Crowdfunding enters realm of placemaking
Public space projects will receive MEDC grants if community funding goals are met.
Would public art or a new park make Grand Rapids a more attractive place to live and work?
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. thinks so.
The MEDC, Michigan Municipal League and Patronicity, a Michigan-based crowdfunding platform, have teamed to launch the Public Spaces Community Places program to support neighborhood placemaking projects around the state.
The program will award grants to public space projects that are able to raise a certain amount of their funding through crowdfunding campaigns.
“What we are trying to do is help enable residents and community stakeholders to support projects such as public spaces and community places in their community,” said Katharine Czarnecki, MEDC director of community development. “Our intent is to help leverage projects by having that local participation and buy-in.”
Beginning July 9, communities, nonprofits and other business entities will be able to submit crowdfunding campaigns for public space projects at crowdfundingmi.comfor consideration.
The website is a one-stop-shop for all crowdfunding opportunities pertaining specifically to Michigan businesses, investors and communities. It provides resources, how-to information and links to crowdfunding resources, including Patronicity’s website, where project applications will actually be submitted.
Every two weeks a committee comprised of MEDC, Michigan Municipal League and Patronicity employees will review the applications. Projects will be selected based on a number of factors including overall community impact and local financial commitment.
Czarneckisaid the committee is particularly looking for projects that already have established public awareness and momentum.
Projects that are selected will go on to the crowdfunding round, and will have up to 45 days to meet their fundraising goal.
The MEDC is offering up to $100,000 in matching grants to projects that achieve their crowdfunding goal.
“We have $720,000 currently available and we are going to leave it as an open round until we spend all of the money,” Czarnecki said. “If this first round is successful, we are hoping that we will have additional funding at a later date.”
Projects can be any size, but the total project cost must be at least $10,000 to be considered for the matching grant.
Midtown Detroit Inc.’s Green Alley Project was selected to serve as a pilot project and its $50,000 crowdfunding campaign is underway. The campaign can be viewed at patronicity.com/project/greenalley.
The project seeks to transform an often-traversed 415-foot alleyway in Midtown Detroit through enhancements that include a new design to promote walkability and community connectivity, and green infrastructure upgrades to reduce the storm-water burden on the city’s combined sewer system.
“We wanted to roll out the pilot project and have other communities be able to watch and see what happens, and see how an actual campaign is set up,” Czarnecki said.
The crowdfunding campaign is being used to gain the final funding needed for the $200,000 total project cost, which has already secured a $100,000 grant from Detroit-based business Shinola.
If the project meets its crowdfunding goal, MEDC will provide a matching grant of $50,000.
The MEDC has long been committed to placemaking as a way to attract and retain talent in Michigan communities. The organization previously has provided grants for farmers markets, food trucks and other community-focused projects.
Czarnecki said one challenge from those grant-funding rounds was the requirement that municipalities put up a match.
“With all of the struggles communities have financially, sometimes we weren’t getting the best projects, or communities didn’t have a 50 percent match,” she said. “Now, we are allowing the community to go out to their residents to help buy into those projects.”
Czarnecki said as far as she knows, this is the first crowdfunding program of its kind in the country.
“In community development we are really working hard to help Michigan communities help themselves become a really great and attractive place for talent,” she said.
“If Michigan has places that are attractive, we believe it will help grow not only our existing companies but help attract new companies and attract additional talent we want to attract and retain.”