New report shows placemaking a growing strategy among Michigan’s leaders

The University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), housed in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, conducts applied academic research, functioning as an information resource for policymakers and practitioners, academics, students, the media, and the public. CLOSUP conducts its Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) of Michigan local government leaders biannually, intended at filling an important information gap in the policymaking process. Providing our citizens with valuable information resources, as CLOSUP is here, is a great way to bridge the gap between our citizens and our policymakers, and heighten the quality of conversations that happen within the process. Efforts like these make community engagement more effective and successful for everyone involved.

In the Spring 2013 MPPS, CLOSUP surveyed local government leaders from 1,350 Michigan jurisdictions. CLOSUP’s new report, “Michigan local governments increasingly pursue placemaking for economic development” presents the opinions of Michigan local government leaders on the community and economic development strategy known as “placemaking” and its use by Michigan jurisdictions across the state.

“Placemaking” is a community and economic development strategy that attempts to capitalize on existing local assets in order to create appealing and unique places where people want to live, work, and play. Different approaches to placemaking might focus on developing a community’s arts or cultural amenities, on architectural design and the use of sustainable materials, on the provision of accessible transit, cycling, or walkable streets, or all of these and more. Of the most common seen in Michigan are the creation of open spaces, and efforts to become more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.

The report concludes that in Michigan overall, approximately one-third (34%) of local jurisdictions report pursuing the strategy in 2013, up from 21% that said the same in 2009. Furthermore, 51% of Michigan’s local leaders say they believe placemaking can be effective in their jurisdictions as of 2013, up from 39% who felt this way in 2009.

The report shows a 13% increase over the last four years in the number of jurisdictions that report that they are engaged in or are planning for placemaking as an economic development strategy, effective in growing local economies. This makes sense, given that more than half – a group that has also grown considerably – of local leaders believe placemaking can be effective.

Local officials looking to boost their placemaking skills have many resources to help them. From the Project for Public Spaces, to a new report “Placemaking in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practices,” from the Center for Community Progress, to the Michigan Municipal League’s PlacePlans program, the growing number of placemakers has the opportunities to be well informed. These groups provide information resources for Michiganders participating at any level of the policymaking process. As an advocate for placemaking, of which community engagement is a critical component, we are happy to see information sharing to help serve the process.


Photo from the Michigan Municipal League via Flickr