On the Road

Vacant downtown movie theater in Niles, Michigan, is slated for restoration.

A Main Street Succeeds in Tough Times

One small Michigan city is focusing its efforts on building a strong downtown. A look at some of the challenges and opportunities facing Niles, Michigan.

Planners at Elkhart County, Indiana, Plan Commission meeting

Good Signs or Bad Signs in Indiana?

I sat in on a meeting of the Elkhart County, Indiana, Plan Commission. On the agenda: a proposed zoning amendment to regulate digital electronic signs. It’s a fascinating, and challenging issue — one facing communities across the country.

Young people working on a community garden in Flint, Michigan

Not Giving Up On Flint — Part II

While Flint, Michigan, has received lots of negative attention in the media — in some ways becoming the poster boy of urban disintegration — what’s also clear is that there are many who are not giving up on Flint.

Map showing vacant lots in Flint, Michigan

Not Giving Up on Flint — Part I

This is the hard reality of Flint, Michigan, today. Population falling from 195,000 in 1970 to 117,000 in 2006. Abandoned housing units since 1970: 31,200. A staggering 32 percent of all residential parcels in Flint are abandoned. Can anything be done?

Nodes and squares in Troy plan

A Suburb Plans for Change

Troy, Michigan, is a spread out, auto-oriented suburb northwest of downtown Detroit. You’ll find many elements typical of the suburbs that boomed in the 1970s and ’80s. But Troy has felt the impact of the sharp decline of the automotive industry. A look at how Troy’s planners have responded.

portion of façade of Detroit Michigan's abandoned Central Railroad Station

Preservation or Demolition?

For generations it was one of the iconic images of Detroit: the majestic Michigan Central Railroad Station & Tower. The image of the Station today still carries a message — but it’s a message of a city in decline. But does that mean the best solution is for the City to tear down the structure?

part of huge green roof at Ford Motor's River Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan

When Rouge Turned Green

Instead of closing down its River Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford Motor Company has reinvested it — with an emphasis on energy-saving technologies, including an enormous green roof.

view inside Hudson, Ohio, library

Hudson’s Star Attraction

How the public library has become the community hub for the town of Hudson, Ohio — and the key to a strong downtown and main street..

plans for Slavic Village section of Cleveland, Ohio

Audacious … or Realistic?

I met with planners trying to deal with the large amounts of vacant land in Cleveland’s inner-city neighborhoods. Their approach to turn things around: implementing creative, green-oriented strategies.

apartments in Shaker Heights, Ohio

A Planner Should Be Flexible

“Flexibility … that’s the most important part of my job,” Shaker Heights Planning Director Joyce Braverman told me. She even carries a small reminder of this in her purse, the world famous — and very flexible — Gumby.

Recycled road signs used in gateway art project in Meadville, Pennsylvania

Gateway Art

An amazing, student-initiated art project along 1200 feet of U.S. Route 322 at the gateway to Meadville, Pennsylvania shows how college, community, and even a state department of transportation, can creatively work together.

portion of map of Keystone Innovation district in Meadville, Pennsylvania

College and Community

Too often these days, you hear about frictions between colleges and the communities they’re located in. But my visit to Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, proved this doesn’t have to be the case. Indeed, the relationship between Meadville, Crawford County, and Allegheny College is best viewed as a partnership that brings benefits to all.