The Michigan Municipal League identified eight assets that make communities vibrant places in the 21st Century.  Helping Michigan’s leaders grow these assets in their own communities serves as the focus for 21c3.
Physical Design & Walkability Green Initiatives
Cultural Economic Development Entrepreneurship
Multiculturalism Messaging & Technology
Transit Education




sical Design and Walkability
The Top 100 Public Spaces  in the U.S. and Canada was compiled from a 2011 public vote by Planetizen and the Project for Public Spaces.  Places in Michigan that made the list include Detroit’s Campus Martius Park (#3), Shain Park in Birmingham (#38), and  Sleeping  Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (#98).     

Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land is an online interactive guide to using vacant land, covering such topics as  physical community design, urban gardening, biotechnology, and more.    

The Vermont Smart Growth Scorecard: A  Community Self-Assessment Tool  assesses how prepared you are for the pressures of growth. The scorecard was published by Vermont Forum on Sprawl, a non-profit organization “devoted to preserving  Vermont’s unique landscape and quality of life while encouraging economic  vitality in community centers.”

Two checklists published by US EPA Smart Growth score your  community on “How bikeable is your community?” and  “How walkable is your  community?”

Urban Bikeway Design Guide is an online interactive manual on innovative street  design in the U.S., published by the National  Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).       

The “popsicle test” and the “Halloween test” tell if your neighborhood is kid-friendly and well-designed. From a blog by Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities.

Michigan Complete Streets Coalition began in 2009 as a way to connect grassroots Complete Streets movements across the state. Today, the Coalition represents over 100 organizations, businesses and individuals, promoting statewide Complete Streets policy and supporting local communities’ initiatives.

Walkability Toolkit is localized for Minnesota but will help you understand the value of Complete Streets and how it can be a part of your community.

What is your Walk Score? How does your neighborhood rank in walkability? This website calculates the “Walk Score” of your street address and exxplores the characteristics required for a walkable neighborhood.

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build strong communities. Founded in 1975, PPS embraces the insights of William (Holly) Whyte, a pioneer in understanding the way people use public spaces. PPS has become an internationally recognized center for best practices, information, and resources about placemaking.

Urban Land Institute: Placemaking/Public Realm Through the exploration of the issues surrounding quality places, the Urban Land Institute examines the intrinsic nature of what makes a great place and the revitalization of existing centers.

Southwest Solutions works to provide affordable housing and support services that reintegrate the mentally ill and homeless into the community. They recently redeveloped the Whitdel Buidling in southwest Detroit. What makes the Whitdel stand out is its connection to the arts and community.

“This Place Matters” Photo-Sharing Campaign The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company launched this web-based photo-sharing campaign to empower Americans to weigh in on places that they feel are architecturally or culturally significant.

Urban Strategies is a full-service planning and urban design firm based in Toronto, Canada. The firm works with a number of municipalities and clients in both the public and private sector to “shape and enhance urban places of all scales through strategic actions, holistic design and progressive policies.” is a public interest information exchange provided by Urban Insight for the urban planning, design, and development community. It is a one-stop source for urban planning news, commentary, interviews, event coverage, book reviews, announcements, jobs, consultant listings, training, and more.

Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Inc. is a non-profit training center focused on helping cities and towns become more walkable, bicycle-friendly, sustainable, socially engaging, and welcoming places.

Promoting Active Communities (PAC) has a free online assessment tool to help communities evaluate local policies, programs, and environments in order to identify ways to promote and support physical activity. Communities with high assessment scores are eligible for five designation award levels.

The League of American Bicyclists is a leading force in the movement to make more  American cities and towns bicycle friendly. Their Bicycle Friendly Communities  (BFC) program and interactive map ranks and scores bike-ability by state. They reward the country’s most bike-able communities with gold, silver, and bronze “Bicycle Friendly  Community” designations.

The Michigan Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (MiCNU) has developed Form-Based Codes in 7 Steps. This guidebook is filled with information to prepare communities to move toward adopting a form-based code. The book’s introduction is available as a digital web-based resource and a full-color hard-copy version is available.

