2015 LPI Year in Review

This year, the Land Policy Institute (LPI) contribution to research and outreach efforts have ranged widely to include such topics as placemaking, regionalism, economic development, corridor improvement, among others.

December 18, 2015

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This year, the Land Policy Institute (LPI)’s contribution to research and outreach efforts have ranged widely to include such topics as placemaking, regionalism, economic development, corridor improvement, “Missing Middle” housing, land use and water infrastructure, among others. The Institute has been working with many units on campus, as well as stakeholders and policy makers in the state and nationwide in support of building and maintaining sustainable communities in Michigan.

Please visit LPI's website in 2016 for updates on our research and outreach efforts. Be sure to check out our News Feed and Resources for additional highlights from 2015.

LPI Research

MSU releases study of the economic development potential of Newaygo County agriculture
This year, the MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research led a study on Newaygo County agricultural opportunities involving a team of researchers from MSU’s LPI; the Institute of Agricultural Technology; the Product Center; the Center for Economic Analysis; the Department of Community Sustainability; and the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. As part of the project, the grantee, the City of Newaygo, invited a network of area partners with expertise in economic development, education, entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as farming and agriculture to connect with faculty at MSU. Input from these two groups helped to complete an economic analysis, business assessment and strategy building. Funding supporting the project was provided by the Fremont Area Community Foundation. The purpose of the study was to further explore the potential of The Stream (a local innovation and entrepreneurship center), to expand its services and economic impacts on the Newaygo County region.

LPI’s Graebert shared background on new pilot project at the MSU Innovations in Collaborative Modeling Conference
On June 4, 2015, Mary Beth Graebert, LPI’s associate director, presented preliminary results from a study LPI is conducting with Mohamed El-Gafy, PhD, associate professor in Construction Management in the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction, to participants at the Innovations in Collaborative Modeling Conference. This conference was jointly organized by the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project, the Environmental Science & Policy Program and University Outreach and Engagement at MSU. At the event, Graebert presented on Integrated Asset Management: Dealing with Neglected Infrastructure and Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities. The LPI study was a pilot project to determine the feasibility of an integrated asset management system that simultaneously assesses land use conditions, such as property vacancy, and conditions of underground water infrastructure. This pilot project was a way to lay the foundation for additional analysis, tool development and outreach that will help cities to address a variety of issues related to the legacy of unsustainable infrastructure systems. This work was funded by the MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Michigan Applied Public Policy Research program.

LPI receives funding for MEDC Renaissance Zones Assessment
The LPI assisted the MSU Center for Economic Analysis with an assessment of Michigan’s Renaissance Zones program. Michigan State University prepared an external evaluation report to the Michigan State Legislature. This report included an assessment of: 1) The number of new jobs created, 2) percentage change in aggregate taxable value and state equalized value, 3) average wage of new jobs created, and 4) percentage change of adjusted gross income of residents. It also included an evaluation of the Tool and Die Renaissance Zone program as a case study analysis of socioeconomic and industry impacts. Finally, data reported by the participating firms utilized to estimate economy-wide economic impacts using IMPLAN software. The final report will be submitted to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in early 2016, which commissioned MSU for this study.

LPI receives funding for and completes Michigan Walkable Urban Places study
Research has shown that the most walkable metropolitan areas in the country have higher GDPs per capita and higher proportions of college graduates in their population. The regionally significant walkable urban places in these metros (WalkUPs) are seeing strong real estate demand as evidenced by strong office absorption and rent premiums. These WalkUPs are models for future development patterns and economic growth. The George Washington University Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis and LPI partnered up on the Michigan Walkable Urban Places (WalkUP) study to assess these trends in seven major Michigan metros: Detroit, Flint, Saginaw-Midland-Bay City, Lansing, Jackson, Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland and Kalamazoo-Battle Creek. The project was funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), MEDC and local match in each of the metros. Other partners for this initiative include Smart Growth America, the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and LOCUS, a national network of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, walkable urban development in America’s metropolitan areas.

