canfield_social_yardA panel of national placemaking experts selected Detroit’s Canfield School Yard project as the $2,000 grand prize winner of the Let’s Save Michigan “It’s About Place” contest.

The contest, which started in May with online voting of 46 projects from 28 Michigan communities, concluded this week with a group of judges selecting four projects to receive a share of $4,000 in prize money. The money is to be used to implement the projects, said Sarah Szurpicki, the contest’s project coordinator. A $1,000 second-place prize was awarded to The Fat Garden Project in Muskegon; and two $500 runner-up prizes went to Innovation Square project in Detroit and the Old Hartland High School Project in Hartland.

Nora León, of the Canfield School Yard project, was ecstatic about winning the contest. The Canfield School Yard project seeks to raise awareness of the west Woodbridge area in Detroit and foster a culture of neighborhood and civic engagement by programming a vacant lot with entertainment and educational events that support existing community efforts and encourage new projects.

“We are beyond excited about winning the Let’s Save Michigan “It’s About Place” competition,” León said.  “It is a tremendous honor and we can’t wait to get our hands dirty and bring Canfield Social Yard to life. We think the project has the potential to become a great asset for the Woodbridge community.”

The other three winning projects are:

 

Muskegon: The Fat Garden Project – second prize $1,000: The Fat Garden Project helps the Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack secure much-needed parking but more important, transforms a portion of a vacant lot into a beautiful, functional picnic and garden area complete with works of art by local Muskegon artists.

 

Detroit: Innovation Square – runner-up $500: Innovation Square will transform a “cracked, warped and tired” parking lot in Tech Town into an inviting outdoor space that encourages inter-organization collaboration and community development, with the goal of generating sufficient momentum to secure follow-on funding.

 

Hartland: Old Hartland High School – runner-up $500: The Old Hartland High School project will create a year-round gathering place with an atmosphere that encourages interaction and socialization among community members and where community groups can hold casual meetings under the backdrop of a large Poetry Word Wall.

 

Judges gave significant weight to the feasibility of a project in selecting the winners, as well as to submissions that show they have considered how to manage the project over time. Other criteria include creativity and originality, community engagement and the overall impact that the project could have on the community.

Placemaking judge Nate Berg, staff writer for The Atlantic Cities, was very impressed with all the finalists’ ideas. Moreover, he was struck by how well the projects coordinated with the surrounding community and local government.

“Ideas—even really good ideas—are far more plentiful than the capacity to take on the often long and frustrating task of working within bureaucracies to bring those ideas to reality,” Berg said. “It should be inspiring for people throughout Michigan and beyond to see such dedication from these finalists for making small but important improvements to their neighborhoods.”

The “It’s About Place” contest received 46 proposals from communities all over Michigan.  Contestants from Muskegon to Detroit, Marine City to Manistique saw great placemaking potential in their communities and came up with some truly creative projects.

The top 10 project vote recipients will now move to the final round where a panel of placemaking experts will choose a winning project. 1st Place will receive $2,000 and runners up will receive $1,000 and $500 respectfully.

The 6 – 10 finalists include:

Detroit: Innovation Square (2,090 Votes)

Innovation Square will transform a “cracked, warped and tired” parking lot in Tech Town into an inviting outdoor space that encourages inter-organization collaboration and community development, with the goal of generating sufficient momentum to secure follow-up funding.

 

Detroit: Canfield Social Yard (1,962 Votes)

The Canfield Social Yard seeks to raise awareness of the west Woodbridge area and foster a culture of neighborhood and civic engagement by programming a vacant lot with entertainment and educational events that support existing community efforts and encourage new projects.

 

Milford: Growing Greens Community Garden (1,940 Votes)

The Growing Greens Community Garden will grow healthy food for families and neighbors, involve and educate our children about healthy eating, and grow a sense of community with donations of fresh organic produce to a local food bank.

