City of Allegan
Allegan is applying for the Community Excellence Award as a leader in creating a Place for Talent in Michigan. We have a beautiful riverfront along the majestic Kalamazoo River in Southwestern Michigan, with a walkable downtown, recreational opportunities, and friendly spaces. Further, we have leveraged initiatives in placemaking, community marketing, and transparency as a way for entrepreneurs and the community to be creative in our Place for Talent. Allegan was selected by MML as one of the first five placemaking communities to design a sense of place. Also, we were voted the fourth Coolest Small Town in America by Budget Travel Magazine. Finally, we were one of the first communities in the state to be awarded a Redevelopment Ready Community Certification by the MEDC. The Riverfront Redevelopment project, as well as placemaking, community marketing, and transparency, are why Allegan is a Place for Talent.
Allegan is typical in that it is a small town in Michigan that has gone through all the struggles of the 2008 recession. We lost a major employer, have higher business vacancy rates than normal, and we're concerned about our citizens’ ability to thrive in the new economy. But like many of us, we have a great scenic downtown where people gather and create, as well as a desire to make a positive difference for the present and future. Allegan is a Place for Talent in a way that can be replicated because of community partnerships. As long as we, as a community, acknowledge our situation and ask for help, citizens step up. Michigan is built on local involvement, and being voted fourth in the nation by Budget Travel Magazine was an expression of how citizens say we matter, and together we make a difference. Even though we have a unique riverfront, and we have been able to leverage significant funding through multiple sources, we are similar to others by our ability to create partnerships. These partnerships have allowed us to reinvent our signature riverfront, achieve outstanding community marketing, and improve transparency in government.
Creativity and Originality:
The project is creative in that it addresses not just a place, but a process where the community and entrepreneurs can cultivate their talents. The first step in the process was the riverfront placemaking initiative. Because of our desire to engage the community in redesigning this important asset, we quickly understood that we needed to amp up our communication process. Through support of the MML and MSU design team. We held many facilitated gatherings, small and large group discussions, and design charrettes which brought a cohesive vision together that could be supported by the vast majority of the community. Then the “Positively Allegan” campaign was created to “engage citizens in all things positive in the Allegan area”. “Positively Allegan” introduced us to social media and other advanced communication techniques, which led to increased volunteer involvement and a higher awareness of our story. Then we participated in the Redevelopment Ready Community program, which led us to a review of the city regulatory environment. After the review, we had an improved focus on transparency to promote a Place for Talent. As a result, Allegan became one of the first in the state to be certified as a Redevelopment Ready Community, awarded by the MEDC. So, the overall process has created not only an improved riverfront, but a Place for Talent which we believe will inspire generations to come.
By working toward placemaking, community marketing, and transparency, our efforts have brought the community together. With the concerns coming from the 2008 recession, people were wondering about the future of the downtown and the community. Our efforts related to placemaking, community marketing, and transparency provided focus on what we could do together. The construction of the riverfront redevelopment is a symbol of these efforts, and a reminder that during the good times and the bad, together we can make a positive difference for the future.