The findings of the WalkUP study were released June 23, 2015, in Detroit at the 2015 LOCUS Michigan Leadership Summit. The analysis of these areas finds that in the most recent real estate cycle, 22% of all new income property development located in the 2.7% of land that is walkable urban. This share of new development is up from only 6% in the 1990s real estate cycle and 12% from the 2001-2008 cycle.

INGHAM COUNTY TREASURER AND MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY LAND POLICY INSTITUTE RELEASE ECONOMIC IMPACT REPORT: Study indicates Ingham County tax foreclosure auction has a positive impact on neighborhood revitalization
Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing and LPI released the results of the relationship between tax auction property sales, renovations and property prices in Ingham County neighborhoods between 2008 and 2014. The Treasurer’s office has utilized Property Tax Foreclosure Auction and Land Bank Fast Track Authority programs since 2006 to address foreclosure, abandonment and blight in Ingham County neighborhoods. This LPI study reports that tax auction activities play a positive role in neighborhood revitalization, which has been especially important during the economic recession and housing market decline. Results of the analysis show an overall economic impact of $2,981,543 for the Ingham County economy, resulting from the expenditures associated with the tax foreclosure auction sales and subsequent renovations. In addition, the study showed that renovations of the tax auction properties by new owners has a positive impact on surrounding property prices.

LPI Outreach

MSU and MML Continue Work on Placemaking Initiatives with MSHDA
Michigan State University--including the LPI, the MSUE Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) and faculty and students from the SPDC--and the MML continued partnering in 2014-2015 with MSHDA in provision of placemaking training, research, planning and policy assistance. The activities of both organizations were covered in a $750K contract. This work builds on prior contracts from 2012 and 2013 that MSU and MML received from MSHDA for work on the MIplace Partnership Initiative.

Activities for the last quarter of 2014 and 2015 included:

  • The LPI and GMI prepared Versions 5.0 and 6.0 of the six-module Placemaking Curriculum that can be presented from one to six hours per module. 
  • The LPI developed a Placemaking Guidebook, which is based on the Placemaking Curriculum. It will be distributed in the first half of 2016.
  • In total, about 5,000 more people were exposed to the Placemaking Curriculum (bringing to about 15,000, the number of people exposed to the program).
  • The LPI continued assistance to the ICC-PPS subcommittee to design and collect information on State agency investment in local placemaking projects.
  • The LPI staff assisted MSHDA, the ICC-PPS and an assembly of key State agency staff to identify measurement metrics to assist citizens and businesses self-assess the quality of the places in which they live and work.
  • The LPI staff, working with a subcommittee of the ICC-PPS, converted the State Toolbox day-long training program into a draft module that fits the format of the other six Placemaking Curriculum modules.
  • The SPDC and MML prepared seven PlacePlans (in Benton Harbor, Boyne City, Lathrup Village, Monroe, Niles, Saginaw, and Traverse City).
  • The MML prepared five Implementation PlacePlans (in Allegan, Dearborn, Kalamazoo, Midland, and Sault Ste. Marie).
  • The LPI prepared assessments of the first round of Regional Prosperity Plans.
  • The LPI partnered with the Michigan Realtors® to administer a local grant and technical assistance program for four Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) projects (in Flint, Jackson, Kalamazoo and Marquette).

Land Policy Institute releases Placemaking Assessment Tool
The LPI released a Placemaking Assessment Tool (PAT) that will continue to help communities develop quality places that are attractive and functional in Michigan. This tool is a deliverable from LPI in partnership with MSHDA. The purpose of placemaking is to create quality places where people want to live, work, play, learn and visit. Effective placemaking creates or restores a higher quality living environment in key parts of a community through urban development or redevelopment and provides a wider range of living, transportation, entertainment, recreation and related options to existing and new residents in (and visitors to) communities. The tool was created for use by planners, local governments, elected officials, neighborhood associations, civic organizations, consultants, etc.

State of Michigan Awards Grant to Tri-County Prosperity Region for 2015
The six organizations of the Greater Lansing Regional Prosperity Initiative--Capital Area Michigan Works!, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lansing Community College, Michigan State University (including LPI) and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission--were elated to receive a $228,750 Regional Collaboration Grant from the State of Michigan. With this grant, they completed work started in 2014 to promote regional growth and prosperity with grant-funded planning and development projects. The renewed grant enabled community leaders to continue to grow their partnership.

