Downtown Pontiac has tremendous potential - planners said following three-days of intensive study by the Congress of the New Urbanism.

Downtown Pontiac has tremendous potential – planners said following three-days of intensive study by the Congress of the New Urbanism.

Three days of conceptualization and team effort culminated in Sunday’s meeting to conclude the Congress of New Urbanism Legacy Project charrette in Pontiac, Michigan.

Intended to reimagine Pontiac’s downtown space, over 50 participants and residents met April 17 to share and take ownership of three days’ worth of ideas, goals, and concrete planning initiatives that can make these objectives a reality.

Project team leader Galina Tachieva of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. showed a series of photos illustrating the downtown’s lively past, and explained that the city has still managed to retain the bones of a thriving urban space.

With the right vision, management, and policy changes, Tachieva explained that these remnants of prosperity encased by the Woodward loop could begin to heal themselves and recover the vibrancy of their past.

The Phoenix Center in downtown Pontiac was the focus of some of the discussion during the three days of the CNU Legacy Project charrettes in the city.

The Phoenix Center in downtown Pontiac was the focus of some of the discussion during the three days of the CNU Legacy Project charrettes in the city.

The team presented a wide range of short-term, mid-term, and long-term proposals to reshape Pontiac’s urban space. These included immediate fixes to lacking crosswalks and inadequate street parking, as well as future plans for a public marketplace, safe and expanded transit hubs, and eventual redevelopment of the Phoenix Center roof into a central space for leisure, exercise, and arts in the community.

Together these plans, just a brief overview of a comprehensive and wide-scope project, will help bring the kind of large-scale retail and restaurant development described by consultant Bob Gibbs, equating to $55.2 million in annual sales.

The residents who participated in Sunday’s wrap-up seemed enthusiastic about the many possibilities that this project raises for the future of Pontiac. Specifically, participants engaged in discussion regarding the placement of transit stops, development of multi-use housing, and location of a public marketplace.

The diverse team of consultants and planners that worked on the project reminded those attending the wrap-up that these plans, though comprehensive, were only a departure point. From here, the residents of Pontiac will take ownership of this project, and work together throughout the next decade towards growth and vibrancy. 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.

Posted by Matt Bach on behalf of Samantha Audia. Samantha 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 and spring.

Marquette’s Baraga Avenue two-day charrette was aptly summarized by one participant as, “… a great process, synthesizing the idealistic with the pragmatic.”

Baraga Avenue’s location as the first primary street entering Marquette’s downtown and situated across from continuing well-planned and exciting developments at Founder’s Landing along popular Lakeshore Drive and the Spring Street bike/pedestrian pathway, makes this location a certain future hot-spot.

Baraga Ave. PlacePlans CharretteHistorically the main street to the hub of industrial activities, Baraga Avenue is wide and its eclectic mix of trendy specialty shops, museum district and light industrial, leading to the city’s governmental center, is currently surrounded by a sea of concrete and asphalt. This creates an unappealing first impression and discourages pedestrian traffic. While only a couple blocks removed from the principal shopping area on Washington and Front Streets and a mere block from the Farmers Market and other event sites–the relatively bleak surroundings do not entice people to Baraga.

Much discussion from business owners and stakeholders has centered around maintaining views of the waterfront, creating an entrance signaling to people that they have “arrived”, traffic calming, encouraging outdoor dining and inviting seating areas where passersby will see more activity, providing a more obvious connection between the Children’s Museum and the History Museum, public art displays, “greening” up the area, creating more inviting connections to the downtown and waterfront with potential wind protection, and incorporating design features that honor the area’s original historical purpose and heritage. There are also some great potential sites for exciting mixed-use development.  Baraga Ave. is definitely the spot to watch.

The energy of the first visioning session carried through to the two-day charrette as stakeholders engaged in lively discussion, listened with open minds, were ever respectful and offered incredibly creative suggestions.  A summarized list of the feedback loop from the first days’ session is as follows:

  • Respect and enhance working waterfront and views
  • Include public art that is reflective of Marquette
  • Create a sense of arrival and pedestrian enhancements at the intersection of Front & Baraga
  • Enhance mid-block connections between Baraga and the downtown
  • Incorporate a stormwater management system as a functional and artistic natural feature
  • Encourage pedestrian activity and outdoor eating
  • Develop first floor retail on the parking structure
  • Provide a unified streetscape character while respecting functional needs of businesses and snow removal
  • Refine site furnishings and street elements to reflect Marquette’s history and character
  • Provide bicycle parking and access to the non-motorized network

Please leave your own comments at the Baraga Avenue Facebook page.