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A collage of photos highlight mural artists painting in Jackson, MI.

Public Spaces Community Places

One of the most powerful and prolific tools for placemaking in Michigan is the Public Spaces Community Places (PSCP) program. Learn how the program has grown and trends in the projects it funds.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published by the Michigan Municipal League (MML) in the May/June 2023 issue of The Review under The Lab Report featuring ideas, initiatives, and activities from the League's Policy Research Labs. We are proud to partner with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and MML on the Public Spaces Community Places program, building vibrant communities across Michigan.

One of the most powerful and prolific tools for placemaking in Michigan is the Public Spaces Community Places (PSCP) program. Created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2014 in collaboration with the League and the web-based donation platform Patronicity, PSCP innovatively leveraged state agency investment to double the money of local crowdfunding campaigns through a process coined crowdgranting.

“Crowdgranting” combines crowdfunding—the practice of funding a project or venture through small donations from a large number of people, typically online—with a reward-based sponsor matching grant.

At the end of the 2022 calendar year
• $12,577,052 crowdfunded
• $10,889,568 matched
• 335 projects
• 59,193 patrons

Learn more about the program in the Public Spaces Community Places Annual Report 2022.

It was the first program of its kind in the country. And it revolutionized public space projects across Michigan. This past year, PSCP hit a major milestone. It has now awarded $10 million in matching funds to more than 300 projects across the State of Michigan.

I recently sat down with Paula Holtz of the MEDC and Mahala Clayton of Patronicity, to talk about their 97 percent success rate and the program’s extraordinary ability to instill community pride as residents make real-time donations and become directly invested in their surroundings. We reflected
on its impact from the Copper Country Curling Club in Calumet to an off-leash dog park in Detroit, in bringing food trucks to Flint and splashes of color to Jackson, and many places in between.

MMP: It’s been nearly a decade since this program was founded and the program is well-known. Thinking back to the beginning of this program,
what inspired its creation?

PH: This concept was borne out of the 2008 recession, when it was difficult for anyone to secure capital. There was a lot of buzz around that time over local investing, then our leadership teams took it to the next level to use this newly legislated tool to invest in public spaces. PSCP got traction because it allows people to feel part of a project. They can kick in a few dollars—or even a few thousand—to help make a new public space in their community a reality.

MC: We really pride ourselves on flexibility to try and fund projects that are meaningful within each community. Criteria is the activation of public space and patron support. A relatively new development is that this program is now accessible to Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies (L3C). This form of social enterprise is a great fit for PSCP projects. They straddle the space between nonprofits and for-profits in a self-sustaining structure to achieve a social mission.

MMP: What are some of the unexpected outcomes of the PSCP program?

PH: For me, it’s the reach; we’ve done projects in villages with a population as small as 291 people, all the way up to cities with populations well over 600,000. We have seen the success of placemaking projects from volunteer-led groups with three to four active members to larger foundations with over 20 members. Access regardless of income is also huge. Eighty-four percent of all 2022 PSCP projects took place in communities where the Median Household Income was below the state’s Median Household Income. It’s also the amazing partnership we have with MML and with Patronicity, keeping ideas fresh.

MC: MEDC has driven a constant state of innovation. They have kept a finger on the pulse of what local places need and pivoted to respond to shifting desires to increase inclusion and equitable access. For example, the recent refocus toward universal design has opened up public spaces to many more Michiganders.

MMP: What’s popular lately? What kind of projects do you wish would be submitted?

PH: Common trends are mural projects, parks and trails, and the latest craze: pickleball courts! Just because it’s a common trend, though, doesn’t mean it’s any less impactful for the community that’s building this new amenity. We have made a conscious effort this year to ensure the public spaces being funded via PSCP are designed to be available and accessible to the broadest group of community members possible. We have partnered with Disability Networks MI to assist us in identifying opportunities for these popular public spaces to be most accessible. They will provide a review of a PSCP project and if they provide a support letter, PSCP will offer an additional (up to) $25,000 match for new public space projects that are “universally designed.” This is in addition to the maximum $50,000 match provided for the activation of new public spaces.

MC: We want to see universal design the standard, either in new space creation or in making beloved places more accessible. There’s so much we can do to design public spaces more creatively.

She also points out that this mindset is where the placemaking realm headed. To be more inclusive for everyone, universal design increases enjoyment for more Michiganders, regardless of ability. I don’t know that we can call places truly public if they aren’t accessible to everyone.

These campaigns are successful because they are community-led, not MEDC-prescribed. For more information on the history of crowdfunding in Michigan, check out the Community Investment, Community Growth report at

The program will now also be available to existing public spaces that are upgrading with universal design elements—applicants can request up to a $50,000 1:1 match to make these spaces more accessible to all. To qualify for the funding applicants must obtain an accessibility/universal design review of their project from an organization representing people with disabilities.

MMP: Where do you see this program going? What’s your predictions for future trends?

PH: We consistently spend down every dollar. Each year, our goal is to run out of money, demonstrate demand, and prove the continued need for this program in making great places in Michigan. We hope it will keep going strong.

MC: We have high hopes this program will only continue to grow. It’s open to all Michigan communities. There’s a lot of emerging opportunity for placemaking in rural areas. This program is an attainable tool that people can use in even the smallest of communities, and they are met with
resounding success and public support.