New Placemaking Report Released at News Event in Flint

(FLINT, Mich., Nov. 9, 2017) – 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. That’s most certainly the case for downtown Flint.

A new report, A Decade of Placemaking in Michigan, discussed today during a news conference in Flint 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 Flint Farmers’ Market in downtown Flint where a tremendous amount of revitalization is taking place. Flint has faced many challenges in recent years, but its downtown is experiencing a resurgence fueled by growing business investments and jobs, new restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and new businesses.

The concept of placemaking and creating vibrant spaces that attract people are key components to Flint’s work. Four separate photos of Flint’s placemaking endeavors are included in the new report, said Shanna Draheim, author of the report and director of policy development for the League.

“Flint in many ways is the face of placemaking,” Draheim said. “The revival its downtown is experiencing includes so many of the placemaking attributes we discuss all the time—walkability and bikeability, economic development, entrepreneurship, public transit and having a welcoming community. Flint has taken its existing assets 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 Flint area officials and supporters participated in Thursday’s news event: Dan Gilmartin, League CEO and Executive Director; Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and President of Uptown Reinvestment Corporation; Karianne Martus, Flint Farmers’

Market Manager; Keysa Smith, owner of Spectacular Spudz; and Tony Vu, owner of MaMang.

“The League’s new report celebrates the evolution of placemaking over the last decade,” Herman said. “Look around to what’s taken place in downtown Flint in the past 10 years and you can truly see this placemaking evolution in action. For those who haven’t visited downtown Flint in a while, the change is dramatic, and there’s more to come.”

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