Placemaking: Utilization, creation, or design of public spaces that are attractive, active, and sticky–people remember them. Good placemaking creates destinations where people want to gather and participate in their community while encouraging others do to the same.

What makes Traverse City great is that for many of these we’re on the right path. Where we can be better are the opportunities. The areas where we need to improve:

  • Designing public spaces and the intersection with private property to better serve the human scale
  • Creating a transportation system focused on choices, access, economic return, and safety
  • Connecting the neighborhoods and corridors to downtown’s success
  • Measuring value with a full appreciation for the economic, social, and environmental return.

The following placemaking principles are via the work of Strong Towns.  They are shared here to spark discussion about what makes a thriving, resilient, and strong Traverse City. Some of them I agree with, some of them I’m not so certain are applicable. They are a guide with which to understand the costs and benefits of public investment.

Strong Town Placemaking Principles

  1. A Strong Town has a leadership ethic that emphasizes open, transparent, inclusive and efficient governance, as well as active and forward-thinking engagement with citizens and private-sector partners.
  2. Strong Towns reduce costs associated with land use, transportation and development, and are able to reinvest these savings to strengthen their long-term position in the region and the world.
  3. A Strong Town is designed with a physical layout that enhances the public realm and thus adds value to each property that fronts it. New growth and development must improve the public realm.
  4. A Strong Town is economically vibrant and diverse. The town must have a local economic composition that encourages financially-sound business creation and expansion, as well as allow for creative destruction.
  5. A Strong Town utilizes a system of interconnected parks and civic structures to provide value to property owners within the community. Parks, greens, squares and civic buildings provide value when they enhance the public realm, create memorable landscapes and provide for spontaneous gatherings.
  6. A Strong Town requires age diversity in order to sustain itself. Designing neighborhoods for safe, independent living at all stages of life is critical for a Strong Town.
  7. To make transportation systems more efficient and affordable, to create economic opportunity and to enhance the community, neighborhoods in a Strong Town must be mixed use, with properly-scaled residential and commercial development.
  8. To build an affordable transportation system, a Strong Town utilizes roads to move traffic safely at high speeds outside of neighborhoods and urban areas. Within neighborhoods and urban areas, a Strong Town uses complex streets to equally accommodate the full range of transportation options available to residents.
  9. A Strong Town is financially stable and must not be dependent on government subsidy for the common maintenance of basic infrastructure systems.
  10. A Strong Town is connected to the region and, no less importantly, to the world, while knowing their unique place within these systems.
cc.logo.ccvia Placemaking Principles for Strong Towns by Chuck Mahorn at

What makes a strong Traverse City?