Placemaking is a new word for me. I was introduced to the concept because of the more recent push from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to use placemaking as a city development strategy. To put it simply—taking a space that is not a place and making that space into a place; that is placemaking.
It wasn’t my intention, initially—to make a place, but the East Alley certainly has become one. What started as a simple desire to display more public art has turned into an outdoor art gallery, a performance area, a flower garden, and a place to sit. At this point, none of it is as I imagined it back in October 2018, but it is so much better than I could have accomplished or imagined on my own. This project really reflects the positives of working with a team and collaborating on an idea with many other voices.
This past weekend marked a particularly significant moment for the East Alley Project, and that is the installation of the archway and sign. It now displays its name, and as much as we have used the name previously, it’s now for all to see. No single step of this project has done more in the way of placemaking than installing the sign. It really feels different now that it is in place.
Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma took the lead on the arch and sketched the initial design with the intention of mimicking our historic storefronts. Colin Monroe designed the sign—again, with the intention of complementing our historic, Italianate architecture in the downtown. Matt Franz finalized the concept, built and installed, while Mike Curtis will be adding iron fencing at the base to match the parking ramp bridges. Lastly but certainly not least, Tricia Meyer kept all the gears in line and the project moving.
I’m excited for this project to be done soon. COVID has really slowed it down, but we’re almost there. I’m hoping this walkthrough will be one more thing for people to talk about when it comes to our downtown, and I hope that will translate to economic benefits for our businesses as well. I’m also excited to see how this space can be used during downtown events, or on any given weekend. (Musicians, if you’re reading this—the stage is built, and the power’s on.) I’m also excited to move on to the next project and continue to make incremental improvements in our downtown.
Michael “Hogey” Hogoboom is a podcaster and writer for Watershed Voice.