently brought to Charleston.

Duany is a world renowned ‘new urbanist’ Architect.  Charleston garners prominence for its authentic style of buildings, including the famed Charleston single house.

Andres Duany

Andres Duany speaking at the Michigan Municipal League in Detroit in 2013

It seems like a match made in heaven, right? As it turns out… not so much.

From Steve’s blog, here a few highlights:

  • Architects who only want to design buildings that say “look at me” have contempt for the community.
  • NIMBYs and preservationists in Charleston (and elsewhere I presume) are intent on creating a ‘Geriatric Monoculture.’
  • Traffic problems? Not for Andres, who claims traffic problems are unsolvable and “arguing about traffic is beneath our intelligence.”
  • The only people who stand to gain from more convenient parking are “parasitic suburbanites.”

Classic stuff. And, truth be told, I am 99% sure he LIKES Charleston!

For anyone who knows or has worked with Andres you realize early on that he revels in diagnosing problems of all shapes and sizes wherever he goes. His critical eye goes to many unnoticed facets of a community and his ability to uncompromisingly describe challenges is without match in my experience.

You can read the rest of Steve’s excellent blog, The Week of Duany, here.

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The Prosperity Agenda: A Conversation with Governor Snyder on Proposal 1


Dan Gilmartin and Governor Synder on
The Prosperity Agenda

prosperity-agenda-thumbWe had a very special guest for our March radio show to discuss why voters should Vote Yes on Proposal 1 on May 5. Governor Rick Snyder joined us in studio for two segments on the Prosperity Agenda on News/Talk 760 WJR. The governor is the strongest supporter of the road funding proposal in the state and we had a great conversation. This is a must-listen episode for all those planning to vote May 5. We discussed all aspects of the road-funding plan and addressed many of the questions that people have about it. My co-host this month is freelance business writer Rick Haglund and our other guest was Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. The Detroit Chamber is another strong proponent of Proposal 1.  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 7 p.m., March 25, 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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