Allegan and Cadillac were among the five cities that recently received Core Communities grants for public infrastructure and site improvements from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Core Communities fund is designed to spur private development in urban communities and traditional centers of commerce. Funds can be used for such things as land and property acquisition, site development, and infrastructure improvements.

allegan-placeplanBoth cities will use the funds to implement some of the projects proposed in their PlacePlans. Allegan’s Downtown Riverfront Development plan called for redeveloping the Kalamazoo riverfront that borders downtown into an inviting space for festivals, events, and recreation that would also jumpstart economic development. The city plans to use its $250,000 Core Communities grant to redevelop an underutilized parking area into an 11,600 square foot events plaza connecting the community’s central business district with the Kalamazoo River. The space will include an elevated stage for musical performances, shows and outdoor movies, and a multi-use space for events and festivals.

Cadillac-PlacePlan-300x200In Cadillac, the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan presented a redesign of a lakeside block in the downtown area., which is currently a parking lot and City Park. The plan envisions the site as a year-round destination and hub of downtown, hosting seasonal events and providing an attractive connection between the Mitchell Street businesses and Lake Cadillac. The city plans to use its $200,000 Core Communities grant to redevelop the two acre downtown parking facility into an inviting space for community festivals and events. The site will also make it easy for residents and visitors enjoying the lake to frequent downtown businesses.




cadillac-placeplan-coverAll year, the League and its partners – Michigan State University and Michigan State Housing Development Authority – have been working with community leaders and residents in eight cities throughout Michigan. The goal was to help communities design and implement transformative placemaking projects that focus economic development efforts around walkable downtown districts.

The result is creative PlacePlans that are uniquely customized for each community. Cadillac’s “Heritage Plaza” concept envisions the site as a year-round destination and hub of downtown. Southwest Detroit’s “Connecting Communities with Vernor Crossing” PlacePlan redesigns a vacant brownfield site as a flexible public plaza, retail center and shared market space for local entrepreneurs. Flint’s Grand Traverse Greenway PlacePlan provides unique designs for intersections, community connections and amenities for this 3.4 mile bike/walk trail. Creating a “food innovation district” in the Western Gateway area was the recommendation of Holland’s PlacePlan.

The “Downtown Jackson Alleyway” can become an inviting part of the city with PlacePlan design elements that enliven and link together destinations along the alley. Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s new healthy living campus and surrounding area can benefit from the Kalamazoo PlacePlan’s recommendations for a sustainable transportation plan. Marquette’s “Reimagining Baraga Avenue” PlacePlan is full of ideas to improve the connectivity and appearance of this section of downtown. And iIn Midland’s PlacePlan, learn about the strategic opportunities for the city’s popular farmers market as a functional market, community gathering space, and catalyst for economic development in downtown.

To read the full reports for all the 2014 PlacePlans, visit the PlacePlans page.


The tantalizing aroma of freshly-roasted chicken and thick, juicy steaks wafted through the dining room of Webster’s Prime, accompanied by artfully-prepared salads and vegetable creations. Many of the delectable items on the restaurant’s menu are locally-sourced from places like Kirklin Farms and Green Gardens. The fine dining establishment’s support of local food producers garnered it a special place in the local food chapter of the League’s new book, “The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities.”

Nate-ShawOn Nov. 7, Webster’s hosted a book-signing event to help us introduce the book to the Kalamazoo community. League authors Dan Gilmartin, Colleen Layton, and Elizabeth Phillips Foley were on hand to share their experiences traveling around the state in search of inspirational placemaking stories on local food, arts and culture, bike trails and much more. Webster’s chef Nate Shaw, featured in the book, split his time between the kitchen and the dining room to help with the celebration. Shaw’s commitment to local food runs so deep that he even gets down in the dirt to help local farmers tend their crops.

Order a copy of the book to find out how the Kalamazoo community is cultivating the foodie movement, and how you might be able to apply similar placemaking strategies in your own community.

Book-poster-close-up-blogExcitement filled the air as a crowd of about 70 Baroda-area residents packed the patio of the village’s downtown Round Barn Public House. The occasion was a celebration of Baroda’s revitalization efforts, which are featured in the League’s new book, “The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities.”

League executive director and CEO Dan Gilmartin commended Baroda for its 12-year initiative to rebrand the area as “The Heart of Wine Country.” Working collaboratively, the communities of Baroda, Baroda Township, Bridgman, Lake Township, Oronoko Township and Berrien Springs were successful in creating an agritourism destination focused on their wineries. The results can be seen in the thousands of tourists and visitors that are now drawn to the region every year to enjoy not only the tasting rooms, but the antique shops, art galleries, and unique stores that now fill once-vacant storefronts.

Gilmartin shared with the audience that they have accomplished one of the primary tenets of placemaking – acting locally to make your place a great place to be. He reminded them that in today’s mobile society where people can live and work anywhere they want, it’s a community’s sense of place that attracts new residents and businesses. More than anything, it’s the human experience that matters. Places like Baroda that build communities for people rather than cars and celebrate their uniqueness are the ones that will be successful in growing over the long term.

Being transitional is also an important part of the process, said Gilmartin. In our fast-changing world, local governments need to be flexible, open to new ideas, and collaborative with local businesses, civic groups and neighboring communities. And when entrepreneurs come knocking on their door, municipalities should look for ways to be supportive and help the entrepreneur’s vision spring to life.

Mayors-legislators-with-book-tributes-blogState Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs (left), and State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph (right), were also on hand for the festivities. They presented Bob Getz, Baroda Village Council president, and Hannah Anderson, Bridgman mayor, with signed tributes applauding the communities for their efforts to transform and establish themselves as valuable assets in the county and region.



Check out our photos of the event. You just might spot a picture of yourself!


For details and ordering information for “The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities,” visit