When we started talking about placemaking at the Michigan Municipal League a few years ago, nobody disagreed with us on the importance of vibrant communities. It’s intuitive to want to live in a great place with a walkable downtown, public transit, parks, and an educated and talented workforce. Five or six years ago, however, nobody really connected the fact that dynamic communities are an economic driver. If we want to attract and retain talented workers, a vibrant community is critical.
A few years ago the League published its first book, The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People. My favorite line of the book is when talking about what attracts people the author (Dan Gilmartin of the League) concludes: “It’s the place, stupid.” The first book was so successful that last year we published the second book, Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities. I’ve found as I talk about communities whether it’s at work or in my personal life that people overall get it. We may have different political or social views, but overall people seem to understand that they want to live someplace they love. They want cool things happening in their downtown. They may not use the term “placemaking” or any of the other buzz words, but they instinctively get it.
While G.I. Joe taught us that “knowing is half the battle”, here knowledge is only step one. How do we go from knowing that places matter to actually creating places that matter? That question is part of what led to the launch of the Economics of Place. It led to the creation of the MiPlace partnership with Michigan state agencies and other community partners to come up with data and a toolkit and case studies on what creates great places. It’s resulted in the PlacePlans program where now 19 cities are working on innovative design projects to become a better place. This knowledge is what helped develop the Public Spaces, Community Places program through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the League to match crowdfunded community projects. People and communities get it, and they’re looking for the tools.
Our goal at the MML Foundation is to help connect resources (both capital and human) to make projects a reality. Creating great places isn’t optional if we want Michigan to thrive in a 21st century economy. You can help by donating to the Foundation. Let’s create great places together!