The Smart Growth Manual: 10 ways to help cities grow smarter by Andres Duany, one of the foremost architects and thinkers about “place” and the father of New Urbanism, with co-writers Jeff Speck and Mike Lydon. Includes 150 tips for building livable, sustainable cities.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts offers downloadable research on a variety of smart growth economy topics such as “Creating Jobs by Building Infrastructure for Bikes and Pedestrians.”

The Institute of Transportation Engineers report, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, was developed in response to “widespread interest for improving both mobility choices and community character through a commitment to creating and enhancing walkable communities.” Buy a print copy or download a free PDF version.

“Complete Streets” legislation was enacted in Michigan in 2010 to give communities tools to create connected, walkable, and bicycle-friendly places.

Green Initiatives

Location Efficiency and Housing Type: Boiling it Down to BTUs is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that illustrates “the relationship between household energy consumption and residential development patterns.”

Resources for Wind Projects in Local Michigan Communities and Resources for Solar Projects in Local Michigan Communities are Michigan Energy Office resource pages for sample zoning guidelines, studies, incentive programs, and other information for communities looking into wind and solar energy.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) is a comprehensive searchable database on state, federal, and local utility incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Michigan Saves is a program to help all types of Michigan energy consumers – businesses, institutions, and residents – afford energy efficiency and renewable energy  upgrades. 

Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Detroit is research  consultant Mari Gallagher’s 2007 report on “food deserts” in Detroit  and other cities, and how the lack of food buying options impacts the community.       

The Michigan Green Communities Challenge is a step-by-step action plan for Michigan communities as they implement energy efficiency and conservation practices.       

EECBG Training for Entitlement Communities was a 2009 program for cities,  townships, and counties designated as Entitlement Communities under the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, and was presented jointly by the League, the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Energy Systems, and the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

National League of Cities Sustainability Program (NLC) offers examples and best practices from other cities.

Paragon Collaborative Training offers coaching to develop leadership skills for emerging leaders in all sectors of green-related industries while simultaneously contributing to critical environment and energy-related social needs.

The Green Economy is former vice president Al Gore’s online journal of thoughts on creating an economy based on sustainability.

Gardens for Growth is an exciting new program sponsored by the Michigan Land Bank that allows local residents to lease and then purchase vacant lots across the state to be used as community gardens.

Growing Hope is a Ypsilanti-based  non-profit organized to supply the community with the tools they need to grow their own food, especially in urban areas.

Michigan State University’s Organic Farm is a certified organic year-round teaching and production farm that is helping the Capital region become the center of sustainable local food production efforts.

HomeGrown Local Food Summit gathers Washtenaw County stakeholders interested in improving and re-localizing the food system. The related Ten Percent Washtenaw Campaign envisions 10% of the food consumed in Washtenaw County being grown locally within the next ten years.

Michigan Energy Forum meets each month at SPARK Central in Ann Arbor “to facilitate collaboration and networking among practitioners, policy makers, investors, and talent.” Register and find updated information on the SPARK Event Calendar.

Cultural Economic Development

National Endowment for the Arts White Paper on Creative Placemaking summarizes two decades of creative American placemaking.

ArtPlace grants put art at the center of economic development. The initial round invested $11.5 million in 34 locally initiated projects across the country, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The Upper Peninsula Art Map is an online interactive guide to the events, galleries and art studios of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Sunrise Side Coastal Highway Heritage Route spans 200 miles along the Michigan shore of Lake Huron from Standish to Mackinaw City. It was designated a “Recreational Heritage Route” by the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2004.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations is a list compiled from 2000-2011, that annually showcased twelve cities and towns with best practices for creating an authentic visitor experience.

The Arts & Humanities Touring Program awards grants from the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for touring arts and  humanities programs.

Reach Studio Art Center, located in Lansing’s REO Town district,  offers art activities to residents of surrounding mixed income neighborhoods and the greater Lansing area. Read the “Reach for Community” feature on

Southwest Solutions works to provide affordable housing and support services that reintegrate the mentally ill and homeless into the community.