 

Saline: Alley Project (1,468 Votes)

The Saline Alley Project will improve and beautify an underutilized, forgotten alley in downtown Saline and turn it into a much-needed community gathering space with peaceful outdoor seating for restaurants, festive lighting, bountiful planters of blooming flowers and dynamic “galleries” for artwork.

Saline Patch article covering the Alley Project

 

Hartland: Old Hartland High School (1,184 Votes)

The Old Hartland High School project will create a year-round gathering place with an atmosphere that encourages interaction and socialization among community members and where local groups can hold casual meetings under the backdrop of a large Poetry Word Wall.

Hartland Patch article on the Old Hartland School project

Let’s Save Michigan asked skateholders across Michigan to find underutilized space in their community – be it an alley, a pocket park, or a vacant lot – and then work together with members of the community to create and design a plan to turn that space into a welcoming, vibrant public place.

For the past three weeks, voters online have chosen between 46 creative, exciting proposals. After over 37,000 votes, you have narrowed down the projects to 10 finalists. These finalists now go on to the final round where a panel of placemaking experts will choose a winning project.

The top 5 vote recipients:

Muskegon: The Fat Garden Project (5,687 Votes)

The Fat Garden Project helps the Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack secure much-needed parking but more importantly, it will convert a portion of a vacant lot into a beautiful, functional picnic and garden area complete with works of art by local Muskegon artists.

 

Wyandotte: Downtown Pocket Park (4,295 Votes)

The Downtown Pocket Park project will transform what is currently a pass-through between two existing buildings in downtown Wyandotte’s Central Business District into a place where people can meet, congregate and explore. NOTE: The Downtown Pocket Park location was not impacted by the recent fire. Our thoughts are with those who were affected.

Metromode article covering the Downtown Pocket Park

 

Flint: Riverfront Park Revival Project (3,622 Votes)

The Riverbank Park Project is part of a series of targeted improvements, installations, and celebrations intended to recreate a glimpse of how an underutilized park was originally designed to operate when it was first built over 30 years ago.

MLive article on the Riverfront Park Revival Project

 

Hazel Park: Hazel Park Library Friend Plaza (3,347 Votes)

The Hazel Park Library Friend Plaza will use seating and tables to activate an overgrown and underused garden, allowing the public to congregate in a space located adjacent to the library, city hall, and a residential community in downtown Hazel Park.

 

Ypsilanti: CityFARM (2,367 Votes)

CityFARM proposes an urban organic farm at North Adams Street in Ypsilanti to allow those in need to have access to fresh foods as well as to improve the surrounding community through nutritious donations, improved land use, and increased awareness.

mainstreetOur It’s About Place contest is inspiring people all around Michigan to imagine and plan more welcoming public spaces.  Full submissions for the contest are due on May 4, but the first requirement to entering is to send a short email “Letter of Intent” to sarah [at] letssavemichigan.com.  This letter can be oh-so-simple: just tell us where you’re from and that you intend to get your full submission in by May 4.  If you already have a plan, include a few sentences about what you’re doing, so that we can verify your eligibility.

Details about the full application and other requirements are here.

For now–get your letter of intent in today!

Holland - People on sidewalk - Burden (38)Neighborhoods, cities, regions and states across America are taking notice of how important “place” is in the economic development equation. Michigan can attract and retain talent-based workers by focusing on how best to utilize our regional communities’ unique placemaking assets such as squares, plazas, parks, streets, green spaces and waterfronts.

Read this Model D feature about placemaking and how one business owner could have opened her state-of-the-art shop anywhere and chose Grand Rapids because of her belief that a vibrant community is vital to success — not just to her corporate bottom line but to the quality of life her family, employees and neighbors proudly enjoy.

Placemaking, creating vibrant public spaces that invite and encourage community interaction, is an approach that Michigan’s cities and towns need.  For decades we’ve been disinvesting in our downtowns, and Let’s Save Michigan wants to help reverse that trend.

Last month, Let’s Save Michigan announced “It’s About Place,” a contest devoted to bringing placemaking to Michigan communities. Read all about the contest details here. Start thinking creatively, the deadline for the letter of intent is this Friday, April 13th!