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Flint selected for PlacePlans work

Flint is among eight Michigan cities selected to receive technical assistance with key economic development projects designed to attract and retain residents and employers. Flint will get help planning a greenway to connect key portions of the city.

Flint, along with Cadillac, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Holland, Jackson, Marquette and Midland, will participate in PlacePlans, the Michigan Municipal League announced Nov. 14. The eight cities were selected as part of a statewide application process.

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 Gov. Rick Snyder’s MIplace Partnership.

In Flint, the Grand Traverse Greenway Plan turns a three-mile segment of former CSX Railroad corridor into a dynamic multiuse trail, creating a new and needed link between downtown, the Flint River and neighborhoods to the south. The planned greenway would connect with Flint’s universities, medical centers, schools, recreation areas and two major redevelopment sites. In addition, the greenway would connect to the existing trail system north of downtown.

This is the second round of the PlacePlans work. The first round concluded earlier this year and involved projects in Allegan, Alpena, Dearborn and Sault Ste. Marie.

We are extremely pleased to not only offer the PlacePlans assistance again, but to double the number of communities that will be involved,” said Dan Gilmartin, MML CEO and executive director. “The league has long supported the concept of placemaking, which is creating communities where people want to live, work and enjoy. The PlacePlans actually create realistic, tangible designs to make placemaking possible.”

Gary Heidel, MSHDA chief placemaking officer, said the eight communities selected are from all areas of the state and the projects involved range from revitalizing a historic downtown block in Cadillac to transforming a key commercial corridor in Detroit.

What I like best about these projects is that the passion and dedication already exists in these communities,” Heidel said. “What’s missing is a little bit of a kick-start to turn that potential into reality or to take work that is already under way to the next level. The design and technical assistance being provided through PlacePlans will give them that extra incentive and direction they need.”

Here are details of the other PlacePlans projects:

Cadillac. A historic downtown block which fronts Lake Cadillac is undergoing several distinct new investments including the addition of new residential space, a brewpub, a regional trailhead and an upgraded arts pavilion. A unified physical design plan for this key portion of Cadillac’s downtown can synthesize these positive changes, leading to the creation of a memorable and lively place to live, work and relax — while providing the structure for coordinated investments in the future.

Detroit. The Southwest Detroit Business Association’s plan for the Vernor Livernois Project will support the redevelopment of a vacant and blighted property in the heart of one of the city’s strongest commercial districts. The plan will design a new neighborhood center area on a 6.9-acre brownfield site at West Vernor Highway and Livernois Avenue in the heart of southwest Detroit. The Vernor Livernois Project will become a focal point for this vibrant and diverse community, providing a public square, locally oriented retail and community meeting space and new employment opportunities.

Holland. The Western Gateway project would create a strategic plan connecting Holland’s downtown, lakefront and historic residential areas. Planning the revitalization of the Eighth Street corridor would create new opportunities for infill development and adaptive reuse projects while providing residents, employees and visitors seamless access between the lakefront and downtown. Holland’s food-related infrastructure, including a successful farmers' market and a collective kitchen space, could form the backbone of a food innovation district within the plan.

Jackson. A municipal alley located in the heart of downtown provides the potential for a new north-south connection between an existing farmers' market, a cluster of open and planned restaurants and entertainment venues and major employers. A new physical design for an inviting and interesting pedestrian connection in this corridor would help create a seamless downtown fabric as well as enhance walkability, giving the area greater potential to attract and retain new residents and businesses.

Kalamazoo. Thanks to several major projects either planned or under way — including a new Healthy Living Campus for Kalamazoo Valley Community College, a redeveloped Upjohn Park and farmers' market and the cleaning of Portage Creek — the Edison neighborhood southeast of downtown is seeing new investment. The Healthy Living Corridor Plan would connect these areas with the existing neighborhood fabric and create a single distinct and fun place for work, play and exercise.

Marquette. Baraga Avenue, though no longer separated physically from downtown by railroad lines, is still a barrier for pedestrian activity due to an uninviting streetscape and breaks in the city’s urban fabric. The Baraga Avenue Enhancement Project would develop a physical design plan to overcome these obstacles, designing for Marquette an interesting, walkable street that connects downtown with the lakefront while providing new opportunities for business investment.

Midland. A city with downtown assets including a busy main street, a baseball stadium and recreational areas, a large base of skilled employment and the potential for new mixed-use development, Midland lacks the physical and psychological connections between these key areas. A new strategic plan for placemaking in downtown Midland would provide both potential and existing residents with a unique and vibrant place to reside and work in by planning for a walkable downtown with increased opportunities for entertainment, culture, entrepreneurship and commerce.

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 on the projects. 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 http://placemaking.mml.org/place-plans/.

It is hoped that the implementation of these conceptual plans will help the community leverage place as an economic driver, creating vibrant, attractive and successful public spaces that add value to the community and local economy,” Gilmartin said.

(Note: This report is provided as a service to our readers from a press release submitted to eastvillagemagazine.org. The story is edited to conform to Associated Press and local style. The group or individual who submitted the story is responsible for all information provided.)

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