The National Arts Index is compiled annually by Americans for the Arts, measuring the health of the arts using 76 national-level indicators of arts and cultural activity.

Michigan Cultural Data Project is an online data management tool for arts and cultural organizations. The tool creates standards for reporting financial, programmatic, and operational data that can be used to track trends and increase management capacity.

The Michigan Production Alliance provides professional and educational resources to individuals and organizations in Michigan’s growing film industry.

The Washtenaw County Cultural Master Plan addresses the impact of the creative economy in Washtenaw County, Michigan.  are available on the Art Alliance’s website. The county-wide plan  is “the result of an 18-month, community-based planning effort that includes 34  Actions to be implemented over a five-year period.”

A3Arts is a predominantly user-generated social networking and promotional website launched by Ann Arbor’s Arts Alliance for Washtenaw County’s creative economy.

Art Works: Creative Invention/Reinvention is a “collaborative cultural economic development plan for Greater Lansing’s urban center” resulting from an intergovernmental collaboration between the cities of Lansing and East Lansing.

Ford Foundation Grants support “fresh thinking and innovative people and organizations” in artistically innovative and culturally diverse endeavors.

Preserving  Wisconsin’s Civic Legacy: A Guide to Rehabilitating and Reusing Local  Government Properties is a free PDF guide to rehabilitating and reusing local government properties, based on examples from Wisconsin, from The  National Trust for Historic Preservation.

MSU’s Land Policy Institute hosts the annual Michigan Land and Prosperity Summit.

Living Cities is a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations. It has awarded $17 million to support development along the Woodward Corridor in Detroit.


eCities is U-M Dearborn’s annual research study of local communities wishing to share their knowledge concerning entrepreneurship, economic development, and job growth. Cities, townships and villages that participate receive a “benchmark” report.

Champions of a New Economy recognizes those “who successfully diversity Michigan’s economy by starting a new business or leading a dramatic transformation at an existing company.” Sponsored by the Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan.

The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction (PDF) is a report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation on start-ups as a major driver for job growth in the U.S. based upon U.S. Census  Bureau business dynamic statistics.

East Lansing Technology Innovation Center facilitates the development of a technology-based economy in the mid-Michigan region and bolsters the region’s professional workforce. It is a partnership of the city of East Lansing, Lansing Regional SmartZone, East Lansing Downtown Development Authority and the Local Development Finance Authority.

TechTown, Wayne State University Research and Technology Park stimulates job growth and small-business creation by developing companies in emerging high-technology industries including advanced engineering, life sciences and alternative  energy. is a free business census containing more than 19.4 million active  establishments.The online tool helps communities gather information and data about business activity in their area and find out how they stand up to other communities.

Creating  Entrepreneurial Communities Project is an initiative administered by Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute “to build community support for entrepreneurs.” Eight Michigan communities are participating in a three-year project (2010-2013) to build a strong community foundation, then develop and implement their programs.

The 2011 Independent Business Survey from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance finds that independent businesses located in communities with an active “buy local” campaign operated by a local business organization experienced markedly strong revenue growth in 2010 compared to those in areas without such an initiative.


Immigrant Integration: Resource Access and Cultural Exchange (PDF) is a National  League of Cities report on best practices to support multicultural communities, showing what community outreach programs can do to help immigrants access important city information, engage in community life, and find basics like health care, jobs, and education.

Impact Silver Spring is a Montgomery County, Maryland coalition to help new immigrants gain a foothold. Read more in “Outreach to Immigrants: A Suburb’s Exciting New Way.”

Desert of Dreams: Abu Dhabi and Dubai (PDF) is a report on one of the international study missions sponsored annually by the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and the Greater Seattle Chamber. Read Trade Development Alliance President  William Stafford’s account of the effort.

Global Detroit Study measures the economic impact of immigrants. The report includes statistics related to education,  entrepreneurship, and innovation. It makes 11 strategic recommendations for taking advantage of multiculturalism and diversity.

Messaging and Technology

The University of Michigan-Dearborn eCities studies examine community-level factors that influence entrepreneurship, economic  development, and job growth. The study is open to all Michigan cities, townships, and villages. There is no fee to participate.

