Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 /

January 21, 2004 |

THE PROBLEM : Michigan's lakes, rivers, forests, and meadows are among the country's most beautiful. But the state also has some of the nation's most neglected, depressing, and hollowed-out cities. They flourished early in the 20th century, but today sink beneath the weight of abandoned property, underachieving schools, racial intolerance, crime, unemployment, and a shortage of transportation and housing choices. This is exactly the opposite of what today's talented workers and stable families seek.

THE SOLUTION : Grand Rapids is the state's prime example of how urban areas can revive and thrive. Its redevelopers transform forgotten buildings into stylish urban spaces for commerce and housing. Its officials direct infrastructure investments toward developed areas and promote better regional public transportation. They encourage educational institutions like Grand Valley State University to locate downtown and build inviting public places such as Rosa Parks Circle. This is why, when almost every sizable city in the state is losing population, Grand Rapids is growing. Its greatly increased quality of life, growing tax base and payrolls, and awards from prestigious national magazines earn the city a reputation as one of America's best. In order to replicate this success throughout the state, the Legislature should learn from Grand Rapids' experience.

The State Legislature should:

Consistent with local master plans, point state financing for schools, government buildings, and other public facilities to urbanized areas . Reinforce this with incentives for constructing and renovating public schools within neighborhoods and town centers and sharing their athletic facilities.

Reward local jurisdictions for adopting and developing capital improvement programs that facilitate state land use goals.

Establish Commerce Centers , facilitate their redevelopment with state and federal assistance and priority access to an array of funding opportunities and development tools, and mandate expeditious local decision making on proposals and planning for public and private investment.

Expand market-rate and affordable housing opportunities through a Michigan Housing and Community Development Trust Fund that makes grants to developers that build urban mixed-income rental and homeownership projects.

Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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