Eastern Market Featured in MIT Urban Planning Study

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Detroit’s Eastern Market is one of 13 sites highlighted in new research by a team of city planning and urban design experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Released today, Places in the Making explores the evolution of urban planning and the design of public places via a process called “placemaking.”

“Placemaking puts power back in the hands of the people,” says Susan Silberberg, lead researcher on the MIT team. She says the research effort, funded by Southwest Airlines, shows that placemaking generates social capital, added visitors, and new business.

In the case of Eastern Market, the report says the key takeaways are:

  • A low-pressure place like the market can create spontaneous community
  • Visionary leadership is instrumental in maintaining the focus of the placemaking mission
  • In a place with a long, storied history, community attachment to a place is already high, which helps boost brand identity
  • Nonprofit corporations can be exceptionally effective at funding and managing a public space like a market

“This market has a great social function,” said the report. “People don’t need to have leisure time to come here (it is often their shopping trip). They don’t need to bring friends, and they don’t need to think of an icebreaker to strike up a conversation with a stranger. This is a place where people of all walks of life come together, rural to urban; rich to poor.”

Prior to 2006, the market was owned and managed by the city of Detroit. Today, it is governed by the non-profit Eastern Market Corp., which is funded nearly equally by vendor fees and foundations/grants. Less than five percent of its funding comes from the city.

To read the full report, click here.

In related news, the state can add more jobs by investing in farmers market food infrastructure and simultaneously help improve the health of the population, according to a report released today by the Michigan Food Policy Council (MFPC).

The MFPC report, titled “Cultivate a Safe, Healthy, Accessible Food Supply and Build Michigan’s Economy,” outlines recommendations for building capacity among local food businesses and how such an investment would help boost local economies. The comprehensive analysis of Michigan’s food sector and its economic impact was created by task force members representing agriculture, economic development, health care, anti-hunger organizations, community food systems, and educational groups. More information is available at michigan.gov/mfpc.

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