East Lansing Technology Innovation Center facilitates the development of a technology-based economy in the mid-Michigan region and bolsters the region’s professional workforce. The center is a partnership of the city of East Lansing, Lansing  Regional SmartZone, East Lansing Downtown Development Authority and the Local Development Finance Authority.

Public Technology Institute is a nonprofit technology organization for cities and counties. PTI works with a core network of local government officials to identify opportunities for technology research, share solutions, recognize member achievements, and develop best practices that address the technology management, governance and policy issues that impact local government.

Virtual Town Hall Virtual Town Hall has grown to be one of the major national providers of online services to city, town and county municipalities, concentrated primarily within the northeast United States.

Government Technology offers solutions for state and local governments in the information age, supplying case studies and news on government technology.

Abilita Telecommunications Consulting allows Michigan Municipal League members to save on average 29% off all telecom expenses with their current provider through a  partnership between the League and Abilita, a leader in telecommunications consulting. Contact the League’s Tony Minghine at 734-669-6360 or by e-mail.

e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government is a members-only national research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government.


Brookings: Transit Access to Jobs in Metropolitan America is an online interactive map that charts statistics about access to transit, service frequency, and job access in America’s 100 largest metro areas.

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an interactive map measuring the true affordability of housing based on its location and the cost of transportation.

Michigan’s Complete Streets legislation was signed into law  last year as Public  Act 135 of 2010. The Michigan Department of Transportation has  answered “Frequently  Asked Questions” about “Complete Streets” legislation  in Michigan.

Project for Public Spaces “Thinking Beyond the  Stations” Initiative in partnership with Reconnecting America, is a major initiative that addresses the challenges of integrating transit and development into communities by promoting a philosophy of  “community-supportive” transit to guide transportation and community planning  decisions.

Center for Transit Oriented Development is a national nonprofit that provides best practices, research, and tools to support market-based transit-oriented development. It partners with both the public and private sectors to develop high-performing TOD projects around transit stations and to build transit systems that maximize development  potential.

Transportation Riders United is a local  non-profit that advocates improving mass transit in Greater Detroit.

The American Public Transit Association reports that for every $1 invested in public transit, $6 is generated in new  local economic activity.

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Livability in Transportation Guidebook illustrates how livability principles have been incorporated into transportation planning, programming, and project design, using examples from state, regional, and local sponsors. The guidebook is a good example of how the federal government is thinking about transportation issues.

Transportation Bonanza is an annual Michigan Association of Planning’s event featuring national speakers and in-depth workshops on how to create healthy, walkable, connected, sustainable communities.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts conducts case studies including “Estimating the Employment Impacts of Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Road Infrastructure: Case  Study – Baltimore which says that building non-motorized  infrastructure creates up to twice as many jobs as auto-based infrastructure projects.

“Complete  Streets” legislation was enacted in Michigan in 2010, giving communities tools to create connected, walkable, and bicycle-friendly places.


The Institute for Youth, Education and Families at the National League of Cities provides updates on education initiatives and projects happening across the country.

Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: A Guide for Municipal Leaders was created by  the National League of Cities, with support from the Surdna Foundation. The guide helps city officials promote youth civic engagement and gives officials a  framework for developing and improving youth civic engagement in their  communities.

Town/Gown Blog Need some ideas for strengthening the bonds between your community and the local college or  university? If you are interested in university/city collaboration, you  can use this blog to communicate with people like yourself.

Reach Studio Art Center, located in Lansing’s REO Town district,  offers art activities to residents of surrounding mixed income neighborhoods and the greater Lansing area. Read the “Reach for Community” feature on

Michigan State University Extension offers county-based staff and MSU faculty to provide Michigan communities with “knowledge-based” educational programming on agriculture and natural resources, youths and families, and community and economic development.

The University and Urban Revival: Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Streets
Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin (who is also the former president of the University of Pennsylvania) recounts her involvement in a highly acclaimed neighborhood revitalization program in west Philadelphia.