Place making: Is your plate full?

Now and then an old Souvenir of Detroit item will appear on eBay.

These souvenir items often highlight the most memorable or unique locations within the city — the “must see” public spaces. This blue plate is one example.

If one were to make the plate for Detroit today, it would be a bit difficult choosing among the many site candidates: Campus Maritius, RiverWalk, Ambassador Bridge, Spirit of Detroit, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Dequindre Cut, Belle Isle, Renaissance Center, Book Cadillac, and the always-required Michigan Central Station.

The same cannot be said for many Detroit suburbs. What would you put on a Rochester Hills plate besides the Clinton River and Paint Creek Trail? It seems Troy’s choices drop off fast once you include Somerset Mall and their historic area. And what about Clinton Township?

So what? What’s the market for souvenir plates nowadays?

But it’s really not about plates. It’s about building memorable and unique public spaces that help attract and retain residents — something we’re not doing very well in Michigan.

According to a presentation given by Gary Heidel, Interim Director for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (October 2010):

If a region does not seize its unique place-based assets and positively exploit them to improve quality of life, then it will not be very successful in attracting a continuing supply of knowledge workers. Without the knowledge workers, it cannot successfully compete in the global New Economy.

Heidel also adds that urban/city placemaking should include:

Expanding a waterfront walk and bicycle system, and promoting and contributing to an integrated regional bicycle trail system with excellent connections in the city and adjoining jurisdictions.

So placemaking is just another justification for promoting bicycling and trails in Detroit.

And good placemaking means good plate making.

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One Response to “Place making: Is your plate full?”

  1. Dave Says:

    Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but the use of langauge and apparent mindset, although has a somewhat less negative connotation than in the past and is used in a less negative way that in the past as well, to me, reflects the very thing that is lacking and the problem. I am talking about using the word “exploit”, though he says “positively exploit”, it just stuck out to me. When one is looking at one part of the picture vs. the bigger picture and other factors, such a problem may develop.

    I very much so am not enamored with slumberbia, and it puts me to sleep, aside from some of the pleasant parts. Quiet is nice at times, but lack of character and place is apparent to me.

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