Getting the Most out of Small Places | Grant Murschel

Being an urban planner, I have a keen interest in community development and real estate investment that is beneficial to people, businesses and the municipalities in which it is located.    While growing up in Freeland, I became interested in community development and city planning when I was in 5th grade.  It was that year that I went with my family to Washington D.C. for the first time.  While doing the standard tour of the nation’s capital, I learned about L’Efant’s Plan for the city of Washington – I was immediately fascinated about how the vision of a city drawn in lines on a map could lay out the streets, buildings and parks that I was able to experience in real life.  To date, I am still captivated by a good city map. 

grant murshel.jpg

Since 5th grade, I have been fortunate to live in many different cities across the country and to visit many different places across the world.  Each time I go someplace new, I take note of the places that draw large crowds of people. 

While in Australia in 2013, I visited the small town of Leura in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.  Leura has a population of just north of 4,500 but it has a great main street with a vast collection of local cafes and retailers.  The energy on the main street was incredible with many different people walking in and out of shops and having food and drinks at coffeehouses and cafes alike.  The surrounding residential neighborhood immediately adjacent to the business district is full of small cottages and other high-valued small-scale residential buildings.  It is a place that has a lot of value in a small area.

While also in Australia, I visited the city of Goulburn which is between Sydney and Canberra.  This city of 22,000 people has an up and coming central business district with small cafes, coffeehouses and local retailers.  Locals were walking about on the streets going from offices to cafes for lunch.  While it didn’t have the quaintness of Leura, its downtown had a very similar function where many locals were able to meet their daily needs within the center part of their city.

Traveling has the ability to expose many of the good and bad things that other societies do when it comes to community development and planning.  Thinking on the Great Lakes Bay Region where I call home, I think a lot of good has been done to foster our communities; however, we have cores of our major communities that remain underdeveloped and underutilized. 

New attention is being given to redeveloping the cores of Bay City, Saginaw, and Midland but there is still a lot of potential that has yet to be reached.  In these cores, I envision people being able to meet their daily needs within a few blocks.  Similar to Leura and Gouldburn, I see more local merchants opening and meeting the needs of people that live in the immediate areas or are visiting the cores of these cities.

Recognizing the potential of the cores, I jumped at the opportunity to join INFUSE.  INFUSE is a group that is working to encourage development that focuses on the cores of our communities.  The group recognizes that like a human body, we are only as strong as our cores.  The Great Lakes Bay Region’s ability to attract and retain talent, foster new economic development and sustain the municipal models of our core cities are built on having central business districts that are valuable and full of energy.  I am confident that INFUSE will be a leader in partnering with communities, business groups and economic development organizations to begin to provide new opportunities for developing the cores of Bay City, Saginaw and Midland.

Wayne Hofmann