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Press Release

Matt Bach, Director of Media Relations
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C (810) 874-1073;


Seven Michigan Communities Selected for PlacePlans Work

Cities to Receive Economic Development Assistance

As part of a statewide application process, seven Michigan cities have been selected to receive technical assistance with key economic development projects designed to attract and retain residents and employers. Benton Harbor, Boyne City, Lathrup Village, Monroe, Niles, Saginaw, and Traverse City will participate in PlacePlans, the Michigan Municipal League announced today.

PlacePlans is a joint effort between the League and Michigan State University to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects. The PlacePlans are done with support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and Governor Snyder’s MIplace Partnership.

This is the third round of the PlacePlans program, which began in 2012 with projects in Allegan, Alpena, Dearborn, and Sault Ste. Marie, and continued in 2014 with projects in Cadillac, Detroit, Flint, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Marquette, and Midland. Go here to view previous projects.

“With this announcement, in just three short years we are very pleased to have helped about two dozen communities throughout Michigan with projects that will benefit their cities for years to come,” said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. “The League has long supported the concept of placemaking, which is creating communities where people want to live, work and play. The PlacePlans actually create realistic, tangible designs to make placemaking possible.”

Gary Heidel, chief placemaking officer for MSHDA, said the seven communities selected are from all areas of the state and the projects involved range from better utilizing a creek/park area in Traverse City to redeveloping a downtown park and plaza in Benton Harbor.

“Each community has its own characteristics and assets that makes it unique,” Heidel said. “The great thing about this PlacePlans program is it helps a community look at an under-utilized asset and puts it on the path toward becoming a community gem. The design and technical assistance being provided through PlacePlans will give them a road map and direction they need.”

Here is a look at the seven PlacePlans projects:

Benton Harbor
Dwight Pete Mitchell City Center Park serves as the primary public green and community gathering space for downtown Benton Harbor, and the community has a number of ideas for how to enhance its role. Creating an inclusive civic engagement process to gather public input on a new design concept to activate the park is a key goal of the PlacePlans work.

Boyne City
Boyne City’s waterfront along Lake Charlevoix is underutilized and properties are disconnected from each other and the downtown area. A coordinated design plan for Sunset Park and surrounding spaces would create attractive connections and paths to link parks, beaches, downtown businesses, and the historic walking tour.

Lathrup Village
The property surrounding Lathrup Village city hall currently hosts a weekly farmers market, summer concert series, and other public events, but demand has outgrown capacity. Additionally, the city has set the stage for creation of a true “village center” as a walkable destination for the community, but needs a catalytic first development to demonstrate that potential. A strategic new design for the public space in combination with a public/private partnership to examine redevelopment of the city hall building will help the entire parcel become a community hub offering both public services and private amenities.

Monroe is working to convert an underutilized alley into a pedestrian connector to unify the downtown area. An inviting design recognizing the community’s history and culture would create an attractive connection between museums, restaurants, retail, parking areas, and more, as well as provide opportunities for the businesses and cultural institutions along the alley to activate their own properties.

The Saint Joseph River has been the city of Niles’ primary recreational destination since its east bank was developed as Riverfront Park in the 1990s. The city has identified some parcels along the river as opportunities for catalytic developments that both take advantage of the river and enhance connections from the surrounding neighborhoods. The city is seeking support in understanding development opportunities on two key sites, as well as area planning that links these developments and existing waterfront amenities to the city’s successful Main Street district.

A broad cast of business and institutional actors have identified place-based investment in downtown and Old Town Saginaw and adjacent neighborhoods as important to the city’s success, but have not yet established a clear set of shared priorities. A strategic placemaking goal-setting process will bring these groups together to develop an action plan before moving to implement specific projects.

Traverse City
In the west end of downtown Traverse City, several projects are underway to address issues such as pedestrian and motorized infrastructure, streetscapes, and poor connectivity. The area lacks a true destination or gathering space, however. A new design plan for a vacant city-owned parcel along Kids Creek would transform the site into a true community space for residents and visitors, providing both a focal point for this emerging district and a connection to the heart of downtown.

Now that the communities and projects have been selected, the next step will be to identify key stakeholders in each community. Then, multiple public meetings will be scheduled in each city to gather public input. From those meetings, conceptual plans with specific implementation goals and guidelines will be formed. Regular updates and information about the projects will be posted at


The Michigan Municipal League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services.




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