Citizen-Centered Development

Citizen centered development

Author: Kendra Hungerford

How can we make cities more attractive to the types of people that we would like to have live in them? The smart, innovative, and productive people that drive success in cities. Or in East Lansing’s case, how do we keep them here? Michigan Future Inc. has determined that, millennials, more than any other generation crave living in urbanized supercities. These supercities that exist in other states throughout our country are relatively obsolete in the state of Michigan. How did this happen? Many believe that the State itself has cheated itself out of the possibly of Michigan cities such as Detroit from becoming one of these cities. So how do we change the tide and create a city in Michigan that will attract young professionals rather than send them running for the hills?

East Lansing is a college town that temporarily houses highly educated and innovative individuals who end up leaving in order to chase their dreams in one of our country’s superstar cities. So the question truly is, how do we keep them here? Michigan Future Inc. turns to placemaking for their answers. The key is to make East Lansing a place that these people would want to live in, and the only way to do that is through a citizen-centered approach. If we know what changes these people wanted to see in their communities, we can make these changes and encourage them to make East Lansing their permanent homes, rather than their stepping stone to a brighter, more innovative tomorrow.

We can look to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency For Planning for guidance on how to effectively include our community members in placemaking plans. In 2010, CMAP began plans to completely revitalize Chicago, their goal was to achieve prosperity through the implementation of “an aggressive but nuanced comprehensive plan that strategically aligns public policies and investments” (CAMP). What made this revitalization so unique, was their citizen-centered approach. The multiple different stakeholders in the city including: the business community, civic leaders, locally elected officials, and other community members realized that their goals were best handled comprehensively. They attribute the successes of their redevelopment to their ability to set aside the differences that separate them and work together to achieve common goals.

CAMP’s main focus was on balancing the need for local and regional autonomy and cooperation, the cooperation between all types of playmakers. The process was centered on the idea that there should be common principles that are applied when making decisions about when, where, and how changes should be made. They believed that this was truly the only way that a truly livable city would be created, and East Lansing decision makers should be taking notes. CAMP recommends providing support to local planning through grant programs, creating infrastructure investments in order to implement plans, technical assistance, and most importantly: collaboration between municipalities on shared principles. They understood that one size does not fit all that what may work for other cities, might not necessarily work for their city. Place governance is the idea that governance works best when it is closest to the people that it serves. Through creating a culture of engagement in a community that supports a given space, the government can create places that could essentially run themselves. Through a focus on place, specifically the people that inhabit the place, leadership can be fostered to arise from all levels, both inside and outside the government. This can act as a wall, keeping the bad ideas and privatization out, it also allows the governance process to become more open and accessible to all and supports more constructive community participation.

In order for people to want to stay here, they need to feel like they are welcome and that if they were to want to make a change that their actions could help make those changes. Through Place Governance, we could draw in more opinionated citizens to help make the big decisions about their communities. Great places are born when people of all different backgrounds come together in order to create it, and this is only possible through the type of democracy that Place Governance would provide. It is time for East Lansing to start focusing on creating a citizen-centered place in order to alleviate our problems, rather than simply find a solution to our problems.

An example of this principle at work: Go to 2040