Bob Gibbs discusses the economic development potential in Pontiac during the CNU Legacy Project Charrette Friday, April 15.

Bob Gibbs discusses the economic development potential in Pontiac during the CNU Legacy Project Charrette Friday, April 15.

The economic development potential for the city of Pontiac is tremendous. Just how great? How about a demand of up to 211,700 square feet of new retail and restaurant development producing up to $55.2 million in annual sales. That’s how great, said Pontiac native Bob Gibbs, urban planning and retail consultant director for Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham.

“By 2021, this economic demand could generate up to $58 million in gross sales,” Gibbs said. “And that’s a conservative estimate.”

This message presented by Gibbs and others in downtown Pontiac Friday night came during the first of three days of an intensive design and planning program called, a Congress Legacy “Charrette” Project. It’s being done in the city by the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU). It’s one of four such charrettes happening this week in conjunction with the international CNU 24 conference coming to Detroit in June. The other three charrettes were in Hazel Park, April 12-14; and April 15-17 in two Detroit neighborhoods – Grandmont-Rosedale and Vernor Crossing.

Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and Planner Galina Tachieva speak at the CNU Legacy Project Charrette in Pontiac Friday, April 15.

Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and Planner Galina Tachieva speak at the CNU Legacy Project Charrette in Pontiac Friday, April 15.

The work done at the charrettes will be presented to planners, architects, urban designers and municipal leaders at the CNU 24 in Detroit June 8-11, 2016. For details on the conference go to CNU24.org.

But the keys to making this development happen in Pontiac won’t be easy. Gibbs explained capitalizing on this economic growth potential will require policy changes, improved marketing and a redesign of the traffic layout and parking configuration in the downtown area, Gibbs said.

Should these changes be made, Gibbs’ market analysis showed the city could support an additional 45,000 square feet of department store merchandise, 38,600 square feet of grocery store goods, nearly 36,000 square feet of special food and specialty food sales, 16,300 in gift store square footage, 14,200 square feet in pharmacy, 12,700 square feet in bars, breweries and pubs, 11,600 square feet in limited service eating places, 8,400 square feet in full-service restaurants and additional square footage in the areas of furniture and home furnishings, hardware stores, jewelry stores, lawn and garden supply stores, book and music stores, florists, beer, wine and liquor stores, and shoe stores.

Downtown Pontiac has tremendous economic development potential, officials said.

Downtown Pontiac has tremendous economic development potential, officials said.

Gibbs added the downtown could support 10 to 12 additional restaurants.

Essential to the project is turning the current one-way Woodward loop, nicknamed locally as “Wide Track,” that surrounds the downtown into a two way street. Not doing that would limit the city’s market potential to one to two additional restaurants – tops, Gibbs said, adding the Wide Track is not needed and does not help Pontiac.

“I grew up in Pontiac and I remember when it was in its hay day,” Gibbs said. “It’s exciting for me to come back here and do this study and see the growth potential it has. All in all the city has potential to support upward of 215,000 square feet in new restaurants and new retail if physical restraints were removed and modern retail practices were implemented. You are the county seat for the eighth wealthiest county in the United States. We think there’s market potential if you implement changes.”

More than 60 Pontiac supporters attended the CNU Legacy Project on Friday, April 15, 2016.

More than 60 Pontiac supporters attended the CNU Legacy Project throughout the day on Friday, April 15, 2016.

Many of the proposals suggested for Pontiac are consistent with the eight assets identified in a recent study that make for vibrant communities. Those assets include improving walkability and physical design, entrepreneurship, public transit and economic development. That study can be found here at SaveMiCity.org.

About 60 Pontiac area supporters attended the first day of work in Pontiac Friday in the project called, “Building Upon the Assets of Pontiac: Creating a Vision for a Vibrant and Transit-Ready Pontiac.” More people are expected to participate Saturday and Sunday. The final plan and public discussion will take place 4 p.m. Sunday at 17 S. Saginaw St. in downtown.

Project team leader Galina Tachieva, managing partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., explained the goals of the Pontiac Legacy Project are to:

  • Create a vision for a remarkable, vibrant downtown to serve as a template for other downtown spaces;
  • Restore a walkable urban fabric to one of America’s great industrial cities with high quality public spaces;
  • Identify options for the Phoenix Center and adjacent Lot 9;
  • Create a transit-ready southern edge of downtown with the potential to become a regional multi-modal transport hub and a catalyst for transit-oriented development.
Galina Tachieva discusses ways to improve Pontiac.

Galina Tachieva discusses ways to improve Pontiac.

“The common tendency is that all of you want a beautiful, safe, attractive, downtown,” Tachieva said. “You have a lot of examples of good frontage but you also have a lot of what we call missing teeth. The goal is to fill in the missing teeth and make it a pleasant, pedestrian-friendly walking experience.”

