itsaboutplaceIn this fourth post taking us down memory lane, we remember our 2012 placemaking contest, which spread awareness about placemaking as a community and economic development strategy.

The It’s About Place competition engaged almost 50 individuals or teams to identify an underutilized space in their community, consider how they could improve the location through placemaking, and design a solution to turn it into a community space. Over 17,000 of you were moved by the competition, and submitted votes to help choose which finalists most successfully planned more attractive, welcoming, and safe places. The four finalists selected by the judges received financial assistance towards implementing their projects and three of the four projects have now been built.

We would like to one last time congratulate our winners and thank everyone who participated in making the contest such a success!

Saline Alley Project PictureLet’s Save Michigan is happy to announce a new winner of a $500 award in the It’s About Place Placemaking contest, the Saline Alley Project. The Saline Main Street Design team has big plans for an unused alley which they hope to upgrade and incorporate into the city’s downtown district. Located on South Ann Arbor Street and adjacent to several businesses, organizers are turning the alley into an attractive, quaint, and cozy community gathering place where visitors can rest, relax and enjoy their downtown experience.

Due to issues gaining control of the proposed property, the original winner of the $500 prize, Innovation Square, had to back out (but we hope to hear from them again next time we run a similar contest). It’s About Place organizers awarded the prize money to the Saline Alley Project, which had been the judges’ next choice.

Already moving full steam ahead, the Saline Main Street Design team used the design that they had submitted to our contest in the spring to leverage other donations from the community. Organizers reached out to the Saline Rotary Club whose members voted to donate $1,200 to the Alley Project. The Rotary International District 6380 is also planning to donate an additional $600. Organizers are bringing together the City of Saline and the adjacent business owners to bring the alley beautification plans to life.

Let’s Save Michigan is so proud to see organizers of the Saline Alley Project ready to hit the ground running. By turning excitement around their design into tangible support, organizers are creating the community engagement we love to see in a project.  We can’t wait to see this beautiful addition to Saline!

Fatty LumpkinsThe Fatty Lumpkins “Fat Garden” in Muskegon is moving forward with their winning project from our It’s About Place contest thanks to the help of several community partners and dedication of the organizers to assure the project remains in good standing with the city.

The first set of big news came with the purchase of the lot where the Fat Garden will be housed for an affordable price from the previous owners.  The project will now go before the Muskegon Planning Commission to request a special use variance for the property, which requires a professional design of the landscaping. Fortunately Schultz Transportation has agreed to donate their time to create the landscaping model and even offered to help with all the landscaping that can’t be done by hand. Organizers stress that getting help at this step off the process is critical to moving forward.

On the garden front, artist Mat Moore has already been collecting pieces to create functional art installations within the garden and Third Coast Horticulture Supply has offered their expertise so that once the garden is up and running it will remain healthy and sustainable for years to come.

While organizers acknowledge that these steps might not be the most exciting part of the process, completing each of the steps deliberately and correctly is essential to making sure the garden gets off the ground and accomplishes the vision Fat Garden set forward to create.  Let’s Save Michigan is so proud to be a small part of what is a great example of a community coming together to create special new places.

There have been a lot of developments with the It’s About Place winner, the Canfield Social Yard, most importantly a location and corresponding name change. After originally planning to build their stage and public space on Canfield street in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood, organizers heeded nearby resident concerns about noise and traffic and moved the project to a lot on Forest Avenue, a few blocks away. Upon hearing of the move to Forest, a neighbor contacted organizers and explained his plans to buy the lot to use for parking at his adjacent building. After considerable time meeting with community groups and keeping with the original plan of a prominent, high traffic location, organizers decided on Scripps Park, just down the street from the original Canfield site.

Like many Detroit parks, Scripps fell into disrepair after the city cut funding for park maintenance. However, local groups saw incredible potential in the park, and have worked diligently to keep it clean and maintained. Organizers of the Social Yard met with many of these groups, including Friends of Scripps Park, Scripps Park Sensory Garden Project, the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Detroit Recreation Department and the Douglass Branch for Special Services of the Detroit Public Library, which is adjacent to the park. These organizations are pushing for the park to become a central community gathering space and see the Social Yard as a great way to further this goal.

Recently, with the help of the Scripps Sensory Garden Project, organizers were able to hold a community meeting with regular users of the park to get their feedback and integrate those ideas with the design and vision of the Social Yard. They hope to execute the project by late October.

Great job to the Scripps Park Social Yard for all the hard work they have put in so far, and for assuring their project vision includes feedback from the community. The success of placemaking projects can only really be judged by how the greater community perceives and benefits from it–and thorough community engagement is the best way to make sure a placemaking project meets the needs of its most likely users.. Organizers at the Scripps Park Social Yard have gone to great lengths to assure community buy in. We can’t wait to see the results.

Old Hartland UPdatedThe Old Hartland High School is making progress turning a section of the old school into a community space for the alternative high school students, senior center residents and other activity center attendees who use the building.   So far they have painted the wall surrounding the area in bright yellow-green to liven up the space, leaving a white space in the middle of the wall which will feature art created by local students.  Artwork donated by the Hartland Art Council will be featured against the space’s soffits as well.

The project plan for the Old Hartland High School space called for a large poetry wall, and coordinators are hoping to really engage the community in its creation, by recruiting a resident of the senior center who has previously worked with students from the alternative high school on woodworking projects to help in the construction of the wall. They are also hoping to get some students to help create the signage for the area.

As their project starts taking shape, Let’s Save Michigan was excited to hear that the project coordinators were able to leverage their It’s About Place prize money into donations from the Hartland Art Council and Hartland Community Education to help complete the project. This is a great example of how small investments can inspire even greater engagement and support.  Way to go and keep up the great work!