Placemaking as Economic Development Tool

Clearzoning, Inc. recently assisted the City of Clawson, Michigan, with a Downtown Master Plan that included several placemaking strategies. The illustration above offers a concept for the transformation of a parking lot and adjacent buildings in an underutilized block adjacent to the main downtown intersection. The resulting plaza could be a welcoming place to gather informally or for community events. How did we do it? We envisioned these improvements: Renovate the buildings flanking the paved parking area Transform the parking area with landscaping, street furniture, and pedestrian-oriented lighting. Add landscape screening and low masonry wall to help fill in the “dead space” between the existing buildings (seen in the top photo). Create a pedestrian connection that encourages shopping throughout downtown. What is Placemaking? Quite simply, it’s about making a “place” special and memorable. Why is it important? Because research shows that creating memorable places is a way to attract and retain a talented workforce as well as encourage investment. Michigan is at the forefront of this national movement through the efforts of the MIplace Partnership Initiative (miplace.org). The Initiative is made up of a diverse range of stakeholders including state agencies, regional and local units of government, key associations and nonprofits, and private sector partners who have embraced placemaking and understand that vibrant, successful regions promote economic activity and will help build a better Michigan. For truly active and engaging places, placemaking strategies should rooted in a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential. It should focus on creating interesting and useful places that attract people. Art, natural features, outdoor dining, and plazas all can offer opportunities for people to...

Redevelopment Best Practices – 2015 MLGMA Session

  Clearzoning is pleased to have been invited to speak at the 2015 Winter Summit for the Michigan Local Government Management Association (MLGMA). This is a great organization dedicated to the professional development of local government administrators. To paraphrase Pete Auger, the president of MLGMA (and the City of Novi, Michigan’s manager), city managers are often the key “behind the scenes” individuals who keep local government moving. At Clearzoning, we want to help Pete and other city managers keep local government moving – in a forward direction. Today’s city managers can use planning, zoning, and technology tools to encourage quality economic development, manage limited financial and human resources, ensure fair and transparent decision making, and provide excellent customer service. Today at the Winter Institute, we shared lessons about how an updated Zoning Ordinance and development review procedures can help a city achieve these goals.  By implementing best practices for redevelopment to provide clear, easy-to understand, and current zoning standards along with streamlined, well documented site plan policies, city managers can help ensure a smooth and predictable experience for developers as well as city staff, officials, and residents. Our session slideshow is available below along with a series of articles aimed at helping communities be “development...

Website Design Services

Clearzoning, Inc. is now offering affordable website development services for local governments. For years, Clearzoning, Inc. has been creating new websites and web pages for planning projects. During this time, our staff has observed that many small cities, townships, and villages may have a web presence, but many of their websites are not visually appealing and are not kept up-to-date. Clearzoning now uses its expertise in design and information services to take local government websites to a new level at an affordable price. The following describes our basic website development service: Develop main sub-headings for website menu bar in consultation with client (For example: Home, Boards & Commissions, Community Profile, Departments, News, & Maps | Data)  Provide draft to municipality for review. Make one set of revisions, if necessary Upload and launch new website. Municipality to provide domain information and password or a new domain will be created Train municipal staff on how to update website and keep calendar current  Submit website to major search engines Provide free emails for municipal officials and staff using the username@domain convention. In addition to the above, CZ will maintain the website on a hosting site and provide phone assistance to local officials regarding keeping the site up to date. Additionally, our monthly maintenance agreement can include a monthly blog post for the News tab written by CZ staff.  Our staff will interview the one or two local officials or staff by phone once per month to determine latest news and then write a short news update (approximately 400 words) so the website is always is current with the latest information. This can...

Expert Traffic Engineering Services Based in Michigan

Traffic Engineering Consulting The staff of Clearzoning, Inc. provides expert traffic engineering services ranging from traffic-focused site plan review and traffic impact studies to traffic crash analysis and road safety improvements. Development Review When a new site or development plan is submitted to a community, Clearzoning reviews the plan to evaluate: – Parking circulation – Driveway access and spacing – Need for driveway improvements – Sight obstructions – Number of parking spaces – ADA parking requirements – Pedestrian circulation – Truck and emergency vehicle access – Transit implications. The community will be provided with a well-written review letter that can assist the applicant, staff, planning commissioners, and others. CZ staff will work to establish a fee schedule so that the cost of this service is passed on or shared with each applicant. This can be a no-cost service to the municipality. Traffic Crash and Safety Studies The University of Michigan reports that a crash occurs on Michigan roadways about once every 2 minutes, on average.  Some crashes are largely attributable to single obvious causes, such as drunk driving or “texting” on a cell phone.  However, many crashes are affected by a combination of factors that might include: Unusual roadway design Traffic control feature(s) different than the driver expected Poor visibility due to darkness and/or weather An unforgiving roadside The likelihood of crashes and/or severe injuries occurring can generally be reduced by improving the roadway, roadside, and/or traffic controls (i.e., pavement markings, signs, signals). Learn more about how communities can direct their limited safety improvement funds by creating a more cost-effective local safety program based on a comprehensive traffic crash study. March...

Food Trucks – New Planning Presentations in October

Clearzoning President Rod Arroyo will be speaking twice in October on the topic of planning challenges and opportunities related to mobile food vending.  On October 3, he will address the North Carolina Planning Conference in Raleigh.  The following Thursday, October 9, Rod will be speaking at the Grand Hotel as part of the Michigan Chapter of APA’s annual conference. For more information, Rod Arroyo and Jill Bahm authored a Zoning Practice issue on this topic for the American Planning Association (September 2013 – Vol. 30, No.9).  A summary of the presentation is provided via the links below: Food Truck Handout from Clearzoning Powerpoint Presentation – Food Trucks...

Clearzoning, Inc. Welcomes New Staff Members

Clearzoning, Inc. is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members to the Clearzoning Team. Margaret (Mardy) Stirling joins the firm as a Senior Planner, with extensive experience at the local government level. Mardy is the former Deputy Director of Planning for the City of Royal Oak (Oakland County, Michigan) and the former Planning Director for Hartland Township in Livingston County, Michigan.  She has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Michigan State University. Joseph (Joe) Tangari joins Clearzoning as an Associate Planner.  Joe previously worked as a planner for the City of Hazel Park (Oakland County, Michigan) and as a research associate for Wayne State University, where he conducted a baseline assessment of the impact of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) Redevelopment Ready Communities Program. He has a Master of Urban Planning degree from Wayne State University. We welcome Mardy and Joe to our team!  ...