Asset Inventory and Strategic Prioritization
In Saginaw, League staff facilitated development of a “shared strategy” to prioritize possible placemaking activities in the riverfront area and where the community should commit its limited resources. In support of this strategy development, we worked with local organizations to plan several community engagement events and stakeholder meetings.
This project scope was atypical for PlacePlans, which is normally structured around a physical design process for a relatively small geographic area. Saginaw’s PlacePlan is instead aimed at identifying high-impact placemaking initiatives, prioritizing action steps, and recommending a structure to follow those priorities. In addition, the City requested that the League provide recommendations for improving the zoning ordinance and design guidelines that apply to the riverfront district.
The community’s priorities, as described in further detail in the final report, are:
Improve Connectivity between Riverfront Destinations
This topic was the runaway most popular during our series of stakeholder meetings and “votes.” That support was verified by the enthusiasm of the residents and SVSU faculty and students who participated in the community engagement events in August, October, and December. They shared a passion for the Saginaw riverfront and wanted more reasons to get out of their automobiles and explore the community.
While some may view improvements to public transportation and non-motorized transportation infrastructure as “quality of life” luxury items, they in fact present an economic imperative for cities that want to compete for residents and businesses in the 21st century. Research shows that people across the nation are choosing communities that offer various modes of transportation, with easy access to the places they live, work, and play. These improvements are particularly important for the Saginaw riverfront’s ability to make the most of the opportunities presented by the planned increase in students, faculty, and healthcare employees associated with the Central Michigan University School of Medicine, Delta College, and the two hospitals.
Attract and Support Entrepreneurs
Growing jobs by ones and twos is key to creating strong local economies in the 21st century. Local communities are fueled by small start-ups and growth on main street and economic gardening strategies aimed at developing the talent and potential that already exists right at home. Also central to success are social entrepreneurs, who act as change agents within a community, seizing opportunities others miss to create social value rather than profits. This type of entrepreneurial activity resonates especially with students and Millennials looking to apply their optimism, energy, passion, and skills for a positive, tangible impact, as well as Baby Boomers looking for new business opportunities.
Although the city and Saginaw Future have launched a number of programs aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, including Saginaw SOUP, there was a sense among riverfront stakeholders that more could be done to target this support in specific geographic areas and focus it on filling empty properties and redevelopment sites. They also specifically mentioned arts and food production as business types they would like to attract.
Create an Urban Homestead Program
Some stakeholders expressed support for a specific resident attraction: urban homesteading. This is the practice of selling publicly-owned homes to potential new residents for a very low cost, in exchange for a commitment from the buyer to renovate and maintain the property. The Saginaw County Land Bank should be a core partner with the city in this effort. A number of other stakeholder groups should also be consulted, including the Saginaw Landlord Association.
Saginaw Community Leaders Looking for Ways to Improve Riverfront District – WSGW, Aug. 10, 2016
Saginaw Community Discusses Ideas for Reshaping Riverfront Area – ABC12, Aug. 10, 2016
Future Plans Discussed for Riverfront Development – WNEM, Aug. 10, 2016
Halloween Bike Ride Takes a Look at Saginaw – WSGW, Oct. 28, 2015
Friday Night Live to wrap up with Motown Night, seeks ideas for downtown and riverfront – Mlive, Aug. 13, 2015