Successful placemaking is a dynamic, strategic approach to community development and economic revitalization based on an individual community’s strengths within core “quality of life” areas.  With a comprehensive understanding of a community’s place-based assets, and the tools and strategies to best leverage them, a successful “PlacePlan” can develop.  PlacePlans is a joint effort between Michigan State University and the Michigan Municipal League, funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) through the MIPlace initiative, to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects.

The PlacePlans process is customized to each project and community, but each involves an intensive community engagement strategy, including a public visioning session, several public meetings to provide specific input and feedback on plans and designs, and direct work with key community stakeholders along the way.  The PlacePlan projects will positively impact each community’s ability to leverage their place-based assets as economic drivers, and will provide lessons large and small for communities across Michigan.  Please visit again to see the work in progress, and follow along through our placemaking blog, and the League’s social networks – Twitter and Facebook.


A historic downtown block which fronts Lake Cadillac is undergoing several distinct new investments including the addition of new student residential space, a brewpub, a regional trailhead, and an upgraded arts pavilion.  A unified physical design plan for this key portion of Cadillac’s downtown can synthesize these positive changes, leading to the creation of a memorable and lively place to live, work, play, and relax—while providing the structure for coordinated investments in the future.

Detroit - Vernor Livernois ProjectDetroit

Development of the site currently known as Vernor Square aims to fill a key gap in the urban fabric of the city’s strongest commercial corridor.  A participatory design process will be used to create the new neighborhood center on what is currently a 6.9-acre brownfield site at West Vernor Hwy. and Livernois Ave. in the heart of southwest Detroit.  Vernor Square, once complete, will serve as a focal point for this vibrant and diverse community, providing a public square, locally oriented retail and community meeting space, maker space, as well as new employment opportunities.

Flint - The Grand Traverse GreenwayFlint

This visionary plan transforms a three-mile railroad corridor into a dynamic multi-use trail way.  Referred to as the Grand Traverse Greenway, the trail will link key community assets including the downtown and university districts, medical centers, the south Saginaw area which is home to Diplomat Pharmacy and other key employers, schools, parks and recreation areas, and various neighborhoods throughout the city.  The Greenway will provide a convenient and safe alternative for bicyclists and pedestrians, and will add to the vibrancy of the area.


The Western Gateway project will connect some of Holland’s most prized assets—the downtown, lakefront, and historic residential areas, including the farmers market area and civic center.  Revitalization of the 8th Street corridor will create new opportunities for infill development and adaptive reuse projects while providing residents, employees, and visitors seamless access between the lakefront and downtown.  Critical market research will provide a supportable basis for the revitalization plan, including residential and commercial demand, the city’s food-related infrastructure, and potential for a food innovation district.


A municipal alley located in the heart of downtown provides the potential for a new north-south connection between an existing farmers market, a cluster of open and planned restaurants and entertainment venues, and major employers.  A new physical design for an inviting and interesting pedestrian connection in this corridor creates a seamless downtown fabric and enhances walkability, giving the area greater potential to attract and retain new residents and businesses.


The Edison neighborhood southeast of downtown is seeing remarkable new investment thanks to several major projects either planned or underway—including a new Healthy Living Campus for Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Upjohn Park, and farmers market redevelopment, and the Portage Creek cleanup.  A new mobility plan will explore ways to better connect the neighborhood to downtown Kalamazoo and other regional assets.  The plan will focus on sustainable forms of transportation that are in high demand for neighborhood residents, students, and employees.  The burgeoning health- and food-related assets in the Edison neighborhood offer great potential synergies with the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, so there will be further exploration of those opportunities as well.


Baraga Avenue, though no longer separated physically from downtown by railroad lines, is still a barrier for pedestrian activity due to an uninviting streetscape and breaks in the city’s urban fabric.  The Baraga Avenue Enhancement Project will use creative physical design solutions to overcome these obstacles and create an interesting, walkable street that connects downtown with the lakefront while providing new opportunities for business investment.


Midland has all the ingredients for success—a busy Main Street, a new baseball stadium, a successful university, vibrant cultural centers, recreational areas and riverfront, a large base of highly educated and skilled employment, and the potential for new mixed-use development.  However, the physical and psychological connections between these key areas are an opportunity to better leverage them, making the whole tremendously more impactful than the sum of those parts.  A new strategic plan for placemaking in downtown Midland would provide both potential and existing residents with a unique and vibrant place in which to reside and work—by planning for a walkable downtown with increased opportunities for entertainment, culture, entrepreneurship and commerce.  Areas of focus include the Midland Area Farmers Market, physical connectivity within the downtown area, and studying the market potential for new retail and restaurant uses.


PlacePlans Media Coverage

PlacePlans History

In autumn 2012, we put out a call for interest. Despite a very short window for response and limited promotions, we received applications from more than 30 communities. With advisory input from MSHDA staff, we selected projects based on a number of criteria including potential for implementation and potential to support private sector investment in housing redevelopment.  Four cities were chosen to serve as the pilot PlacePlans communities: Allegan, Alpena, Dearborn and Sault Sainte Marie.

2013 PlacePlans information along with final recommendations and written reports. The reports include recommendations for funding sources, ordinance changes and public-private partnerships the city leadership should pursue.