Category Archives: Urban planning

PlacePlans initiative leads to passage of Allegan riverfront proposal

More than 70 percent of Allegan voters approved a proposal Nov. 5 to take $500,000 from the city’s sinking fund to support a riverfront plan.

The plan is a collaborative effort of the Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC), MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League (MML). The concept is built around Gov. Snyder’s MI Place initiative that focuses on placemaking – creating vibrant, walkable places where people want to live and work. The three parties worked together through PlacePlans, a MI Place partnership that helps communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects with the support of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). MSU received a grant from MSHDA to develop design proposals around placemaking.

Warren Rauhe, SPDC associate professor, said, “The passing of the proposal is an outstanding first step. This is seed money. Other grants and funds could double or triple that amount.”

“One of the main tenets of PlacePlans was to build local consensus resulting in a shared local vision and tangible outcomes,” said Wayne Beyea, outreach specialist in the SPDC. “The community got together and there was real action that happened right on the heels of the proposal’s unveiling.”

The Allegan riverfront plan involved three components: 1) the plan and the illustrations 2) the audit of the assets that the community already had to support the plan and 3) the actual process itself involving hundreds of people including a design charrette. A charrette is an intensive multi-day, collaborative design workshop resulting in shared guiding principles for physical improvements.

The primary role of the SPDC, led by Wayne and Warren, was to develop planning and design recommendations and offer technical assistance.

Luke Forrest and Heather Van Poucker of the MML coordinated and audited the community’s assets.

MSU Extension field staff played a key role in guiding the charrettes following the National Charrette Institute’s Charrette System. They interacted with key stakeholders and assisted with facilitation of interviews. MSU Extension educators involved are part of the government and public policy work group in the Greening Michigan Institute. They include Brad Neumann, Julie Pioch, Dean Solomon, Michelle Walk and Richard Wooten.

“The collaborative approach using Extension expertise around design charrettes is what makes this project unique,” said Wayne. “Warren and I worked in concert with students, faculty, MSU Extension educators, MML and state agency partners, using funding from MSHDA. The effort went so well that the same three partners are under contract to do this again.”

Allegan is one of four cities that were part of MI Place placemaking projects and collaborative efforts by MSU SPDC, MSU Extension and the MML. The others include Alpena, Sault Ste. Marie and Dearborn.

“The projects involved more than 1,400 local participants among the four communities – extensive public involvement,” said Warren.

“PlacePlans strives to reach the goal of attracting vibrant talent to the state,” he said.

The work of the SPDC, Extension and the MML should help that goal become a reality.

Read the Downtown Allegan Riverfront Development Project PlacePlan Concept Report:

Read an article and watch a video about the proposal on this WZZM 13 webpage:

Read more here in this MLive article:

Comments Off on PlacePlans initiative leads to passage of Allegan riverfront proposal

Filed under Urban planning

Urban and Regional Planning students’ practicum project benefits city

Oftentimes, we work hard but successful outcomes to what we are trying to achieve are not always obvious. That was not the case when six Michigan State University Urban and Regional Planning (URP) students took part in a practicum project in Luna Pier, a city in Monroe County, in the 2011 spring semester.

 According to Eric Strauss, professor in the School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC), the city of Luna Pier staff members, the mayor and City Council members as well as Consumers Energy, the funding source, were very pleased with the final product.

 In summer 2011, the city hired an Eastern Michigan student as a summer intern to begin the process of selecting from the list of strategies proposed by the MSU students. She completed her work and the city has hired a planning consultant to complete the list of options.

 In December 2011, Consumers Energy announced the local power plant would close. There was no adverse reaction to this development. Part of the practicum project showed how the community could survive if it should lose a major taxpayer.

In March 2012, Luna Pier received a $500,000 grant from the State of Michigan to build a signature building on the beach, a lighthouse replica to serve as a visitors’ center. The MSU students put forth this recommendation.

In April 2012, the city received a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to build a bio-retention pond to upgrade the sewage treatment plant. Again, the MSU students suggested this.

In summer 2012, the city will hold its first annual Blues and Bootleggers Festival to increase tourism in the town. The MSU students promoted tourism as one of the primary economic diversification strategies.

Finally, in fall 2012, the city will sell TIF (tax increment financing) bonds. TIF is a public financing method used for subsidizing redevelopment, infrastructure and other community-improvement projects. A TIF analysis was one of the primary outputs of the MSU study.

With these actions, students saw that the city officials not only considered their ideas but also acted upon them. The practicum experience promoted the students’ learning as well as benefited the community. It will continue to benefit residents for years to come.

 Zenia Kotval, SPDC professor, and Rex LaMore, director of the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development, served as faculty supervisors. Eric Strauss worked with the community prior to the practicum project and acted as a student adviser for the project. He was instrumental in suggesting practicum as a viable vehicle to study the community constraints and opportunities. 

 MSU Extension supports students working in urban communities through the practicum program and through the Urban Collaborators Program, which places URP interns in urban communities in Michigan to help address needs in partnership with MSUE staff in the community. Practicum is a required capstone course of the URP program in the SPDC.

Comments Off on Urban and Regional Planning students’ practicum project benefits city

Filed under Urban planning