The project, called “Revitalizing downtown Pontiac through transit-oriented development,” was lead by DPZ & Partners and had local support from Archive DS and Gibbs Planning Group.

Pontiac resident Linda Hasson attending the event was pleased with what she saw Friday night.

“You seem to really care and I appreciate that,” Hasson told Tachieva and Gibbs. “We need a push. I’m excited.”

For more information about placemaking go to placemaking.mml.org and for details on the CNU24 in Detroit in June go to cnu24.org. (View additional photos of downtown Pontiac and the charrette meetings go to this album on flickr.)

Matt Bach is director of media relations at the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.

Downtown Pontiac.

Downtown Pontiac.

Designer Vinayak Bharne talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Team Leader Vinayak Bharne of Moule & Polyzoides Archtects & Urbanisms talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Hazel Park residents, city leaders and business owners got good news from an urban planner during a special design charrette kick-off meeting Tuesday. The news – Hazel Park has a tremendous market potential for restaurant growth and retail development.

Building on the highly successful and widely popular Mabel Gray restaurant could result in the economic boost Hazel Park leaders are seeking for the section of John R Road traversing through the heart of the southeastern Michigan city, said Bob Gibbs, urban planning and retail consultant director for Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham.

This message came during the first of three days of an intensive design and planning charrette being done in Hazel Park by the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU). It’s one of four such charrettes happening in southeast Michigan this week in conjunction with the international CNU 24 conference coming to Detroit in June.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

The other three charrettes are April 15-17 in Pontiac and in two Detroit neighborhoods – Grandmont-Rosedale and Vernor Crossing. The work done at the charrettes will be presented to planners, architects, urban designers and municipal leaders at the CNU 24 in Detroit June 8-11, 2016 in what are being called Congress Legacy Projects. For details on the conference go to CNU24.org.

Gibbs’ market study was used as part of a much larger urban design strategy prepared by the lead design team from Moule & Polyzoides Architects & Urbanists from Pasadena, Calif. The entire project, called “Creating a walkable and connected downtown for Hazel Park,” was directed by MPA’s Vinayak Bharne with support from Madison Patrizi. The was work was two-fold – an urban design project and economic development strategy.

The team met with about 50 Hazel Park residents and supporters Tuesday, April 12, 2016, and told them the good news about their community’s development. Hazel Park, Gibbs said, has about 70,000 households and 160,000 people living in its primary trade area and about 200,000 people living within a short drive to the city’s restaurant district. A market analysis showed Hazel Park could support 165,200 square feet of retail. Specifically it could support 11,100 square feet of limited service eating, 10,300 of apparel and shoe retail; 15,000 square feet of general merchandise retail, 5,600 square feet of full-service restaurants, 21,200 of department store goods retail, 35,400 square feet of grocery retail, such as an open-air market.

“I was in an Ohio community recently and did a market study like this and their potential was a gas station and three vending machines,” Gibbs told the crowd Tuesday night. “Not all these market studies turn out as strong as this one in Hazel Park. It’s nice to know this community, in my own backyard, has such a large potential. Will this happen overnight? No. But it’s better to know you have the potential than no potential.”

Gibbs said main obstacles to creating this development is a lack of parking and the four-lane, pedestrian-unfriendly John R Road that goes through Hazel Park, Gibbs said.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

To capitalize on this high density and potential customer base, Gibbs suggested the city look at narrowing John R – or putting it on a “road diet” – to allow for additional on-street parking much like Ferndale officials did on West 9 Mile in the early 1990s.

Designers, residents, business owners and city leaders will continue to spend today and Thursday working on the design plan that will be presented at the CNU conference in Detroit in June, said William Herbig, program director for CNU.

Hazel Park city leaders will also take the plan to help them make informed decisions on moving the city forward, said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher.

“This is about our quality of life here and improving our quality of life and believing that we deserve this,” said Jeff Campbell, assistant city manager and planning director.

Ten-year Hazel Park resident Jennifer Jackson is actively participating in the charrette and was inspired and excited at the end of the first day of work.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

“Today was fun and it was nice to see someone else’s vision for a city similar to ours,” Jackson said referencing Gibbs’ presentation that showed the design worked implemented and planned in other communities, such as Petoskey and Marquette. “I really want to see Hazel Park become a destination and be able to service our residents more appropriately. Right now to do any type of entertaining or clothing shopping or going out to dinner we have to leave the city limits and go elsewhere. We go to Detroit, Ferndale, Royal Oak, but I’d like to be able to stay in my own community and spend our money here.”

