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2024: MSU Urban and Regional Planning Practicum Course

Student-led, Faculty-Guided Projects - 2024 (Practicum Projects)

Authors: Dr. Kotval and Community Partners


Below is the summary of the six SLFG projects.

Lady Bug Center at Churchill Gardens:

The Ladybug Center at Churchill Gardens in Lansing, MI, aims to transform into a regenerative development, addressing environmental challenges exacerbated by Michigan's automotive industry. This project aims to go beyond sustainability by actively eliminating carbon and achieving a net-zero future. Focused on regenerative agriculture and housing, the community project aims to improve soil health, reduce waste, mitigate climate change, and enhance economic and social well-being. The proposed development includes single-family homes, apartments, retail space, a farm, and community gardens, designed in an ecovillage format on 8-12 acres in southwest Lansing. The project aims to measure its impact through quantifiable carbon credits and compliance with climate action project standards.

The City of Flint: Building Upon the Existing Neighborhood Plan with Particular Focus on Economic Development and Identified Historic Business Corridors:

The City of Flint adopted the Imagine Flint Master Plan in 2013, which led to the development of neighborhood plans in subsequent years. One such plan was for the Civic Park Neighborhood (2019), home to the historic Civic Park subdivision, recognized as one of the first planned subdivisions in America. Originally established for plant workers in Flint, the neighborhood experienced a rapid decline following the closure of the automotive industry and the subsequent departure of workers from the area. This study aims to build upon the existing neighborhood plan, particularly focusing on economic development and identifying historic business corridors. The goal is to delve deeper, update, and envision how these plans can be brought to fruition. Vacant corridors within the Flint community present untapped opportunities for transformation. These corridors offer significant potential for development. Thus, this study aims to create a welcoming and attractive space that can benefit both residents and local businesses in the Flint area.

St. Johns North Gateway Project:

The North Gateway Project Goal is to embark on a catalytic project by which momentum can be brought to this site via creative ways to honor the history of this region, provide visionary ways to redevelop this property via mixed uses of housing and retail/commercial spaces, and gain support for line-item funding for blight elimination/demolition of all or some of the remaining silos on this site.

City of Utica: Downtown Sub-Area Plan Proposal:

The City of Utica, a small community in west-central Macomb County, faces unique development challenges, including brownfield sites and a lack of cohesive development along Auburn Road. In collaboration with the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, Utica is launching a comprehensive effort involving local government, community organizations, businesses, and residents. The focus is on completing a Comprehensive Master Plan update and creating a sub-area plan for the Downtown District to address issues such as vacant parcels, automotive and industrial uses, and empty storefronts. The primary goal is to enhance the overall quality of life, economic vitality, and attractiveness of the downtown area, with considerations for the potential relocation of municipal buildings to facilitate mixed-use development.

2024 Master Plan Update, East Lansing:

As part of the planned 2024 Master Plan update, the City of East Lansing seeks to engage all members of the community, including MSU students living on- and off-campus. The objective is to design and implement an engagement strategy to accomplish this goal.

MorningSide Neighborhood on Detroit’s East Side:

The MorningSide neighborhood on Detroit’s east side is well positioned to receive significant funding to upgrade its aging single-family housing stock. To receive such funding, a professional analysis of current housing conditions and needs is required. Three area nonprofit organizations, U-SNAP-BAC Nonprofit Housing Corporation, Habitat for Humanity Detroit and the MorningSide Community Organization have joined forces to request assistance from MSU students in the Urban and Regional Planning Program. 

Exterior building conditions of vacant and occupied houses across the 190-block neighborhood can be surveyed and compared to previous condition studies such as the Detroit  Residential Parcel Survey. Interior home repair needs can be estimated through resident interviews (random sampling), email questionnaires and focus groups.

Author Information


Dr. Zenia Kotval is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). She is also a Fulbright Scholar and a former Lilly Teaching Fellow. Kotval served as a member of the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) and an ex-officio member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Governing Board from 2016-2021. As a professor and program director of the Urban & Regional Planning Program in the School of Planning, Design and Construction, she regularly teaches courses in economic development and planning practicum. Kotval’s scholarship interests are in community-based development, economic policy and planning, the changing structure and characteristics of local economies, and the impacts of community development strategies. With a strong, structured research, teaching and engagement agenda, she focuses on linking theory and practice with a special emphasis on local economic development, industrial restructuring and urban revitalization. As director of MSU Extension’s Urban Collaborators, Kotval’s service continues to be dedicated to making academic and professional expertise available to meet the needs of Michigan’s core cities. Throughout her years at MSU, she has integrated the world scale and the land grant mission into her scholarship. Kotval is an internationally recognized expert on economic development and community engagement, speaking frequently at national and international venues.