Leg. Forum Series: Building Prosperous Places

Placemaking Strategies for Prosperity in Michigan Cities 

The MSU Land Policy Institute held a legislative forum on "Building Prosperous Places: Placemaking Strategies for Prosperity in Michigan Cities," on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at the Mackinac Room in the Anderson House Office Building in Lansing. Rep. Jim Townsend was the legislative host for this event.

The forum explored findings and recommendations from a National Association of Realtors funded study of placemaking projects in Michigan, including a look at policy and financial barriers, workforce housing, public-private partnerships that facilitate these projects, and the economic impacts of placemaking developments on residents, developers and communities. Forum panelists shared information and policy recommendations to help better explain the issues surrounding financing, regulating, incentivizing and developing placemaking projects in Michigan, including:

  • The need for better information for local governments, financial institutions, developers, realtors and citizens about placemaking, economic and quality-of-life benefits.

  • The need to break down the barriers to placemaking development that occur at the local level, and encourage state enabling acts and/or incentive programs to enact supportive measures at local and regional levels;

  • The need for better access for developers and bankers to loan assistance programs, public and private financing/funds, tax credits, grants or other supplemental funding mechanisms that offset development costs;

  • The need for expedited permitting or development of fast-track approvals for new development ventures, as well as implementation of a less complicated permitting process; and

  • The need to encourage more developers to adopt placemaking elements in their projects, including workforce and affordable housing, mixed use, transit stops and hubs, LEED certification and form-based code.

The Panelists

About the Panelists

 Mary Beth Graebert, Associate Director for Programs and Operations, MSU Land Policy Institute
As Associate Director for Programs and Operations for LPI, Mary Beth is responsible for managing the administrative functions of the Institute, for helping existing programs to become sustainable, and for developing innovative initiatives to meet new policy needs. She plays an active role in research projects, including a multiple-partner effort for "Rebuilding Prosperous Places in Michigan," and in outreach initiatives, like the Legislative Education Program, which seeks to put policy-relevant research from universities into the hands of decision makers at the state level. Mary Beth is a Co-Coordinator of the People and Land (PAL) Initiative, a collaborative partnership funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that provides a conduit between academics, regions, and land use and economic development stakeholders. Prior to her role in programs and operations, she served as the Institute's Program Development Manager and Research Program Coordinator. Mary Beth has a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from Michigan State University and a Master's degree in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota.

 Arnold Weinfeld, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs, Michigan Municipal League
As Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, Arnold Weinfeld is responsible for the planning and development of new programs, services, publications and outreach strategies to support the League's broad policy initiatives and related programming. He also coordinates the League's federal advocacy efforts, working directly with Michigan's Congressional delegation and national local government organizations, such as the National League of Cities. Weinfeld also serves as President of the Michigan Municipal League Foundation, where he works to carry out the Foundation's mission of educating local officials in coordination with League programs. He is a graduate of Michigan State University where he received his bachelor's degree in Social Science. Weinfeld served as an elected member of the Waverly Community Schools Board of Education from 1994-2002 where he held the positions of Treasurer and Board President, and is currently Treasurer of the Waverly Education Foundation.

 Robert Filka, CEO, Michigan Association of Home Builders
Robert L. Filka serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Association of Home Builders (MAHB), a professional trade association representing more than 5,000 members across Michigan. Filka began his duties in June of 2006 and brings more than 20 years of economic development and government policy experience to the association. His professional background has included stints as a Policy Advisor to Governor John Engler and several years on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Aide. He was appointed by Governor Engler to serve as President of the Michigan Strategic Fund in 1997, and was later named a Senior Executive at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, serving there until 2002. Prior to coming to the MAHB, Filka worked for himself as an independent consultant. He helped several western states and universities with economic development strategies and helped create the Michigan Broadband Development Authority. In addition, Filka chairs the Habitat for Humanity of Michigan Board of Directors, and sits on the HomeAid Michigan Board of Directors and the Michigan Virtual University Board of Directors. He has chaired the Michigan Council on Telecommunications Services for Public Education, and served on the Kellogg and Dow Foundation's Michigan Information Technology Commission.

 Dennis Koons, President and CEO, Michigan Bankers Association
Dennis R. Koons has served as President and CEO of the Michigan Bankers Association since January 2002, which represents the interests of and provides services to the banks statewide. His career includes political campaign management, a staff position in the Michigan Senate, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Michigan Association of Realtors, Vice President for the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce leading both its Governmental Affairs and Economic Development areas, and Vice President of Government Relations for NBD Bank. From 1995 through 2001, Koons served as the Chief Executive Officer of the 26,000-member Michigan Association of Realtors. He also serves/served civic and professional organizations as an Officer or Director, including the Michigan State Chamber, Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, People and Land, the Michigan Society for Association Executives, Graduate School of Banking in Madison, Robert M. Perry Schools of Banking, the Michigan Employers Unemployment Compensation Council, Greater Detroit Capital Corporation and the Michigan Council for Economic Education. Koons is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Presentations and Resources

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