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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

Traverse City ‘City Lot’ PlacePlan Now Available Online

Michigan Municipal League posts project at placemaking.mml.org

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Traverse City’s “City Lot” PlacePlan project is now available for public viewing at placemaking.mml.org.

The Michigan Municipal League posted the City Lot report today along with PlacePlans projects from six other communities (Benton Harbor, Boyne City, Lathrup Village, Monroe, Niles, and Saginaw). 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 Traverse City was among seven communities selected to receive technical assistance from university faculty and students, professional consultants and League staff.

The Traverse City PlacePlan focused on the city’s West Front Street district, which already was under a positive transformation with the recent streetscape project. This, along with the planned rebuild of the West Front Street Bridge, lays the foundation for a corridor that becomes an area that is not just for vehicles passing through on the way in and out of downtown, but is its own hub of business and social activity. Drivers slow down and notice their surroundings, while bikers, walkers and other active users are feeling more welcomed. Further positive change will require concerted partnership between the public and private sectors to fill in underutilized properties with more productive uses and embrace the potential of the Boardman River, Kids Creek and surrounding public spaces.

“This high-traffic area is a key part of our community and it’s exciting to think of all the possibilities for it,” said Russ Soyring, Traverse City planning director. “The collaborative nature of the PlacePlan’s work was inspiring and got people thinking about this area in ways they hadn’t thought of before.”

The League, to assist the community in achieving this change, facilitated a process to prioritize further placemaking activities on the West Front Street corridor from Hall Street to Division Street. Our report, which uses as its foundation the 2013 Corridors Master Plan based on over a year of research, conversation with local stakeholders and hands-on experimentation.

The project was focused into three specific pieces of an interlocking puzzle. The three pieces were a community-supported design plan for reinvigorating the city-owned property on the north side of Front Street, just west of Oak Street (aka “City Lot”); development of a feasibility study of selected properties along Front Street to demonstrate the potential – and some of the challenges associated with – infill development along the corridor; and a draft form-based code, which is intended to replace the existing zoning ordinance for this corridor and transform the way development is regulated. After careful deliberation, League and city staff jointly identified these three focal points as the most effective use of limited time and resources. Each of the three was addressed by a different team of expert consultants, with League staff as the overall project manager. The consultant work is included in the report.  

"Perhaps the most exciting part of the project is public engagement, said Traverse City Planning Commissioner Linda Koebert, who served on the project steering committee. “People of all ages visited City Lot during the process and left their impressions and ideas for maintaining the natural features while creating accessible spaces for community to gather. There is true buy-in for making this space a year-round asset for all who live here."

Four key suggestions that came out of the plan include revising and adopting form-based code; prioritizing and marketing infill development opportunities, identifying realistic, phased approach for transformation of City Lot, and applying City Lot lessons to public participation in other projects.

Soyring said one of the next steps is he will be working with the planning commission to adopt some version of the form-based code that was developed as part of this PlacePlans project. The code will help to implement the vision expressed by the community.

Links to the plan:

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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