INTRO: Michigan State University is hosting its annual land use summit today. Dozens of so called prosperity teams share ideas and hear how state government can help them improve their communities. The teams ask for grant money to start farmers markets, establish parks or demolish derelict buildings. Chris McCarus reports.
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TRX1: On the sidewalk between the Detroit Institute of Arts and a turn of the century hotel being converted to condos, Susan Mosey lays out her plan.
AX1: “What’s gonna happen along here is we’re actually going to be taking part of the sideyards of all these institutions along here on Kirby street and we’re going to be expanding the area for pedestrians and bicyclists and we’re going to be adding all sorts of plantings.”
TRX2: The project is being called the Midtown loop. It’s a 2 mile circle crossing Woodward Ave and running parallel to it. It will have flowers, trees, people, pets and non motorized vehicles ONLY. Foundations have entrusted Mosey’s group, the University Cultural Center Association, to carry out the $8 million project. They believe that walkable communities attract new businesses and healthy people.
AX2: “As you can see there’s a lot of public art already out here that the art museum and the college for Creative studies are already putting out. There will be a lot of contemporary lighting put in here. There will signage. Sidewalk treatments. The idea is to create an area where people feel comfortable in really getting out and walking around. And it’s sort of a loop so you can start somewhere and get back to where your destination is so you don’t have to wonder where you’re going.”
TRX3: Last year the Association was awarded a $25,000 grant to study this project. Today they’re coming to East Lansing, one of dozens of groups from around the state hosted by Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute. The participants will show how they’re revitalizing neighborhoods or establishing farm markets. Mary Beth Lake is the Institute’s assistant director. She’s from the tiny town of Lewiston in Montmorency County and knows how small communities struggle to fund redevelopment projects.
AX3: “We will be talking about small towns as well. And there are a lot of small towns in northern Michigan and they have a different experience than your bigger cities like Detroit. So we’re trying to speak to a lot of different crowds here. Urban, rural, suburban.. Everybody.”
TRX4: Lake says that 3 community development groups are coming from the UP. Though they’re less populated than cities, Lake says rural areas experience the same pattern of poorly planned shopping malls and subdivisions.
AX4: “People are moving out of the cities. They’re moving into the suburbs and the suburbs are expanding into the rural areas, which puts pressure on those rural areas, especially the land based industries like agriculture, forestry, even tourism. And so the rural areas are starting to realize that having healthy urban areas is to their best advantage as well. And I think the urban areas realize the same thing, vice versa.”
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TRX5: Fragile land is not limited to the Detroit suburbs and the small towns up north. In the extreme southwest corner of Michigan, retiree Werner Petterson is trying to stop Chicagoans from building vacation homes in the woods and the dunes.
AX5: “The whole movement into the country, and we certainly see it here in the Chicago area, it’s taken up land and putting homes where they’ve not been before and there’s a lot more traffic.”
TRX6: Mr. Petterson is trying slow down these trends. And Jean Brokish of the group Chikaming Open Lands is helping him. Brokish came to the MSU conference last year and over the summer she convinced Petterson to put his 35 acres in Berrien County into an easement. Brokish’s group will have custody over the land to keep it undeveloped in perpetuity.
AX6: “It’s not an easy thing. (Laughs) One thing is you have to find the people who really care about the land. And many times it’s been in their family for generations and they really don’t want to see it developed.”
TRX7: Brokish is coming back to East Lansing today. She’s looking for award money for her organization. Like all the attendees, she’s looking to get re-energized by people like her who are trying to fix up the towns they live in and save the natural resources they to play in.
For Michigan Now I’m CMC
Tags: land policy institute