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Press Release

Matt Bach, Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317;

For Immediate Release: June 7, 2012

“It’s About Place” Top 10 Contest Finalists Selected

Public Voting Eclipses 37,000 in Let’s Save Michigan Placemaking Competition


Let’s Save Michigan’s “It’s About Place”contest recently wrapped up the public phase of online voting and the 10 finalists now go to a panel of placemaking experts to determine the winners.

The non-profit organization asked stakeholders across Michigan to find an underutilized space in their community—an alley, a pocket park, a vacant lot—and then work together with members of the community to create and design a plan to turn that underutilized space into a welcoming, vibrant public place.

The contest received 46 creative, exciting proposals, and for three weeks, the public voted online for their favorites. The public voting closed at midnight on June 1, 2012 with over 37,000 votes cast. The top 10 finalists now go on to the final round where a panel of placemaking experts will choose a winning project to receive $2,000. The judges also will award prizes of $500 and $1,000 to multiple runners-up. The money will be used to implement the projects the community members designed. The winners will be announced later this month.

“These finalists represent a large swath of the state, from Muskegon to Detroit,” says Let’s Save Michigan Project Coordinator Sarah Szurpicki. “But the real story is how many entries there were, from Marine City to Manistique. We are very excited because it clearly shows how important the message of placemaking is in Michigan communities. We want to find ways to help all the entrants because citizens everywhere are hungry for quality places in their communities. This is only the beginning of what’s possible.”

The top 10 finalists, in order of votes received, are:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Judges will give 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.

Let’s Save Michigan enlisted national placemaking experts to judge the It’s About Place Contest. The judges are:

- Nate Berg, Staff Writer for The Atlantic Cities. Nate is a journalist whose work has appeared in multiple media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect and many others.

- Diana Lind, Editor in Chief of Next American City. Diana leads the Philadelphia-based nonprofit media organization dedicated to connecting cities and informing the people who are working to improve them.

- Kathleen Madden, Senior Vice President, Project for Public Spaces. Kathleen is an environmental designer who has been at Project for Public Spaces since its inception in 1975. Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.

The Michigan Municipal League’s Let’s Save Michigan initiative is a citizen engagement and advocacy effort that promotes smart policies to build a restored Michigan—a state with good jobs, vibrant cities, accessible transportation, and first-rate cultural centers.



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