urban planning

Stateside
3:26 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

A former housing project challenges Detroit's urban planners

The Brewster-Douglass Projects.
Amber Leigh Flickr

To those of us who have seen those decaying buildings along I-375 near downtown Detroit, it’s pretty difficult to realize that the Brewster-Douglass Projects were once seen as a shining example of public housing.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt turned up on Sept. 7, 1935 for the groundbreaking. And when Brewster homes opened in 1938, they became the America’s first public-housing project built for African-Americans.

Brewster-Douglass went on to become home to names like Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Smokey Robinson and Lily Tomlin.

The projects helped launch many blacks into the middle class.

Now the last phase of demolition is under way. No one will miss the crime-ridden, decaying housing project that sat empty since 2008. And now the question is: What should be done with the site?

We welcome June Manning Thomas. She’s an urban planner with the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning. We also talk to her colleague, urban designer Roy Strickland.

Listen to the full interview above.

Economy
12:21 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Eight Michigan cities chosen for development projects

A map of the proposed project in Detroit.
Credit Michigan Municipal League

The Michigan Municipal League is supporting eight communities with development projects. Those projects are part of the PlacePlan program.

It's a partnership between Michigan State University, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan State Housing Authority. The projects are focused on increasing economic activity in those communities.

Luke Forest is with the Michigan Municipal League. He says these projects will make Michigan cities more attractive to employers and young people.

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Politics & Government
2:03 pm
Sun August 11, 2013

Flint city council to get a look at the city's draft master plan Monday

Flint has changed a lot since the city adopted its current master plan in 1960.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council will get its first official look at the city’s proposed master plan Monday.

It’s been more than a half century since Flint leaders have drawn up a master plan for their city.

Since then, the city’s population has dwindled and much of its economic base has shifted.

Two years ago, city leaders started work on a new master plan to guide the development of residential neighborhoods, new business districts and city parks. There have been dozens of meetings, involving thousands of Flint residents.

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Politics & Government
4:27 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Stateside for Monday, February 25, 2013

Today on Stateside, Cyndi talks "sequestration." The word is on the tip of everyone's tongue in D.C.

We’ll get a break-down of how those across-the-board cuts could directly affect Michigan's economy.

We also look at the challenges around re-inventing abandoned and distressed neighborhoods.  Cyndy gets a perspective from two urban planning experts.

Also, it was a very busy weekend for the Michigan Democratic and Republican Parties.

Both held their conventions this weekend, and for one party, it means a brand-new state leader.

So Rick Pluta, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, stopped by to help fill in the details.

Culture
12:19 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Free water park an oasis for Grand Rapids neighborhood

Dozens of kids enjoyed the grand opening of the park in Grand Rapids' Baxter neighborhood.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The two acre park is a step towards the city’s goal to have every Grand Rapids resident live within ¼ mile of some kind of greenspace. That goal has been difficult to achieve since nearly all of the city’s land has already been developed. Plus, city government has been cutting down on spending for years.

13-year old Ashley Jones remembers the old vacant lot where the park is now. She refered to it as a ‘hot mess’ before the renovations.

“It looked crazy. It had the prickles when you walked it would stick on your shoes. There was no shade or nothing. And it was kind of boring.”

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What's Working
7:40 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Trying to improve Detroit's grocery stores

The Green Grocers Project is trying to improve the way food is sold in Detroit
Pneedham Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a weekly look at things that are working to improve the state. Today: we take a look at food and Detroit. The city has been called a “food desert,” because of its lack of grocery stores. One group has been trying to change that. Sarah Fleming is the program manager of the Green Grocer Project. It was launched a year ago by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and we asked her how it's going.

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Changing Gears
5:43 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Zoning out: Cities rewrite codes to transform their look

Part of Streetsboro, Ohio's current zoning map - separate colors for separate uses. The city is working on doing away with these blocks of color, and trying to mix more uses - a method called "form-based" code.
Steetsboro, Ohio

Zoning is the DNA of a community: it controls how you live, shop, and work.

After nearly a century of many cities separating those uses, now, they’re going back to the future: trying to recreate an old way of life.

Streetsboro, Ohio is one such place.

Drive down its main commercial district and it has nearly every chain store you can imagine: A Walmart and a Target, a Lowes and a Home Depot.

Some call it sprawl. Streetsboro calls it economic development.

This six-lane strip of big box shopping centers has served this city well since its explosive growth started in the 1960s. It just doesn’t look like a traditional town.

The town center is an intersection with a grassy knoll on one side. But Jeff Pritchard is in charge of planning there now and he’s aiming for a future Streetsboro that would look very different.

These big box stores could eventually be replaced by attractive housing and shops. The way towns and cities used to be.

 “A place where they can walk to a corner store, maybe live above a store, says Anthony Flint of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “And, those kinds of things, that’s illegal in America today in so many of our communities."

Illegal because of zoning.  In many cities and towns, zoning codes don’t allow living and working in the same place. And, when zoning spread across the country in the 1920s and 30s, that was considered a good thing.

 “ You didn’t want to have a slaughter house next to a residential apartment,” Flint says.

But those issues aren’t as big a deal anymore.

As the Great Lakes region reinvents itself, there’s a growing feeling among planners and thinkers that much of the public wants to spend less time in their cars.

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