New from the Michigan Municipal League: The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People
This is a collection of essays about planning the future of Michigan in general and Detroit in particular. Re-invention, re-vitalization, re-generation, re-population (maybe resurrection is more apt) is necessary to redefine our economy and redevelop our state. Creating a “sense of place” is at the core of this change and the authors readily illustrate that vibrant places will attract talent and bring economic growth.
Planetizen reviewed this book and described it as an “arts-driven regeneration plan for Michigan like a modern day Magna Carta…”
This book may be more of a sourdough starter than a Magna Carta, but it is an important collection of thoughts. But an “arts-driven” plan is too narrow in scope. The early stages of the plan should focus on developing a mixture of land uses at a higher density that will create and support local jobs and services.
A chapter in the book written by Dr. Soji Adelaja and Mark Wyckoff, “Why the economics of ‘place’ matters” explains that “the term ‘sense of place’ is used to describe not so much physical geography or the attributes of that geography, but the emotional response one has to a special allure and warmth when at a location that has unique and attractive amenities.” This article is about the role of “place” as it relates to economic development. Particularly interesting is a chart comparing the old and new economy with respect to place, and tables of examples of “place-based strategies to attract certain target populations and businesses.
In Detroit, where it’s so bad that it’s good, is an extreme example of a city in distress that is struggling in the early stages of regeneration. If you do not accept the notion that plowing Detroit under is the best alternative, redevelopment strategy should include rebuilding the population with new jobs, housing, infrastructure and amenities.
When a city’s population, economy and government is as seriously degraded as it is in Detroit or Flint, a key question is what comes back first, residents or retail? Simultaneous development of housing and services may provide the framework for sustainable re-development. In Dan Gilbert’s ‘Big Bang Theory’ for Detroit, both have to come on line at the same time. (See the video: Dan Gilbert’s vision for downtown Detroit retail from Crain’s Detroit Business).
Governor Snyder said recently that Detroit can and should return as a manufacturing based economy that opens its arms to immigrants. That can be part of the vision that includes elements of a technology or knowledge based economy, and one that is partially “arts-driven” as suggested in “The Economics of Place”.