The making of a more walkable, friendlier downtown in Cadillac

Place Plans is an innovative approach to making downtowns more inviting and at the same time improve the business climate for shop owners and other businesses. Read how Cadillac is becoming a prototype for the Place Plans concept. 
A vibrant northern city is on track to becoming even more so thanks to the progress being made by a program called PlacePlans. Cadillac is one of eight Michigan communities showing its innovative and creative side to make the downtown a better place to live, shop, do business, and play.

The Heritage Plaza PlacePlan is a concept created by the residents and business leaders of this northern city to transform, among other things, a lakeside parking lot and City Park into a central gathering spot that will attract people downtown year-round to not only shop and do business, but perhaps throw on a pair of ice skates and go skating, or turn the kids loose on a splash pad.

The Heritage Plaza design concept will start taking shape in 2015 and will tie in Mitchell Street businesses with Lake Cadillac, creating a flexible hub of activities--all within an environment of increased walkability.

"The PlacePlans design concept is moving forward," says Jerry Adams, community development director for the city of Cadillac. He says the city is waiting on word from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation regarding a grant to be leveraged with local Downtown Development Authority and City Community Development funds. He says the funding will be used to complete the first phase of the program located in the core downtown.  

The multi-faceted program includes the burying of overhead power and communication lines and revamping downtown parking and traffic patterns as well as creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, including sprucing things up with attractive landscaping.  

Adams says the burying of the power lines is extremely important because it currently hinders the redevelopment of a series of commercial buildings that face the City Park and Lake Cadillac. 

"Several building owners have expressed a desire to develop outdoor cafes, additional retail space, and the like with the removal of the lines," says Adams.  He says they hope to see construction crews downtown to begin work in the spring or early summer of 2015.

Other details of the plan include revamping of the alleyway to provide additional business frontage overlooking the plaza so other businesses can get in on the fun and potential business.
 
Adams says the second phase of the PlacePlans program builds on the physical improvements of the first phase. It will include the development of an open-air events shelter and farm market, extension of the White Pine Non-Motorized Trail into downtown Cadillac, along with the development of a Cadillac White Pine Trail Bike Station and various pathway, landscaping, and signage improvements.

"The third phase remains somewhat tentative at this time," says Adams, "but includes the potential for additional City Park improvements, such as a combination splash pool/ice rink and the redevelopment of Lake Street providing for improved pedestrian connections between the City Park, Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion, and Lake Cadillac."

PlacePlans is a joint effort between the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction, and is led at the state agency level by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). It is a program to help communities design and implement sizable projects that focus economic development efforts around walkable downtown districts.

"MSHDA is truly impressed with the innovative and creative work generated by the leaders and citizens in these eight communities--Cadillac, Detroit, Flint, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Marquette, and Midland," says Gary Heidel, chief placemaking officer for MSHDA. "We now hope that these plans can become reality and help continue the positive placemaking work already underway in these cities."

This current round of PlacePlans work began about a year ago when Cadillac was among eight communities selected to receive technical assistance from university faculty and students, professional consultants and League staff. The PlacePlans work continues to be so successful and so well received by the participating communities that the next round of PlacePlans work in a new group of Michigan communities will be announced soon.

Neil Moran is a copywriter for small businesses and owner of Haylake Business Communications.
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