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Michigan Municipal League

Press Release


Matt Bach
Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073;


Placemaking: A Look at the Last 10 Years

New Placemaking Report Released at News Event in Muskegon

MUSKEGON, Michigan – Ten years ago, very few knew the term “placemaking” and what it meant for Michigan’s future. Today, placemaking isn’t just a word, it’s a way of life for many people and communities.

A new report, A Decade of Placemaking in Michigan, discussed today during a news conference in Muskegon by the Michigan Municipal League, is a retrospective of the League’s work in the placemaking arena since the early 2000s. The event took place at the new Western Market Pop-Up Stores in downtown Muskegon. The community has been a leader in the placemaking movement and a photo of its placemaking endeavors is included on the cover of the new report, said Shanna Draheim, author of the report and director of policy development for the League.

“We have been very impressed with the placemaking work happening in Muskegon,” Draheim said. “So, when we decided to roll out this new report in key locations throughout the state, Muskegon was at the top of our list. Muskegon community leaders have taken placemaking concepts and turned them into tangible economic drivers. That’s exactly what placemaking is all about.”

The purpose of the report is to remind League members and the public where we’ve been, show what we’ve accomplished, and use that to help the League set the stage for future placemaking endeavors, Draheim added.

“The League’s placemaking work has had an impact throughout the state in a variety of ways. Local and state leaders, for example, have adopted placemaking concepts and made significant investments to improve the quality of life in Michigan communities,” Draheim said.

Multiple Muskegon area officials and supporters participated in Friday’s news event: Mayor Stephen Gawron; Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of Downtown Muskegon Now; and Dan Castle, co-owner of Morat’s Bakery Pub, which has a location in the new Western Market Pop-Up Stores.

“So, what exactly is placemaking? In the simplest of terms, it’s creating a space that attracts people and business,” said Mayor Gawron. “Placemaking comes in many shapes and sizes and Muskegon offers a great example of that variety. We’ve taken very small spaces, like here at the Western Market, and much larger areas, like the farmers market, and turned them into vibrant places that draw people from miles around and provide an economic boost to our entire community.”

The League has been a resource and strong voice for placemaking for over a decade, so picking just the highlights wasn’t easy. But some of the key efforts in the report include:

  • Significant outreach to communities, stakeholders, and community development professionals, including professional development training, hundreds of presentations to organizations around the world, publication of two books on placemaking, hosting the 2010-2016 Prosperity Agenda radio show on 760 WJR, and mobilizing a two-year Let’s Save Michigan outreach campaign.

  • Assistance to communities in creating and implementing PlacePlans and PlacePOP projects in their downtowns (in cooperation with our state and other Sense of Place Council partners).

  • Advocacy and support for state and local programs and policy changes to support placemaking.

  • Development of new funding tools to support placemaking projects.

The League’s efforts to help move the placemaking agenda came at the right time, as Michigan’s traditional manufacturing economy was declining and communities desperately needed new options to create economically strong, vibrant places. 

The League has not done this work alone. The vision, leadership, and support of the League’s 18-member Board of Trustees was essential. Through the years, the Board has been a placemaking champion and cheerleader. Perhaps most importantly, however, has been the League’s partnership with other organizations, including the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan State University, business organizations, and other nonprofit groups through the Sense of Place Council. These partners have been critical to the success of adopting placemaking in Michigan by “normalizing” placemaking concepts, providing credibility, broadening the scope and scale of outreach efforts, and providing key funding for communities’ placemaking work. 

The League has watched and participated as communities have engaged with their residents to redevelop formerly blighted or underutilized areas into fun and attractive community amenities; plan and host art and cultural events; and change local policies that enable things like outdoor dining and public gathering spaces that draw people into downtowns.

So, what’s next? The League’s placemaking work will continue, but will evolve. In the coming years, the League will provide a wide range of services and strategies that push the placemaking for economic prosperity agenda forward, and enjoin the state’s job creation strategy with efforts to improve civic life.

For additional information, contact the League’s Matt Bach, director of communications, at (810) 874-1073 (cell); (734) 669-6317 (office) and

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




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