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.




Cadillac community stakeholders were busy at work again last week creating a sense of place centered around a critical one-block area of the downtown, connecting the backs of businesses like the Clam Lake Beer Co. along Mitchell Street and the new Baker College student apartments with the city’s lakefront park, band pavilion, award-winning Clam River Greenway and soon-to-be White Pine Trailhead.

After one-on-one stakeholder interviews and a great community visioning session in early December, a steady stream of stakeholder groups and interested citizens could be found visiting the two-day charrette last week, examining the two initial design concepts created by the MSU PlacePlans design team. The convenient location of the charrette process on the third floor of a contiguous building provided a bird’s-eye view of the design area, greatly aiding discussion.

Collaborative discussion resulted in creative suggestions such as the addition of a second dock for boaters, a separate dedicated fishing pier, landscape-designed seating for music events, the memorial fountain as a year-round attraction, brightening up and creating friendly access at the backs of bordering businesses, and creating safe and attractive walkways from nearby parking.

Rotary Pavilion - CadillacCadillac residents and business owners were not only philosophical and strategic about the typically bristly issue of reduced parking, but also about the service delivery alley and the sometimes polarizing subject of potentially closing Lake Street. They tended toward compromise in all areas, such as keeping Lake Street engineered as a roadway, but designed as a pedestrian environment with retractable bollards for opening and closing the roadway as practical.

The Michigan Municipal League is proud to be partnered with MSU  and MSHDA in the PlacePlans program, and we are as excited as the people of Cadillac to see the next and near final, concept unveiling.

Holland PlacePlansWe visited with a full house of residents in Holland this past week who were intrigued to learn more about the PlacePlans project, and how it will further the goals of the city’s strategic plan.  Everyone was eager to discuss the opportunities that might emerge through strategic development of the City’s Western Gateway.  The Western Gateway is a critical connection between the successful downtown district and the thriving Farmer’s Market and civic center area, ending at the beautiful waterfront park.

Discussion quickly turned to the opportunities that lay untapped in this key corridor, and ways that great design and effective strategic planning can converge to promote economic development.  With numerous projects and initiatives underway the community is poised to create a truly unique urban space, distinct from the principal shopping district and complementary to the Farmer’s Market.  Development of the Western Gateway would activate what is now a missing link, knitting together some of the communities best assets—the waterfront, civic center area, historic neighborhoods, farmer’s market, and the downtown district.

Ideas around food innovation emerged as a primary interest, with great discussion of ways that the farm market and major food producers in the area might utilize the Western Gateway as a hub for entrepreneurial activity related to the food industry.  It was fantastic to hear the community members share such creative ideas about how to use what is best about that area to establish an authentic district that would add to the fabric of the community.

PlacePlans Flint

What turns out a crowd of more than 60 on a frigid snowy night in Flint?  People of all ages, backgrounds, and interests ventured out when most people would just want to be snuggled up on the couch (even a number of students who had a snow-day that day!)  The allure is the prospect of having a voice in turning a challenged three-mile stretch into a true community asset, real Placemaking in action.  The Grand Traverse Greenway project, underway through our PlacePlans program, has the potential to bring so much to the community…it will be a key north/south trail that provides a real alternative for pedestrians and bicyclists.  It will connect large employers and commercial areas to the downtown district, university corridor, medical centers, and riverfront.  It runs near schools and parks and other existing assets in the area.

PlacePlans Flint

During the first visioning session voices were raised in hope, expressing what could be–families using the greenway for healthy recreation, students and young professionals biking it as an alternative to a car commute, the community enjoying it as a platform for activities and events, to connect to area parks, lakes and wetlands, and even to spark entrepreneurship (there were several suggestions for bike rentals, ice cream, food trucks, and community gardens on or near the Greenway.)  Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, a generous corporate partner supporting this project, envision their employees walking or biking on breaks, using the Greenway to access all that the area has to offer.  They view the quality of place in Flint as key to attracting and retaining the right people, and believe the Greenway can have a very positive impact.  Similarly, the colleges and universities that host over 30,000 students (yes, you read correctly, Flint is home to more than 30,000 college/university students attending Kettering University, University of Michigan-Flint, Baker College, Mott Community College…) share the conviction that excellent place is key to attracting and retaining students and staff.  Students from the International Academy were excited to share their dreams for the Greenway too, and the ways this asset could engage youth within the community.

flint-placeplans-session-mapThe project leaders from MSU talked about the ways good design can promote safe and appropriate use of public space. After all, people are good stewards of public space when the design and maintenance of the area signals it is a respected and valued asset. And the best way to feel secure is to activate the space, with lots of people using it in a responsible way–during all seasons and at all times of day. It was so wonderful to hear from students, neighbors, families, bike enthusiasts, bird watchers, and the myriad perspectives and personalities that will help shape the Grand Traverse Greenway. If the first meeting was any indication, this is a project destined for success!