A year ago, the city of Ypsilanti released a developer request for qualifications for a city-owned parcel–this was the first of four properties around the state that the League’s Civic Innovation Labs team supported as part of a MSHDA-funded effort to advance placemaking developments.

A year later, all four properties are under contract and in various stages of the due diligence process. While it’s too early yet for any of them to have broken ground, they generally show the effectiveness of proactively setting priorities for a site and marketing those to developers.

They also reinforce that pre-development visioning can only go so far: the developer proposals clearly reflect what the city asked for, but with variations.

In Muskegon, the developer’s concept plans clearly reflect the semi-attached townhome scheme we laid out, albeit in a layout that uses more of the site. Their concept allows slightly larger homes (and more variety in size), but requires a little more work to address historical easements and deed restrictions.

The working site plan does incorporate some of our recommendations for better flow between the site and the adjacent marina (removing a fence, for example), while also adding amenities for marina users. Overall, we’re excited to see this moving forward–along with plenty of other activity along Muskegon’s lakefront.

Our designer's concept for the site at 1000 W. Western, and the developer's take on the site.

Our designer’s concept for the site at 1000 W. Western, and the developer’s take on the site.

In Kalamazoo, we and the city set a high bar for a developer, asking for reuse of a long-vacant and obsolete public safety building and also the addition of new residential construction atop it.

One developer took the challenge, though their proposal noted that remediation of the existing building, structural challenges of adding stories, and the position of the building on the site combined to make the version we laid out infeasible.  Their counterproposal would demolish the existing building, but ensure the major features of it were recreated in the new structure.

The developer's concept would include a rebuilt version of the fire station facade for sidewalk-facing retail, with a combination of office and affordable apartments above.

The developer’s concept would include a rebuilt version of the fire station facade for sidewalk-facing retail, with a combination of office and affordable apartments above.

The last of our RFQ efforts, a Genesee County Land Bank-owned property in North Flint, went under contract earlier this month, with a team that combines a national developer’s experience and financial capacity with a neighborhood community development group’s on-the-ground knowledge–this partnership should boost the project’s chances of success.

We’ll be watching these projects as they move forward–and as we dive in to several others: MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program has also contracted us to provide pre-development assistance to all of their certified communities.

For those who haven’t cross the finish line of RRC certification, we’ve also created materials that anyone can use to DIY their own developer RFQ.