Detroit City Future plan lays out 50-year vision; but what are key elements of a successful plan?

Planning is critical to development. It answers the how, why, what, when and how much questions of community and economic development. However, what are the key elements that allow some plans to be successful.

Developing an effective plan is the first step in urban redevelopment. These plans take the form of community master plans, sub-area plans, corridor plans, etc. They answer the critical questions that define how development occurs. Good ones propose viable coordinated development. However, some plans get implemented while others do not, which begs the question. Why?

The City of Detroit has just completed the Detroit Future City plan. The development of the plan started in 2010. Its development involved local and non-local consultants, was financed using a variety of foundation funding. The steering committee was made up of 16 representatives from government, area foundations, and the private sector. The community engagement portion of the plan included more than 30,000 conversations. The plan included an extensive evaluation of data on the City of Detroit.

The overall plan has a timeline of 50 years and proposes a comprehensive strategy for a sustainable Detroit. The Kresge Foundation has committed $150 million to the plan.

So, what are the chances that this plan will be implemented?

As a Michigan State University Extension educator with several years of planning experience I’ve seen many good and poor plans. But Detroit’s plan has many of the foundational elements of an excellent plan. It utilized a comprehensive community engagement portion that attempted to reach a wide variety of citizens and stakeholders. Secondly, it used a variety of professional consultants with extensive experience in plan development. Thirdly, the plan used a great deal of data to accurately analyze the City of Detroit’s current situation. Fourthly, the plan has capital, people and resources to assist in the implementation.

 All these elements should help make the plan a success. And a successful plan will be a plan that is reviewed and modified as conditions change, a plan that will see some elements developed and others potentially modified and changed as needed. So, the real answer is the plan is only a good start.

If the investment of capital (people as well as financial resources) remains and the momentum and commitment to its implementation continues, then there is a good chance that some portions of the plan will be adopted. The key element will be the ability of the plan to become integrated in Detroit’s master plan, zoning code, capital improvement plan and other critical development documents that define the physical and social form of the city.

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