From Placemaking to Community

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

More than simply planning a festival or creating public art, placemaking thrives on the hope that thoughtful planning creates inclusive, equitable access to a place where you want to be. Successful vibrant communities can be a multi-faceted, tricky algorithm, even with collaborative partnerships and supportive policies. Blight, vacancy, ownership, needs, form based code, community input and historical integrity are just some of the words heard frequently that factor into how a vision plays out. Just as importantly and more emotionally, a home is a place an individual associates with their very own identity.

So, how do we get there?

Community-based economic development organizations embody socially-guided work that identifies community challenges and pairs them with solutions to leverage people into a more advantageous and supportive position, fostering actual change. Identifying solutions requires us to understand our history, negative connotations and stereotypes and identifying ways to proactively respond to these challenges for the benefit of our communities.

Vulnerable populations may need initial help, but the path to change and empowerment involves a longer-range plan including safe and affordable housing and supportive services to teach and reinforce along the way. Eliminating the barrier to entry is one of the biggest challenges faced, with pushback and funding among the top struggles. Industry trends illustrate the pull toward housing rehabilitations, weatherization and green programs, multi-family and higher density structures; the housing stock that is produced today should integrate beautifully within the surrounding community. Supportive services such as financial empowerment initiatives, youth programs and food equity help individuals avoid a reoccurring cycle of isolation and bad luck that always seems to push them back down.

As our work progresses we must consider new ideas, discover methods and resources and collaborate with peers to enhance our work. The Building Michigan Communities Conference (BMCC) is one potential upcoming opportunity on April 28-30, 2014, in Lansing. Diverse speakers over the three-day conference will help generate thought and conversation around innovative placemaking and equity approaches, with workshops structured to help tackle the “how” involved with relevant programs and issues.

The 2014 BMCC Keynote Speaker Lineup:

Find out more about the BMCC and register at While you are in town, please join us for our annual Membership Celebration, our social event of the year taking place on Tuesday after the last session of the conference.  Held at the top of the Christman Building offering spectacular views of the State Capitol Building, there will be great food, drinks and peers to connect (and reconnect) with. We hope you’ll join us; see you in Lansing next month!