Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vision (for Communities and a 20-miler)

Vision. We all know those people who have it - who can assess a situation, figure out how to make it better, and work hard to achieve those results. Vision can exist in a number of situations, and in my life I see it as part of my job working with communities and as a runner where I am constantly challenging myself and adjusting my vision of what I expect to achieve. One of the best parts of my job is being consistently surrounded by people who have vision.  Our community leaders have to make the best of every situation. They fight through significant revenue reductions, change in local leadership, local politics. And through those challenges so many communities find a way to not only persevere but to be creative in creating places where their residents want to live, work and play. Places they can be proud of.

Last week I visited one of our member communities, the City of Auburn Hills, for a ribbon cutting of a new project in their downtown. Auburn Hills is located north of Detroit, and it's a relatively new city (incorporated in 1983). It is the home to a lot of business including the world headquarters of Chrysler as well as four higher education institutions (Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School).  A little over a decade ago the City designated a downtown, and their vision has resulted in the creation of a vibrant downtown with new projects revolving by their education partners.

The City redeveloped a log cabin structure from 1836 into the DEN (Downtown Education Nook), a creative space for studying and relaxing.  Next to the DEN is 97 new apartments (they're gorgeous) with first floor retail space wrapped around a parking deck. The parking deck is one of my favorite parts. Instead of having the deck front Auburn Road in the downtown (or take up valuable riverfront space like we like to do here in Lansing) it is contained behind the residential units just like parking should be. The final piece to this new development is their University Center which is a new educational facility that provides classroom space for both high school and college students.  We visited this project last year when the University Center was a bar and restaurant that had seen better days. The revitalization of this structure is amazing. When we were there last year I couldn't see the vision, but fortunately for me the staff at the City could.

Auburn Hills is just one example of the many communities in Michigan doing cool things. Vision is the bedrock of any successful community, and I'm so proud to be associated with these communities and amazing projects.

And speaking of vision, I gutted out a fantastic 20 mile run on Saturday. I had a lot of time to think about all of our communities and the work their doing during the three and a half hours I was running. I realize it makes me a dork to think about placemaking while running 20 miles, but it does make the time go by more quickly.  I'll bet our members didn't know that their vision is not only helping their residents, but it's doing wonders for my marathon training.  

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