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Free Placemaking Technical Assistance Available

Do you have a project in your community that just needs a little spark to get in motion? If so, there may be some free help available for you.

As part of the state’s MIPlace Partnership, the Michigan Municipal League is working with Michigan State University on an initiative to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects. This free program could be just what your community needs to build momentum around place. We are accepting applications from interested local government or non-profit organizations through September 21, 2012 and hope you’ll consider participating.

As part of the MIPlace Partnership, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design and Construction (MSU) have developed PlacePlans, an initiative to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects. In fall 2012 and winter/spring 2013, approximately five communities will be chosen to receive the first round of PlacePlans technical assistance. MSHDA, MML and MSU are soliciting applications from interested local government or non-profit organizations through September 21, 2012.

Why “Place”?

National data and anecdotal evidence in Michigan is showing that people of all ages are looking for a style of living that includes quality physical design, walkability, transit options, arts and culture, diversity and a green environment. This style of living is often summed up as “Quality of Place”. The competition for attracting and retaining a talented workforce is no longer with neighboring communities or states, it is now global. People, young and old alike, are choosing Place first. Now, more than ever, strategically investing in communities that are committed to creating quality Places is a critical element of any economic development policy, and is central to the long-term success of Michigan.

In the last year, Governor Snyder has focused on Place as a critical component of Michigan’s economic and community development strategy in three of his special addresses to the Legislature. In May 2012, he approved the creation of the MIPlace Partnership. MSHDA is the lead agency in state government to implement this new initiative, and MML and MSU are key partners representing communities and academic experts.

Objectives and Project Scale

The PlacePlans initiative aims to assist communities in Michigan to inclusively plan for projects that will substantially impact the Quality of Place where they are conducted. Projects will be led by professional planners, public policy experts and landscape architects and supported by MSU students. MSU, MML and MSHDA will use the lessons learned and projects completed as best practice models for many other communities in Michigan of similar size and type. Thus, projects of different scales and from varied geographic locations around the state would be ideal candidates for this first round.

Project scale could include specific project sites, neighborhoods, downtowns and/or traditional commercial districts with the potential to make a real impact at both the local and regional levels.

Benefits of Participation

MML and MSU, building on the successes of their Center for 21st Century Communities and Small Town Design Initiative, respectively, will collaboratively offer participating communities:

  • Recommendations on key community Quality of Place assets and opportunities (September-October)
  • Orientation meeting and interviews with local and regional stakeholders (October-December)
  • Community visioning session focused on the specific project (October-December)
  • On-site design workshop to develop project ideas and incorporate input from community residents (December-February)
  • Public presentation of refined designs and plans (March-April)
  • Assistance identifying state and other outside resources to assist in project implementation (May-June)
  • Final report including specific design and planning recommendations (July)

Expectations of Participating Organizations

PlacePlans relies on input and active involvement from the local government, residents, non-profit and for-profit organizations. Participating communities are expected to:

  • Make lead staff and other key stakeholders available for a project launch meeting the week of October 8.
  • Make key staff of lead organizations available to assist the MSU and MML team in their research, marketing, and meeting planning for the initiative
  • Assist in marketing the process to residents, business owners and other key stakeholders
  • Provide connections to leaders from partner organizations, anchor institutions, property owners and other stakeholders
  • Cover any direct costs for on-site meetings, such as refreshments, facility rental or audiovisual equipment
  • Follow through with implementation or continued support of implementation into the future
  • Continue to participate in training opportunities to learn more about placemaking

Application Requirements

Submit a letter of interest to by 3:00pm Eastern, Friday September 21. While project partners may include other entities, the lead entity should be a city, village or a non-profit organization working with a city or village. Letters should be limited to three pages, not including supporting attachments and support letters. Letters should succinctly address the following topics:

  • Description of the project and the impacted property(ies)
  • How this project fits into a broader vision for the community and the surrounding region
  • Opportunities for near-term action on the project site, including property owner interest, possible funding sources, etc.
  • Past or planned investments in Quality of Place in the community, including investments by state/federal agencies and private sector entities
  • Evidence of local support for the project
  • Support the community is able to provide, such as staff or volunteer hours, local dollar match, meeting venues, etc.
Review and Notification Process

Staff from MML and MSU will review all applications by September 27. They will then contact the top applicants to attempt to complete a formal participation agreement, beginning approximately October 1. After participation agreements are completed, all other applicants will be notified of their status.


About the League: The Michigan Municipal League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services.



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