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Press Release


Contact:

Matt Bach
Director of Media Relations
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073
mbach@mml.org; www.mml.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 9, 2016

Benton Harbor Square 1 PlacePlan Now Available Online

Michigan Municipal League posts project at placemaking.mml.org

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The Benton Harbor Square 1 PlacePlan project is now available for public viewing at placemaking.mml.org.

The Michigan Municipal League posted the Square 1 report today along with PlacePlans projects from six other communities (Boyne City, Lathrup Village, Monroe, Niles, Saginaw, and Traverse City. Information about grants to implement similar PlacePlans in Allegan, Dearborn, Kalamazoo and Sault Sainte Marie are also available. You can check them all out here: http://placemaking.mml.org/place-plans/.

“Our communities already have so many great assets and the PlacePlans year-long process focuses on an existing asset and recommends ways to make it even better,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. “The plans also reflect the needs and wants of the local community members who were involved throughout the process. We’re excited about the opportunities and possibilities the plans represent in these communities.”

PlacePlans is a joint effort between the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction, and is led at the state agency level by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). It is a program to help communities design and implement transformative placemaking projects to focus economic development efforts around walkable downtown districts.

“The PlacePlans program fosters collaboration from local individuals to make their communities feel like home. It’s inspiring to see the innovative and creative work generated by leaders and residents in these communities—Benton Harbor, Boyne City, Lathrup Village, Monroe, Niles, Saginaw and Traverse City,” said Gary Heidel, chief placemaking officer for MSHDA. “Hopefully these PlacePlans can become reality and build upon the positive placemaking work already happening in these cities.”

This current round of PlacePlans work began about a year ago when Benton Harbor was among seven communities selected to receive technical assistance from university faculty and students, professional consultants, and League staff.

In Benton Harbor, League staff facilitated work on a concept design for Dwight Pete Mitchell City Center Park—a symbolic center for Ben­ton Harbor, serving as a public green and community gathering space right on Main Street in the heart of downtown. The current configuration of the park limits its functionality and appeal, however. The layout of the park in­cludes a parking lot and alley that are remnants of the commercial buildings that formerly stood there, rather than features designed for park use, concerts, the farmers market, and other events. The PlacePlans team led an inclusive, highly collaborative community engagement process, resulting in a new concept plan for the park’s physical layout.

“We were delighted with the PlacePlans process and the way it got everyone together around a common purpose,” said Stephannnie Harvey-Vandenberg, president, Benton Harbor Parks and Recreation Conservancy. “This is a key part of our community that has great potential and the PlacePlans work helped show that to city leaders and our supporters.”

The final concept for Dwight Pete Mitchell City Center Park supports the vision of the community for a park that brings people together from all parts of Benton Harbor. The concept includes a permanent stage area and events lawn; a shelter along 6th Street for community events, farmers markets, and other uses; and quieter sitting areas. The concept arises from the input of hundreds of community members over the course of an eight-month-long public design process. Their vision for an attractive space that welcomes people in year-round drove development of the plans, which tie together the civic infrastructure of City Hall and the Benton Harbor Public Library, the Arts District, and the business district along Main Street.

“What is great about the final plan is how it really represents all the different input we received,” Harvey-Vandenberg said. “We’re very excited about the future of this park.”

The Conservancy is in the process of incorporating the Square 1 plan into their citywide strategy and prioritizing improvements from the plan that can be undertaken in 2016.
Link to PlacePlan:

For more information, go to placemaking.mml.org or contact Matt Bach, League director of media relations, at 734-669-6317 or mbach@mml.org.

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.

About Michigan Municipal League:
Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The 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. Learn more at mml.org.

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