The MSU Center for Community and Economic Development is hosting their annual Contemporary Issues Institute on the topic of civility: Cultivating a Civil Society in an Era of Incivility.

Civility Conference Info

Event participants will have the opportunity to learn from and discuss with innovative thinkers and doers from across the state on how to promote more civil behavior in personal, public, private, and online realms.

The event will take place Friday, March 6 from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM in the Michigan State Capitol BuildingThe event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Complete the short registration form here.

In order to get a great conversation going in each session, the planning team hopes to attract a wide range of attendees. People in local government, community leaders, business owners, planners, academics, students, and others are all encouraged to attend! Be prepared for interactive sessions with a chance to share experiences, challenges, expertise, and lessons learned.

State Representative Andy Schor is offering opening remarks and the Flint Youth Theatre will bookend the event with short, theatrical interpretations of civility.

Session topics include:

  • Our Individual Character
  • Putting Civility in Place: How Placemaking & Interior Design can Promote Civility
  • Theories of Civility
  • Media, Technology & Incivility

Putting Civility in Place

With the League’s emphasis on placemaking, I am excited to moderate the session Putting Civility in Place. Research tells us that place has a huge impact on how people feel and act. For example, people who live in high-rise apartments are less trusting of their neighbors than single-family home residents, being in nature boosts altruistic behavior, and students’ grades improve when their school is designed to increase human connection. To explore this topic further, we have the following speakers lined up to discuss how place impacts people, communities, and workplaces:

Feel free to spread the word about this event, and don’t forget to RSVP!Civility Registration Button

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.