Michigan Land Use Institute

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Great Towns

For well over a decade state and local officials wanted to build a highway bypass around Traverse City to alleviate the city’s traffic congestion. But the idea had lots of problems. The state’s own data showed the plan wouldn’t solve in-town congestion. The road would plow right through the Boardman River Valley, an important natural area. There wasn’t enough money to pay for the project. And local residents had not had a chance to learn about and weigh in on how the bypass would affect growth patterns.

So the Institute worked tirelessly to build public support for a different approach. After years of lively debate, we partnered with county officials, MDOT, the Chamber of Commerce, and other stakeholders to launch The Grand Vision, a citizen-driven planning initiative that asked residents across the region, first, what they wanted the region to look like in 50 years and, second, to design a transportation system to serve that vision. Nearly 15,000 people participated in the largest, most comprehensive planning process in Michigan history.

The result: overwhelming consensus that rather than new highways, northwest Michigan should have strong, unique town centers, wide open spaces, housing choices, and transportation systems that ease traffic and increase everyone’s ability to get around. It’s a truly amazing success story. Today, the Grand Vision remains is a powerful collaborative vehicle for designing the future, and it’s widely regarded as an excellent example for the rest of Michigan.

Today, our team informs citizens, challenges decision makers, convenes coalitions, and  develops models that advance growth solutions that align with Grand Vision principles: town-centered development, and housing choices within a short bus ride, bike ride, or walk from jobs, shops, and schools.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org