LPI’s Wyckoff shared expertise on legal issues for future open space uses in legacy cities at the International Planning Law and Property Rights Conference in Greece
Land Policy Institute senior associate director, Mark Wyckoff, traveled to Volos, Greece, for the 9th International Planning Law and Property Rights Conference Feb. 25-27, 2015. About 100 academics made presentations at the conference. This is the second time Wyckoff has presented at this conference. The first time was in Feb. 2010 in Aaborg, Denmark. Wyckoff presented on work he has been engaged in with Richard Norton, PhD, from the University of Michigan; and Gerald Fisher, a law professor at Cooley Law School, in conjunction with the staff of the Detroit Future City (DFC) and other planners and attorneys the DFC has periodically involved to advise them. Wyckoff focused his presentation on legal challenges that vacant land presents in legacy cities that want to reuse the land for various open space uses at some point in the future.

LPI’s Madill shared placemaking expertise at the MSU CCED 2015 Contemporary Issues Institute
On Mar. 6, 2015, the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) hosted the 2015 Contemporary Issues Institute on Cultivating a Civil Society in an Era of Incivility, in Lansing. It offered participants the opportunity to learn from and discuss with innovative thinkers and doers from across the state and nation on how to change behaviors and engage in respectful dialogue to build a more civil democratic society. Holly Madill, outreach specialist for the LPI’s Planning & Zoning Center (PZC), participated in the session on Putting Civility in Place. This session explored the impact that place can have on how people feel and act. Other session panelists included: David Bulkowski from the Disability Advocates of Kent County, and Tracy Brower, PhD, from Herman Miller.

MSU Co-Hosts Executive Master’s Course on Innovative Governance in Large Urban Systems
The MSU Institute of Public Utilities, LPI and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne in Switzerland hosted a two-week Executive Master’s course on Innovative Governance in Large Urban Systems in Detroit, East Lansing and Chicago, IL, Apr. 13-24, 2015. Participants of this program included city managers, managers of urban infrastructures (e.g., public transport, energy, water and wastewater, waste management, parks and greens, emergency systems, airports and ports, public works, social housing, etc.), urban planners and other interested people (e.g., consultants). Several faculty members from MSU, including LPI, as well as practitioners from Michigan’s large urban areas, also participated in this program, leading presentations and dialoguing with the students. 

LPI joined exhibitors at the 2015 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference
The 2015 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference took place May 19-21, 2015, in Detroit. This conference, hosted by the Center for Community Progress, was the premier gathering of leaders from across the country exploring innovative solutions for tackling vacant, abandoned and problem properties. Themed “Beyond Blight: Building a Bold Movement,” the 2015 conference explored the latest tools to combat vacancy and move beyond neighborhood blight, as well as how government officials, community leaders, and others in the field can join forces across departments, cities, and even states to achieve wide-scale positive change. Conference sessions highlighted work from around the country, including efforts from Michigan. The Land Policy Institute was proud to be an exhibitor sponsor for the event, and took part in the trade show exhibition May 20-21.

LPI Partners on Michigan “Missing Middle” Housing Design Competition
The American Institute of Architects – Michigan put on the 2015 Michigan “Missing Middle” Housing Design Competition--an open design competition intended to spur the development of creative, mixed-income and affordable “Missing Middle” Michigan housing developments in the state’s downtowns and along key transit corridors. The goal of the Competition--which was open to contestants worlwide and offered a $10,000 top cash prize and two additional cash prizes--was to promote awareness about the mismatch that exists between U.S. housing stock and shifting demographics, combined with the growing need for walkable urban living. Mark Wyckoff, professor and LPI’s senior associate director served on the AIA Michigan panel that evaluated the entries and selected the winners. The winning entry was by Niko Tiula of Tiula Architects LLC (El Paso, TX and Helsinki, Finland); and the 2nd and 3rd place winners were awarded cash prizes at the June 23 event in Detroit.

