Focus Areas

LPI Focus Areas Graphic

At the core of the Land Policy Institute’s work have been the focus areas of Placemaking & Regional Prosperity, Land & Planning and Land-Based Resources. All four areas are integrated within the context of Sustainable Community Development. Because sustainability is a multifaceted concept requiring the collaboration of many disciplines, the four focus areas have considerable overlap. The figure shows examples of issues that could be examined within each focus area, and at the juxtaposition of two focus areas. These issues provide tremendous opportunity for multi-disciplinary faculty teams to exhibit excellence and accomplishment and to have real societal impact. The four focus areas all have a strong land connection, and may be examined at different scales (e.g., site-specific, local, regional, state, national and international).

Placemaking and Regional Policy

There is a growing understanding among academics and policy makers that the role of “place” in economic development is changing. In the Old Economy, places with high economic potential included those places exhibiting the physical resources and infrastructure, and potentially tax incentives, to attract large companies. In the New Economy, however, economic growth is driven more by human capital, particularly “knowledge workers,” who are highly mobile and can locate anywhere. These talented individuals are looking for places that are vibrant (nightlife, arts and culture, diversity), connected (walkable, bikable, transit-oriented), green (parks, trails, energy efficiency) and entrepreneur friendly. Also, because the economies of communities within a region are interdependent, regional collaboration and the pursuit of common visions is necessary to achieve effective placemaking. Activities within this focus area seek to help communities better understand the role of place in regional prosperity, and identify policies and programs that support this transformation.

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Land & Planning

The ways in which we use our land and the ways that we plan for future land use potential have a tremendous impact on the quality of life and the sustainability of our communities. The Michigan state government has enabled local jurisdictions with the authority to plan for their communities and has provided statutory authority to ensure that planning and zoning create fair, safe and complementary land use practices. Michigan’s 14 regional planning commissions provide additional support to local jurisdictions and framework plans for region-wide growth. Local jurisdictions have the responsibility to develop master plans and zoning ordinances for their communities; therefore, they often have a need for education and information on the connection between land use and economic growth, changes in state regulations and innovative tools for addressing land use problems. Sustainable development is a concept that is not yet widely known, understood or the focus of local planning efforts. The LPI Planning & Zoning Center will continue to work with internal and external partners to help communities better plan for sustainable development and future prosperity.

Related Programs/Initiatives

Land-Based Resources

Michigan has an abundance of land- and water-based resources—such as forests, lakes and rivers, agricultural land, minerals, and scenic and recreation land—which contribute significantly to the state’s economy through the wood product, agriculture, mining and tourism industries. In fact, many of the assets upon which Michigan’s rural economy can be rebuilt are associated with its high-quality natural systems. With ten years of economic decline, the pressure on these lands due to low-density greenfield development has been drastically reduced. In this way, the recession actually provided Michigan communities with the opportunity to plan for future growth in ways that capitalize on land-based assets without compromising them. Better understanding the contributions of land-based resources to economic growth through LPI’s impact analyses can enhance regional prosperity strategies. In this focus area, the Institute will work with faculty with expertise in forestry, land conservation, mining, water, tourism and, to a lesser extent, agriculture in order to leverage these assets for sustainable development.

Related Programs/Initiatives