The right mix of residents. The right mix of housing options.

As the former treasurer and Land Bank chairman in Genesee County who went on to co-found and serve as president of the Center for Community Progress, Dan Kildee is as well-versed as anyone in the terminology of land use and community planning.

Kildee says that while the term placemaking isn’t always easy to define, he always knows it when it sees it.

“One thing I think it surely means is that a place is interesting,” he said. “An interesting and eclectic mix of residents is a fundamental of placemaking. When all we ever see is people who look like us, it’s not so interesting.”

And a building block for establishing that proper mix of residents — be they empty nesters, urban pioneers, students, established professionals or those just embarking on their careers — is a diversified housing stock able to meet each segment’s needs, Kildee said.

It’s really about creating character and authentic, unique places.

He cites as an example downtown Flint, where recently developed housing options include spacious studio lofts above lower-level commercial spaces as well as more modest — and more affordable — one-bedroom apartments.  

But the right mix of housing doesn’t always develop naturally, Kildee said. It typically requires nonprofit or public entities working in concert with private developers.

“Simply left to its own devices, the market will not necessarily create these mixes of places,” he said, noting that private dollars are typically funneled into whatever type of development is generating the highest return at the moment.

“That doesn’t always create a mix of choices,” he said. “What you need is a community-based partnership that sees the long-term value of a sense of place.

“It’s really about creating character and authentic, unique places. Disney is not placemaking. Downtown Flint is.”

– Mike Turner Freelance Writer