Six Sustainable Design Sub-Projects


Mid-Michigan is blessed with the Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor (the Corridor), which is unquestioningly accepted as the Region’s “main street.” The Corridor includes the State Capitol, central business districts, regional health science clusters, internationally recognized educational institutions, suburban shopping districts and seven of the region’s 10 largest employers. Therefore, the Corridor is the ideal laboratory for development of a Design Portfolio to catalyze sustainable development in the Region. Faculty and students at MSU will assist the project in developing a design portfolio and targeting student-led projects on specific sites in the Corridor. The following is a brief description of these activities.

The Sustainable Corridor Design Portfolio has six process and product components that are linked to other activities on this project. These include: 

  1. Michigan/Grand River Ave. Sustainable Design Charrettes by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and National Partners
  2. Inventory, analysis and planning along the Michigan Ave./Grand River Ave. Corridor (from the State Capitol to the Village of Webberville) by the Planning & Zoning Center (PZC) at MSU 
  3. Preparation of a best practices guidebook illustrated with examples along the corridor by the PZC
  4. Design projects by the SPDC Landscape Architecture Design (LAD) studios at nodes and/or sites along the corridor; 
  5. SPDC Planning Student Practicum Projects
  6. Provision of local official, citizen and stakeholder technical assistance on sustainable planning by the SPDC American Citizen Planner Program

Michigan/Grand River Ave Sustainable Design Charrettes

The first of the sustainable design projects is managed by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission through the Mid–Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability, a sustainable communities program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), and other local partners. The charrettes have provided an opportunity for in-depth public engagement on the future design of the corridor. The goal is to produce consensus based sustainable plans for transportation, urban design, land planning and economic development to be implemented throughout the corridor over the next 20 years. 

The first charrette, held May 1-7 of 2013, created a draft vision for the entire Michigan/Grand Avenue Corridor, starting at the State Capitol extending east to the Village of Webberville. The purpose of the second charrette, held October 22-30, 2013 was then to develop more detailed plans for three sub-areas within the corridor.  The October charrette produced detailed area plans for Meridian, the Eastern District, and Red Cedar areas. See the complete Work-in-Progress presentation below. Next, the charrette team assembled the results of the two charrettes into a report that was made available on site for public comment between January 6 and 31.  Following this period, the Charrette Team made a concluding presentation of its final report on February 26 at 5:30PM at East Lansing's Hannah Community Center.

Below is a link to the video of the final charrette presentation filmed by Meridian Township's HOM TV:

MI-Grand Vision Charrette: February 26, 2014

Link to Capitol Corridor Summary Report (PDF-large download)

The Capitol Corridor:  A Regional Vision for Michigan/Grand River Avenue

Contact for this project:
Paul Hamilton, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, (517) 393-0342,
The LPI’s Planning & Zoning Center at MSU (PZC) conducted an inventory and analysis of the land uses and densities along the Michigan Ave./Grand River Ave. Corridor (from the State Capitol to the Village of Webberville) that provided valuable information for two Charrettes that were conducted within the Corridor. It also helped drive the contents of the Corridor Design Portfolio that is being created by the PZC. The Corridor inventory and analysis of existing land uses was examined relative to the principles in Choices for Our Future  and HUD’s Livability Principles to provide recommendations for future multi-modal connectivity, housing access and affordability, access to jobs, Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets planning, Transit-Oriented Design, greenhouse gas emission reduction, green infrastructure implementation and inclusionary zoning for each segment along the Corridor. Where appropriate and feasible, samples of local master plan, zoning ordinance, and form-based code language will be included in the Portfolio to assist communities with policy decisions and adoption of consistent implementing language.

Contact for this project:
Mark Wyckoff, Land Policy Institute, MSU (517)

Corridor Design Portfolio 

Designed by the LPI’s Planning & Zoning Center to be highly visual, the Corridor Design Portfolio will be an educational tool for citizens, developers and local government officials on the urban/suburban/rural/small town design transects along such a corridor. It will provide examples of best practices around a number of sustainability topics that are suitable to the corridor including capital improvement, civic engagement, economy, energy, environment, form, land use, placemaking, planning, social justice, transportation and zoning. This Guidebook will be a best practices guide illustrated with examples along the Corridor, and will be available online. The Portfolio will draw from many sources, including designs and illustrations from the two Charrettes that were conducted within the Corridor by national firms and the SPDC Urban Planning Practicums and the LAD projects.

Contact for this project:
Mark Wyckoff, Land Policy Institute, MSU (517)

MSU Planning Student Practicum Projects

The SDPC Urban & Regional Planning (URP) program requires graduating undergraduate and graduate students to complete a capstone course in the Spring semester of each year called a Practicum. This required course is designed to address real-world planning issues in a classroom setting. The course assists communities in completing local initiatives with university assets, through intense student-led/faculty-guided projects. Planning practicum teams engage in a variety of professional planning activities ranging from feasibility studies, site reuse plans, corridor studies, small business incubators and planning for sustainability. This timely skilled technical assistance can be very helpful in moving project-specific activities to their successful conclusion. The SPDC URP at MSU will provide a minimum of two practicum team projects identified by the consortium, and appropriate to the practicum program in support of the TCRPC Sustainable Communities project, in the second and third years of the grant.

Contact for this project:
Dr. Rex Lamore, SPDC Urban & Regional Planning Program and the 
MSU Center for Community and Economic Development (517) 353-9555,

MSU SPDC Landscape Architecture Student Design Studio

In the second and third years of the initiative, the MSU LAD classes are developing design projects at key nodes and/or sites along the Michigan Ave./Grand River Ave. Corridor to further refine recommendations and create case examples for use in the Corridor Design Portfolio. There will be a focus on site feasibility and reuse plans, and strong stakeholder engagement. 

Contact for this project:
Paul Nieratko, SPDC Landscape Architecture Program (517) 353-7883,

Sustainability Audit Tool and Local Official Training

To build on the Michigan Ave./Grand River Ave. Corridor component of the project, the American Citizen Planner (ACP) will conduct community-specific sustainable and green development training sessions for local elected and appointed officials. Up to four communities will be selected involving up to 12 technical assistance workshops. As part of the local workshops stakeholders will be interviewed on the topic of community design and sustainability. The purpose of the trainings will be to convey best practices for implementing local sustainable communities and green development tools and techniques to help meet the goals of Choices for Our Future. The training programs will share all the information gathered and tools developed with interested citizens and stakeholders along the Corridor and will include an online training component.  The following documents include a draft version of this sub-project's Sustainability Audit Tool and this reports made using this tool for the Village of Webberville and Williamstown Township.

More About the Sustainability Audit Tool:

The Sustainability Audit Tool was developed to assist community planners and leaders in moving their communities towards a more sustainable, or long-lasting and efficient, built environment.  This tool measures metrics, specific qualifications that communities either meet or do not meet, in five sustainability indicators:  (1) livability, (2) governance, (3) environment, (4) community, and (5) economy).  By meeting over 50% of the metrics in a category, the indicator is met.  After completing the tool, the total amount of Yes votes in each indicator are added together, producing a number that either means the community receives a low, medium, or high rating for its sustainability planning.  Additionally, the Village of Webberville and Williamstown Township reports use these results to recommend policies, best practices, and ordinances to make the changes necessary to improve a community's sustainability score.  Consult the introductory sections of the tool for more information.

Contact for this project:
Wayne Beyea, SPDC Urban & Regional Planning Program and American Citizen Planner (517) 432-7600,