By Ian Perrotta
Hamtramck’s Master Plan is being redone, but not without the most important input of all: yours.
Over the next several months, the Master Plan will undergo a complete revision. An interactive process that teams three corporate firms with the citizens of Hamtramck will rework the chief document governing the city.
The first meeting to revise the City of Hamtramck Master Plan was held last Monday at the Hamtramck Public Library. It was there that Community & Economic Development Director Jason Friedmann explained the significance of the project and introduced the team of consultants.
Unlike typical Master Plan revisions that only look at projecting land use and a city’s infrastructure, he said this plan would implement an Arts and Culture Plan and Parks and Recreation Plan, among others. It would also seek to change the economic development strategy of Hamtramck, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of existing businesses in order to find opportunity to improve.
And because of Gov. Granholm’s revitalization efforts for cities in Michigan, the process that is usually done by well-intentioned but sometimes misguided amateurs will be handled by neutral professionals familiar with the obstacles of urban redevelopment.
“We are fortunate to be part of the City’s of Promise [Initiative],” said Freidmann. “A significant part of the Master Plan is being paid for by the State of Michigan.”
The three companies helping with the process bring expertise in various fields. Philadelphia-based Interface Studio specializes in urban design and planning. Sam Schwartz Engineering, with offices throughout the United States, concentrates on land strategies and transportation planning. Anderson Economic Group, from East Lansing, engages in market research and economic development. Together they will be able to unify the strategy to ensure success and results.
“One of the best things a Master Plan can do is to organize and coordinate the efforts of a city in order to make them more effective,” said Scott Page, Principal of Interface Studio. “Public involvement is absolutely critical.”
So how does the process of creating a new Master Plan work?
Leah Murphy, also of Interface Studio, explained that there are three key elements. Public outreach, an assessment of existing conditions and actual plan development, and the execution of the plan are all components of a successful Master Plan re-write, she said.
By reaching out to the public, practical, rather than idealistic, changes can be made to the Master Plan. The input of Hamtramck’s inhabitants allows the city’s distinct characteristics to be considered in ways that only residents can articulate.
Additionally, the new plan will be also be derived from more concrete analyses, like data studies of traffic and pedestrian patterns. That information will then be used to complement the ideas generated by the public outreach campaign. This will allow the concerns of the citizen to be considered by a professional.
Moreover, past studies of Hamtramck will be examined to create a more complete understanding of the city. That means things like this summer’s survey will work in conjunction with the rewrite instead of against it.
In fact, the plan will likely build on the assessments made by walkability expert Dan Burden. Mark de la Vergne of Sam Schwartz Engineering said that Hamtramck is unique because it is very walkable, and that any plans they make will stress a balanced-street interface.
“We want to make it so streets can be used by all users,” he said, “not just cars.”
Another unique thing about Hamtramck involves the actual Master Plan itself. Unlike most Master Plans, Hamtramck’s will also be directed toward sustainable economic development. According to Scott Watkins, a Senior Consultant for Anderson Economic Group, about 95 percent of Master Plans created are strictly land-use oriented.
“The city is to be commended for including economic development in the Master Plan,” he said. “We want to put together a plan that Hamtramck can carry out, regardless of what happens in Detroit, Wayne County, or Michigan.”
Throughout the next few months there will be several meetings for the public to voice their concerns. In the meantime, the consultant team is meeting with many of the local organizations that already play a pivotal role in shaping Hamtramck’s direction. In January, once a substantial amount of information and input has been compiled, the plan will be drafted. After undergoing a few revisions, the final version should be ready sometime in March.
The last stage of the plan is to begin the changes with short-term projects that can be completed relatively quickly and easily. This will help ensure the momentum built during the planning process endures.
“We are very committed to making sure the plan moves forward once we are gone,” said Page. “It would be a disservice to create a plan that could not be realistically accomplished.”
The project will cost $104,000, out of which the city will pay $14,000.
If you would like to participate in the planning process, there are several ways to get involved. There will soon be kiosks around town to keep citizens informed and to make suggestions for the plan. You can also join the Fan Page on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/hamtramckmasterplan. And the most effective way to make an impact is to attend the Master Plan workshops.