Category Archives: Downtowns

Leaders’ shared vision inspires Center Line development plan

Center Line DDA

Photo by David Lewinski

The city of Center Line has revived its downtown development authority and refocused its tax increment financing (TIF) in a placemaking initiative to attract businesses that serve nearby workers and young people to its tidy blocks of affordable houses.

“The first challenge is getting the willpower and getting a champion,” said CWA’s Dave Scurto in this January 21 Metromode article. “Center Line has overcome this fantastically. Everybody’s working together with the same vision and message. The mayor and the council understand the business community.”

The article features the Center Line city manager/DDA director and the mayor and their plans for a façade improvement program, gateway signage, enhanced wayfinding, streetscape maintenance and online marketing.

Dave compared the initiative to the city of Riverview’s successful plan to acquire a faded shopping center and redevelop it into a medical complex.

Metromode interviews CWA’s Dick Carlisle about sprawl

dick-sprawl-courtesy-doug-coombe-webDevelopers continue to build new subdivisions in the far reaches of metro Detroit, but changing tastes and demographic demand are pulling people, especially the young and old, back into close-in, urban centers said CWA President Dick Carlisle in this Metromode article.

While studies have ranked Detroit the 12th most sprawling metro area in the country, and one of the fastest sprawling, Dick said baby boomers who want smaller homes in a walkable community will join with millennials, 16-35, who don’t want to drive and prefer smaller, lower-cost housing, to drive demand in urban places.

“The biggest city in the state still hasn’t yet fully responded to the trend for more walkable urban placemaking,” Dick said. “The pressure is now on, and the timing couldn’t be better.” He said a comprehensive transit system is essential to the trend.

“At some point in time we have to begin to understand that there’s going to be a whole generation of people that either don’t want to or will not be able to own a car,” he said. “Frankly, that’s going to cross generations.”

Pedestrian-friendly streets and squares around the world

Streetview before and after-webEvery month we ask our staff for stories for the blog. Matt Lonnerstater and Chris Nordstrom simultaneously came up with this one: A website that uses Google Street View and Google Maps to show before and after views of streets and public spaces around the world that have been transformed to serve pedestrians instead of cars. Glance at the pictures at the top of the page for a jolt of inspiration or drive deep into the map and the conversation.

Your sign ordinance may be unconstitutional

By Matt Lonnerstater

sign_montageDoes your local sign ordinance contain regulations for “real estate signs,” “garage sale signs” or “political signs”? Well, then, it’s time to amend your sign ordinance!  In the 2015 Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the court rendered a far-reaching decision that will require significant modifications to many local sign ordinances. While the details of the case are complex, the overarching premise of the decision is fairly simple: A sign regulation that makes any distinction based on sign content is unconstitutional.

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Debunking Transportation Rules of Thumb

Traffic_night_rules_of_thumb_webWhat a marvelous device are our thumbs. They are so useful that we employ them in a figure of speech: Rules of thumb. Rules of overwhelming consensus, indisputable, golden.

Except when they’re not.

SmartTowns.org shared a blog from economist Joe Cortright dispelling some of the rules of thumb that are gospel to highway engineers and anathema to planners creating places.

Old Rules

  • We should have a high “level of service” on our streets
  • Wider streets are safer streets
  • We should require “enough” off-street parking for every use
  • We should plan for a certain number of car trips to be generated by every land use, no matter where it is.
  • We should have a hierarchy of streets

New rules

  • Slower is safer
  • Sharing is efficient
  • Our objective should be accessibility, not mobility

Cortright’s details for each rule make a compelling case.

Changes to building OK for Manchester historic district

The Village of Manchester’s historic district protects buildings built before 1940. While this storefront was built in 1945, CWA’s staff, under John Enos, determined that, “based on the proposed exterior design changes … the new use will enhance the existing district character … (T)he plan reflects an understanding of the Village and is compatible with the distinctive character of the district setting and surrounding buildings.” From the Manchester Mirror,  2/22/16