The Economics of Place: Michigan as a Beacon in the Placemaking Movement

The Michigan Municipal League’s new book, The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities, goes beyond placemaking as a concept, to offer real-world examples of economic drivers and agents of social and cultural change in Michigan’s own backyard. The following is Fred Kent’s afterword in this excellent book, now available here

Michigan has truly been a beacon in the placemaking movement.

Ever since the governor’s declaration to put placemaking at the forefront of Michigan’s economic policy, place-led development has cropped up in what some would consider the least likely of places in this midwestern state. From downtown Detroit’s Renaissance to the recent grand reopening of the Flint Farmers Market attracting over 17,000 people from all over the region—Michigan is taking placemaking to heart in an inspiring way.

In many ways, Michigan’s history is not unlike much of the United States. Dotted with small towns previously dominated by industry, Michigan struggled like so many states in its shift away from the manufacturing economy. Developers only further degraded downtowns, moving commerce to big box stores on the outskirts and driving people away from the heart of the community. Eventually, people began to take notice and organizations were formed to tackle this seemingly insurmountable problem: how do we bring people back to the center?

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