LPI’s Graebert and SPDC PhD student Dalton presented on World Class Corridor project at WSEAS Conference
On Sept. 20, 2015, LPI’s associate director Mary Beth Graebert and Robert Dalton, PhD student in the School of Planning, Design and Construction, presented the Core Elements of a World Class Built Environment at the World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society (WSEAS) Conference, which took place at the MSU Union. During their presentation, Graebert and Dalton shared the 10 most important and prevalent factors of world class communities that were identified and applied in a design for the 4.5-mile Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor in Lansing-East Lansing, MI. They also discussed the key needs and opportunities for development that are identified in the design process.

LPI Events

MIplace Partnership Initiative:
The LPI and the MSHDA presented on placemaking principles and strategies at various conferences and events throughout 2015. This collaboration was part of a partnership between LPI and MSHDA related to the MIplace Partnership Initiative (mentioned above in LPI Outreach). Below is a listing of the events and topics for these single/ joint speaker presentations:

  • Planning, Law & Property Rights Conference on Feb. 25, 2015: Planning and Regulating Vacant Land for Open Space in Detroit (joint presentation);

PZC Hosted Winter 2015 Zoning Administrator Certificate Program
The PZC offered the Zoning Administrator Certificate Program in Frankenmuth Jan. 20-22, 2015. It is designed to offer zoning administration techniques in ways that reduce legal risks to the Zoning Administrator and their community. The rigorous training (24 hours of instruction) requires a substantial time commitment, which includes completion of eight modules leading to a certificate for those that pass an exam associated with each module. The program also provides techniques for doing zoning administration in ways that reduce legal risks to the Zoning Administrator and their community.

LPI Awards

LPI’s Wyckoff received Mid-MEAC Land Use Award
On Apr. 30, 2015, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council (Mid-MEAC) celebrated another year of environmental advocacy at their annual awards ceremony in Lansing. This event acknowledged the hard work of community leaders in the Tri-County Region (Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties) that have helped make the community greener and more sustainable. Mark Wyckoff, LPI’s senior associate director and director of PZC, was honored with The Mid-MEAC Land Use Award.

LPI Articles

Placemaking Lessons Learned – East Lansing’s Park District Project
Last Nov., LPI’s Mary Beth Graebert weighed in on the complicated and large-scale East Lansing project known as the Park District. This is a five-acre site at the corner of Grand River Ave. and Abbot Rd. in East Lansing, immediately across the street from Michigan State University’s Abbot Rd. entrance. The project, as proposed at that time, included five buildings to be constructed by two separate development entities. . . The City of East Lansing actually began working on this project in 2001 when the City’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) acquired a small two-story building for redevelopment using a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Core Communities loan. A private developer subsequently acquired the adjacent building at the corner of Grand River Ave. and Abbot Rd. The developer, the DDA and the City then embarked on what has now been a nearly 15-year effort to redevelop East Lansing’s western end. This process has been lengthy and fraught with numerous challenges, leading to a number of important lessons learned when it comes to place making:

  • Placemaking takes time and patience;
  • Never be surprised by opposition; and
  • Market economics are a driving force.

This article was written prior to the May 2015 election. According to a State News article from June 11, 2015, “voters approved an amendment to the East Lansing city charter last month that made it so the city only needs a 50% majority vote to sell city-owned land except parks, instead of the previously needed 60% vote.”

Coming from LPI in 2016

Following is a brief description of projects upon which LPI and the Planning & Zoning Center have recently embarked or that will continue in 2016.

LPI's Wyckoff and Madill to share placemaking expertise at the MTA Annual Educational Conference in Jan. 2016
The Michigan Townships Association (MTA) is hosting their annual conference Jan. 19-22, 2016, at the Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. The 2016 Annual Educational Conference will help attendees: Recharge enthusiasm for public service; reengage with constituents; rethink role as a board member; reinvent the vision for townships; and rebuild relationships with township boards and communities. This premiere event for local leaders brings together more than 1,000 officials for three days of unmatched educational and networking experiences. . . On Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, LPI’s senior associate director Mark Wyckoff, and director of PZC; and Holly Madill, outreach specialist for LPI, will present at two separate extended sessions from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Strategic Placemaking as an Economic Development Tool in Suburban Townships; and Placemaking Projects to Improve Quality of Life in Your Township.

