Farmington succeeds in crowdfunding campaign to build a new park in the heart of downtown

Word broke on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 5, that the Farmington Downtown Development Authority, or Downtown Farmington, had successfully surpassed its goal of $75,000 in an ongoing crowdfunding campaign, the funds of which will support construction of a new public park in the heart of downtown. The campaign was launched as part of Michigan’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative, a joint effort between the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Municipal League (MML), and Patronicity. As part of the initiative, Downtown Farmington will now receive a $75,000 matching grant from the MEDC in support of the project.

With two days to spare before a Friday, June 7, deadline, Downtown Farmington has not only met their target but far surpassed it. As of press time, the crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $86,000; Downtown Farmington will continue accepting donations until 11:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7, with the funds raised contributing to help build the new public space.

A bicentennial landmark

The intersection of Grand River Avenue and Farmington Road is oft considered the heart of downtown Farmington, its northwest corner punctuated by the Farmington Masonic Temple, a historic site built in 1876. While the first floor of the building once served as City Hall and now hosts the recently opened Blue Hat Coffee, the building’s second floor remains home to the still-active Farmington Masonic Lodge No. 151 all these years later.

Renderings for Masons Corner in downtown Farmington.

The new public space, fittingly called Masons Corner in the crowdfunding campaign, will be built atop the lawn in front of the historic building. Site selection for the new park makes use of a high-profile downtown intersection, transforming the grassy area into a universally accessible public park complete with public art, sculptural swing, outdoor furniture, new trees and landscaping, a fire feature, and more.

It’s a moment to celebrate for a community that is spending the entire year doing just that. 2024 marks the community’s bicentennial, and Downtown Farmington considers Masons Corner a landmark of the year-long celebration commemorating 200 years of Farmington.

“This project is a great example of bringing historic and modern elements together for the benefit of a community,” Dan Gilmartin, CEO and Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League, said when the crowdfunding campaign first launched. “A historic area will now also include modern amenities and a universally accessible design to ensure that everyone can enjoy the space and have the opportunity to foster connections with those around them.”

Renderings for Masons Corner in downtown Farmington.

A universal design

This isn’t the first time Downtown Farmington has successfully leveraged the Public Spaces Community Places initiative to build a new public space downtown. It was just last year when the DDA launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a pocket park atop a former parking lot, successfully crowdfunding more than $75,000 and triggering the corresponding MEDC matching grant. That crowdfunding campaign launched in January 2023, and by November of that same year the community was celebrating the grand opening of Dinan Park.

Launched in 2014, the Public Spaces Community Places initiative has long capped the MEDC matching grant at a maximum of $50,000. But in January 2023, the MEDC and MML added a new option for municipalities and organizations looking to enhance public life in their communities by allowing for a maximum goal of $75,000. That increased amount, however, is reserved for those projects that incorporate and meet the standards of Universal Design and Accessibility, enabling more people to enjoy more public spaces.

Renderings for Masons Corner in downtown Farmington.

The crowdfunding campaign for Dinan Park was the first project to accept the challenge put forth by the initiative’s Universal Design and Accessibility Extension, incorporating those necessary design standards and taking on the stress of raising an additional $25,000. And while communities participating in the program have a 97 percent success rate in their crowdfunding campaigns, $75,000 is a daunting number any way you cut it.

Of the more than 40 placemaking projects to have taken part in the Public Spaces Community Places initiative since the UD Extension launched at the start of 2023, just four have embraced the new program. Downtown Farmington’s Dinan Park and Masons Corner account for two of those four.

As the community has now demonstrated two years in a row, the higher fundraising goal may be daunting, but it’s not insurmountable. And it’s definitely worth it. As first said by Kate Knight, Executive Director of the Farmington DDA, “Farmington built the first universally accessible project through the PCSP UD Extension, with resounding support from more than 300 donors through our Patronicity campaign. The overwhelmingly positive response and the program incentive to consider accessible design make it a best-practice must for designing public space for users of all capacities. We build on that momentum with the strong support of our community, knowing that our recent work has shown that this grant program makes the difference with park users every day.”

Renderings for Masons Corner in downtown Farmington.

A ten year anniversary, too

The success of another UD Extension project also represents a win for the Public Spaces Community Places initiative itself, and this in its tenth year. It was recently announced that representatives from the MEDC, MML, and Patronicity will be touring the state throughout the month of June, visiting placemaking success stories supported by the initiative, stretching from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula and many points between.

The tenth anniversary tour will celebrate the initiative while also the people and places integral to its success. In ten years of Public Spaces Community Places, the program has created nearly 24 million sq. ft. of public space throughout Michigan, with the MEDC contributing more than $12.5 million in matching grants in support of the projects.

“After supporting placemaking across the Mitten for the last 10 years, I can confidently say that Michiganders are the most driven, creative, and community-oriented placemakers in the country," says Mahala Clayton, Public Spaces Community Places Program Director. "From makerspaces that support entrepreneurs, to nature playscapes that transform concrete urban landscapes, to universally accessible playing fields that redefine what public accessibility means, the impact of Public Spaces Community Places can be seen from our smallest towns to our major cities.”
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