Although the effects of place projects may be less visible in large cities, projects in small-to-mid-sized cities, like Farmington, can initiate huge impacts on the economy, resident well-being, and connection to the community. For detailed information on Farmington’s downtown redevelopments, read the MML case study on how Sundquist Pavilion created an active downtown center and is helping to revitalize the community.
Farmington’s main downtown placemaking project, which transformed a strip-mall parking lot into a community pavilion and park, started through a community visioning project. An article from Project for Public Spaces encourages city leaders to think of streets as public spaces and allow residents to envision the kind of interactions and places they want to support.
In Farmington, city leaders partnered with a local university to do in-depth community visioning. Realizing there was no downtown “city center,” residents pushed for placemaking.
Even controversial topics, like parking availability, were smoothed over because of resident engagement. With the mindset that parking should be designed for people and not cars, Farmington engineers were able to eliminate a large portion of the strip-mall parking lot, but keep the same number of spaces.
Staying focused on the pedestrian also allowed Farmington to improve walkability and the downtown’s streetscape. Farmington narrowed the main road by adding bump-out parking, improved sidewalk aesthetics, and enhanced landscaping. These projects promoted walkability and encouraged local restaurants to build outdoor seating.
All of Farmington’s activities are making it easier for residents to connect to their community, the most important asset a community can have. The Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community reports that the more people love where they live, the more economically vital that place will be. And by the looks of it, some Oakland County cities are leading the way for downtown revitalization in Michigan.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson recently said downtown Main Street projects have resulted in more than $648 million in investments, 870 new businesses, and nearly 7,000 new jobs across the county. As projects like Farmington’s downtown redevelopment continue, residents will likely be happier, more prosperous, and feel a deeper connection to their city.
Michigan communities, large and small, can learn from Farmington and other main street development projects to improve downtowns, increase walkability, and make the state a great place for all.
- The Knight Foundation: Soul of the Community– This study shows that what drives people most to love where they live is their perception of aesthetics, social offerings, and openness. The more people love their community, the more economically vital that place will be.
- Better Cities & Towns: New Urbanism’s Impact on Mid-Sized and Smaller Cities – Placemaking development may have a profound effect over time in a big city, but effects in mid-to-small-sized cities are much more dramatic.
- Project for Public Spaces: Streets as Places: How Transportation Can Create a Sense of Community – This article encourages city leaders to think of streets as public spaces and allow for residents to envision the kind of interactions and places they want to support, and outlines 10 qualities of great streets.
- The Environmental Protection Agency: Smart Growth and Economic Success: Benefits for Real Estate Developers, Investors, Businesses, and Local Governments – Compact, diverse, and walkable development can increase property values, encourage job creation, and create amenities and places that improve residents’ quality of life.
- Cities for People:Time to Reclaim the Streets – Streets and cars are the center of many cities across the world, however, building more pedestrian-friendly streets is key to effective placemaking.
- Small Town Urbanism: Parking–Local leaders need to carefully consider parking when trying to create a walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly environment. Parking policies should be designed to benefit people, not cars.