Jackson was particularly excited to see the correlation of creating a more vibrant community to an increase in housing values, job creation and tax revenues.

“I liked being able to envision having a vibrant downtown in Hazel Park,” said Jackson, who is working with another woman to start up a farmers market in the city. “I liked the idea of the road diet because it would require traffic and people to slow down and stop and take a look at what’s around.”

For more information about placemaking go to placemaking.mml.org and for details on the CNU24 go to cnu24.org. (View additional photos here).

Matt Bach is director of media relations. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.

Downtown-Ann-Arbor-University-of-Michigan-on-Graduation-Day-May-2014-TownGown-(59)-200x300This spring, more than 6,000 undergrads will receive their highly-anticipated diplomas from the University of Michigan; I’m proud to be one of them. For some of these students, several of whom have called Michigan home since childhood, graduation will mark the end of their time in the Wolverine State. Like many Michigan grads who came before them, they’ll take their first-rate education, their soon-to-be-tapped potential, and their dreams for the future elsewhere.

But the scene need not seem so dismal – at least not anymore. Because today, more than ever, many of these students will choose to take their uniquely developed talents, their can-do attitudes, and their passion for their work into cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and various other communities throughout Michigan.

In recent years, staying in Michigan after graduation seemed the less-glamorous, ‘only if I have no other options’ choice for graduates. However, remaining in-state to contribute to Michigan’s ever-developing and increasingly entrepreneurial landscape is becoming a bold, even renegade option for students hoping to make a difference in their own corners of the world.

I can speak to this developing phenomenon because I’m a product of it. A year ago, I was convinced that the most courageous post-grad move I could make involved packing my bags and relocating to Washington, D.C. Fast forward two semesters and I (like many of my fellow spring graduates) have come to realize that perhaps the most daring and adventurous option is to use the talents I’ve spent the last four years developing to take an active role in Michigan’s reinvention.

Downtown-Ann-Arbor-University-of-Michigan-on-Graduation-Day-May-2014-TownGown-(48)-300x200Michigan’s reinvention is key because, on the whole, millennials have been found to value the difference that they can make in their respective localities. Staying in Michigan allows millennials to pursue not only individual success, but to directly affect their changing and growing communities, something essential to their own personal fulfillment.

Additionally, almost two-thirds of millennials have an interest in starting their own business. As Michigan has shifted focus to building a new economy, new spaces of innovation supporting local entrepreneurs and startups have popped up all over the state’s map. This unique and increasing demand for entrepreneurship in Michigan attracts millennials boasting individual talents and looking for opportunities to use them.

This space to develop professionally, however, would perhaps be less thrilling if it were not mirrored by an equally stimulating space to engage personally. Millennials find a plethora of places in which to pursue their interests outside of work in Michigan, whether those interests are playing sports, watching sports, venturing through nature, or even delving into history and exploring the occasional museum. Millennials seek to create a home for themselves and for their future families; they appreciate the concept of work-life balance, and they’ve found that here in Michigan.

In short, students who stay in Michigan today grasp an incredible opportunity to have a hand in determining what Michigan will become tomorrow. In this atmosphere dedicated to growth, business owners, families, educators, and lawmakers continue to cooperate with the commitment of developing stronger, more vibrant communities in which graduates can prosper – professionally and personally. Because for everything that Michigan has to offer, its future development and success will be determined by its greatest resource – its people.

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Samantha Audia, Michigan Municipal League Intern

SamanthaAudia-150x150Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter.

Placemaker and CEO of Adelaide, Australia Peter Smith is coming to Michigan to speak at the Michigan Local Government Managers Association Winter Institute at the end of the month. Because he’s traveling so far, we figured we better take advantage of his time here with a fun, low-key, networking and information-sharing event in Detroit.1-26 event

Join the League at a networking and idea-mixing event with experts and practitioners who are passionate about building great communities.

Placemaking Happy Hour & Panel Discussion: Monday, January 26 from 4-6 PM at Seva Detroit

RSVP ButtonLook forward to great conversation and a cross disciplinary panel discussion moderated by Michigan Association of Planning Executive Director Andrea Brown. Panelists include:

  • Peter Smith, CEO of Adelaide, Australia
  • Alicia Marion-George, Co-owner of Motor City Java & Tea House
  • Sarida Scott, Executive Director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit
  • Steve Baker, Councilmember for the City of Berkley & IT Strategy and Innovation Lead at DTE Energy

The event is free and open to the public but space is limited so please RSVP here.

The League is pleased to host appetizers and there is a cash bar available. We’ll also be selling our new book, The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities.

Come for the event, but stay for dinner

Spend the evening in Detroit! Seva has a full dinner menu and there are plenty of restaurants in Midtown and within walking distance of the event, including: