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Go Places Event is Going Places

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Do you love where you live? Do you live in a city that WANTS your input in making it a great place to live?

That city is Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I recently attended the Go Places event at the Radisson in downtown Kalamazoo and heard that message loud and clear. Event organizer Becky Fulgoni and guest speaker Susan Silberberg led the presentation of a compelling case for placemaking and what it means for Kalamazoo. By re-imagining public spaces, individuals and groups are inspired to transform underutilized areas and create new locations for people to connect and share a deeper sense of community.

"Placemaking," said Silberberg "transforms places and transforms communities. And the table is open to anyone who dreams, listens collaborates, compromises, shares, creates, and ACTS. Anyone can take authority by moving forward. Today you can become a maker of a place not a consumer of a place."

And the best part about that is that she really means it - and so does the City of Kalamazoo and its partners in the work.

"The Go Places placemaking seminar was all about creating an even better community," said Jeff Chamberlain, Kalamazoo Deputy City Manager. "Small, local projects can have an immediate impact on a block or a neighborhood and they are what we need to focus on. Getting people involved, creating inviting spaces and making exciting events can all be done with minimal cost and done quickly.

"It's all about doing something positive for our communities-fewer meetings, less talking, and more doing. Small changes can have big impacts when local people get involved."

I was struck by the unique opportunities that were extended to the 150 people in attendance at the event to get involved. In particular, invitations were extended to grass roots volunteers to join in the work of placemaking projects like the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail (KRVT). Chris Tracy with Friends of the KRVT shared the need for volunteers to help in the work of programming events for the trail for the upcoming year. And Kelly Clarke put out an appeal for volunteers to help in multiple aspects of the Kalamazoo County Landbank's Riverview Launch project.

To provide some background information, the Riverview Launch project is focused on six acres on the Kalamazoo River which once held a vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed, blighted, commercial structure on an underutilized portion of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. When fully developed, it will include a renovated historic barn as a gathering center, office and meeting spaces, a renovated greenhouse, and much more. The project was developed through a series of listening sessions with community stakeholders. Stakeholders and community representatives alike supported re-purposing the space as a vibrant, active hub for activity, youth programs, and enjoyment. Community leaders and residents called for sustainable approaches to redevelopment including restoration of areas with native plantings, green building design, and permeable site surfaces where possible.

While the work is well underway, Kelly Clarke stressed the need for additional volunteers to join them in their work and said, "Volunteers can be used on site to help us transform the great community space. We need their ideas, their hands to dig and construct, funding leads, transformative suggestions and programming ideas. We need their help in envisioning what we can do with the space now that we have it. It's a wonderful outdoor space for programming needs."

For more information on the Riverview Launch project and how you can get involved, go to www.riverviewlaunch.com.

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