DETROIT — Placemaking is a term that's been in use since the 1970s. Formerly architectural and planning jargon, the term now refers to the practice of improving one's surrounding, whether by creating public parks and squares, or by fixing up and rethinking the existing spaces around us. In the last few years it's become increasingly popular in social contexts and in conversations.
Capitalizing on the popularity of the term and its ever-useful properties, Let's Save Michigan launched a placemaking contest in 2012, which encouraged Michigan's citizens to conceptualize projects that would improve their immediate communities. With 46 entries and over 37,000 votes, the contest surely made an impact in neighborhoods around Michigan.
The grand prize winner is Detroit native Robert Linn, a mapping expert at Data Driven Detroit with his Canfield Social Yard project. Receiving just under 2,000 votes, the Yard project wasn't the top vote getter, but through jury deliberation and discussion of a national panel of placemaking experts, it will receive the $2,000 grand prize.
The Canfield Social Yard will be located on a 4,900 square-foot lot at 1744 West Canfield at Rosa Parks Blvd., and will consist of a small stage, a projection screen for a film series, a teaching space, seating, a food service area, space for outdoor art installations, and bicycle parking.
From Let's Save Michigan's website:
Second Place & Runners Up:
Among the 10 finalists, which were projects spread throughout Michigan, three other projects received recognition and monetary awards.
Second Place: The Muskegon Fat Garden Project
The Fat Garden Project helps the Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack gain a much needed parking area for the restaurant as well as transform a portion of a vacant lot into a picnic and garden area, complete with works of art by Muskegon, Michigan, artists. The garden will also serve as a rest stop for cyclists on the Lakeshore Bike trail and those waiting for the Lake Express ferry.
The Fat Garden Project received the bulk of the votes in the contest at just under 5,700.
Runner Up: The Innovation Square, Detroit
The site of this project resides on an old parking lot near TechTown between Midtown and New center in Detroit. While the TechTown building is currently using the lot, drivers can park at the nearby Amsterdam Lot, and the newly outfitted outdoor space will seek to encourage inter-organizational collaboration between nearby TechTown, NextEnergy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Wayne State University employees.
Project conspirators will also try to build on the momentum of the space by securing additional funding to make more "extensive and permanent investments." The space will be equipped with tables, chairs, potted trees and shrubs and if successful, will "reinvigorate a district critical to reinventing Detroit's economy." This runner up gleaned just under 2,100 votes and will receive $500.
Runner Up: Old Hartland High School
This project, located in Hartland, Michigan, will get $500 to create a year round meeting center that facilitates social interaction among community members against the background of a large poetry wall. The defunct high school has been used as a de-facto meeting and eating place for Meals On Wheels, as well as gymnastics classes.
Adding tables, chairs and wireless Internet, the entire area will be freshened up with art, the poetry wall and a cabinet filled with board games. Emphasizing intergenerational activity, the high school will cater to people of all ages to use for casual meetings, artist collaborations and demonstrations. This project received 1,184 votes total.
Of the projects that didn't make the final four chosen include a downtown Wyandotte Pocket Park, which received over 4,200 votes; The Riverbank Park Revival Project, which received 3,600 votes; the Hazel Park Library Friends Plaza with 3,300 votes; the Ypsilanti CityFARM Project with nearly 2,400 votes; and the Saline Alley Project, with just under 1,500 votes.