2016 Zoning Administrator Certificate Training Program to be held Feb. 23-25, 2016
Since 2009, the PZC, a part of LPI, has offered the Zoning Administrator Certificate Training Program in 15 different locations around the state. The PZC will be offering the Training Program in Muskegon at the Shoreline Inn & Conference Center on Feb. 23-25, 2016. Space is available and early registration ends on Monday, Feb. 13, 2016, so be sure to reserve your space today! All Zoning Administrators should attend this program at some point in their career. The sooner they take the classes after becoming a Zoning Administrator, the better able they will be to do their job well. The Zoning Administrators who have attended the training program have had varying levels of experience and all have benefitted from the program.

LPI Studies/Reports

Upcoming Report: LPI and Networks Northwest Partner on Regional Services Recommendation Study
The LPI is partnering with Networks Northwest to develop a regional services recommendation report outlining State-funded services and programs and identifying potential State-regional partnerships in support of the area’s Regional Prosperity Plan; thus, helping local decision makers to access the best tools and resources in support of the Northwest Michigan’s Framework for Our Future: A Regional Prosperity Plan. Over the past six months, the LPI team has been talking with Networks Northwest, other regional partners and State agency representatives to identify issues, barriers, gaps and opportunities associated with the current service provision conditions in the region. The final report is expected to be released in early 2016.

Continuation of Project: LPI and MHA Partnering on Blight Elimination Study
The Michigan Step Forward program, administered by the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Nonprofit Housing Corporation (MHA) and MSHDA, has allocated some of the State’s Hardest Hit Funds from the U.S. Treasury Department toward the Blight Elimination program. The focus of the program is on eliminating the surplus of blighted single-family homes that have distressed communities for several years, with a goal of stabilizing neighborhoods and making the first step toward improving the quality of life in these neighborhoods and communities. The LPI is working with MHA to gather and analyze information about the economic and social impacts of the Blight Elimination program in the 16 Michigan cities where funds will be spent, including Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Pontiac, Saginaw, Lansing, Jackson, Highland Park, Inkster, Ecorse, Muskegon Heights, River Rouge, Port Huron, Hamtramck, Ironwood and Adrian. Through this project, LPI and MSU Remote Sensing & GIS will be collecting and mapping data on vacancy, foreclosure, foreclosure assistance and crime in these cities and neighborhoods that have been targeted for blight removal.  In addition, LPI will be conducting a property price analysis to investigate the impact of blight and its removal on surrounding properties, as well as a survey of residents to assess their perceptions of how blight removal and property reuse will affect their neighborhoods and communities.

Upcoming Report: Saginaw Integrated Assessment Model
The LPI and the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction will soon release a policy brief on a pilot project to determine the feasibility of an integrated asset management system that simultaneously assesses land use conditions, such as property vacancy, and conditions of underground water infrastructure. Objectives of this approach include:

  • Assessing the condition of existing water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure in neighborhoods with large or growing abandonment, as well as the physical and socio-economic characteristics of those areas, using Saginaw, MI, as a case study;
  • Creating a pilot integrated model that helps identify opportunities for more sustainable infrastructure and land use planning based on infrastructure condition and practical service considerations; and
  • Evaluating the feasibility of integrated planning alternatives. Infrastructure alternatives include best technologies for repairing, decommissioning and repurposing. Land use alternatives include options for repurposing vacant lands for short-, medium- or long-term use, and incorporating sustainable considerations (e.g., new urban parks, stormwater retention).

This pilot project will lay the foundation for additional analysis, tool development and outreach that will help cities to address a variety of issues related to the legacy of unsustainable infrastructure systems. This approach is desperately needed in legacy cities, but can also be beneficial in any city experiencing infrastructure and land use challenges. This work is funded by the MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Michigan Applied Public Policy Research program.

For more information about these 2016 projects, please contact Mary Beth Graebert at lakemary@msu.edu or call (517) 355-3378.

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