NCI worked with the City of Houghton to become “Charrette Ready”

The Charrette Ready Workshop invites residents into the planning stage of the charrette development, engaging members of the community in inclusive charrettes.

The City of Houghton sits on picturesque Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Houghton’s downtown has several parking decks in need of repair that are prompting conversations about redevelopment. The City of Houghton plans to develop a subarea plan for its downtown, complete with a vision that accommodates the slope that it sits on.

With differing opinions about redevelopment and public involvement, there are a lot of physical and social factors to consider when planning a charrette, which makes it interesting and exciting.

“When the City reached out to NCI about a charrette process, we had conversations about how to ensure an inclusive public engagement process and landed on a Charrette Ready Workshop that invited residents into the planning stage of charrette development,” said Holly Madill, director of NCI. “How can we say a process is inclusive if we don’t involve people right from the beginning…the planning of the charrette?”

The Charrette Ready Workshop is yet another way to engage members of the community in inclusive charrettes. When we invite members of the public to help plan the charrette, we increase the chances of success, inclusion, and implementation. That is exactly what NCI helped the City of Houghton to do.

With facilitated guidance from NCI and Michigan State University Extension, a 13-person committee comprised of city councilpersons, planning commissioners, staff, and residents walked through the steps to prepare a charrette. When the two-day Charrette Ready workshop ended on June 30, the City had the contents for an RFP to bid for the charrette, or the roadmap for doing it themselves—building trust and relationships with residents along the way.

“I think everyone could see how much work could get done and how much shared understanding could happen in a short period of time, providing evidence that the same could happen in a charrette,” Madill stated, referencing this article.

The exercises we use to prepare for charrettes are highly portable, meaning that they can be used to prepare for other kinds of engagements. They build the community’s capacity for meaningful public engagement and open up possibilities.

For more about the Charrette Ready Workshop, read these resources and articles:

If you are interested in the Charrette Ready Workshop for your next project, contact Holly Madill at

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