The Project for Code Reform

Coding solutions that enable great places

  • Expanding options for a car-oriented suburban area
    <strong>Village of Providence</strong> <em>Huntsville, AL</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • From parking lot to urban tour-de-force
    <strong>UCLA Weyburn</strong>&nbsp;<em>Los Angeles, California</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • Mercado District | Tucson, Arizona
    A timeless place from the ground up. #thisiscnu

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • A unique building becomes a hub for historic neighborhoods
    <strong>Ponce City Market</strong> <em>Atlanta, GA</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • Historic arcade houses young professionals
    <strong>Microlofts at The Arcade Providence</strong>&nbsp;<em>Providence, Rhode Island</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • Southside
    Ten acres that transformed a city #thisiscnu

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • Crosstown_Concourse_2018_Charter_LooneyRicksKiss
    From former warehouse to "vertical village"
    <strong>Crosstown Concourse</strong>&nbsp; <em>Memphis, Tennessee</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • Jazz Market New Orleans Audience Seating
    Jazz Market New Orleans Audience Seating
    Trumpeting a cultural revival
    <strong>Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market</strong>&nbsp; <em>New Orleans, Louisiana</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

  • A mixed-use center for town and gown
    <strong>Storrs Center</strong> <em>Mansfield, CT</em>

    Build Great Places / #thisiscnu

Why aren’t more cities implementing placemaking strategies, which are proven to expand economic activity, increase mobility, protect the environment, and create more equitable places?

In many cases, it’s because a municipality’s zoning codes and ordinances make it illegal to create the type of vibrant communities that support jobs, foster economic development, and are attractive places for people to live, work, and play that residents and local leaders are seeking.

The challenge before the placemaking movement now is how to bring coding innovations and changes to the 42,000 units of local government with zoning authority. To date, a limited number of cities have updated their codes, creating inequities between cities and towns with—and without—resources to update their zoning codes to create the foundation for diverse, vibrant places.

CNU’s Project for Code Reform seeks to streamline the code reform process by providing local governments place-specific incremental coding changes that address the most problematic barriers first, build political will, and ultimately create more walkable, prosperous, and equitable places. We do this work in a way that meets planners, mayors, and planning commissioners where they are: politically, financially, and administratively. The Project's incremental approach enables jurisdictions to set their own pace for code changes, allowing them to prioritize their coding efforts, respond to the community’s vision and needs, and facilitate greater community learning and understanding.

In partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Municipal League, as well as the AARP Livable Communities program and the Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association, and with generous support from the Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame for Contributions to the Public Realm and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, CNU is proud to have developed Enabling Better Places: Users’ Guide to Zoning Reform.  The Guide responds to the common conditions found in towns and small cities, simplifying the challenge of changing zoning in order to empower better downtowns, main streets, and their adjacent neighborhoods.  

The Project for Code Reform has completely changed our expectations of what Michigan's local governments can do to reshape their zoning and improve their communities. This guide encourages communities to take basic steps in a positive direction, rather than try to leap toward a preconceived outcome or endpoint. That's really valuable when your town or city faces budget and staff constraints.”

Dan Gilmartin, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League

The Guide is written to be adaptable, and CNU offers document customization and implementation training to municipalities, organizations, and groups interested in applying its recommendations to their local context.  The template Sample Zoning Districts found within the Michigan-specific Guide are available for download below in editable format. For more information about the Project or to inquire about implementing the Guide in your state, city, or town, please email

Enabling Better Places is made possible through a partnership with: 
Michigan Economic Development Corporation 
Michigan Municipal League
AARP Livable Communities 
Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association

and with generous support from
Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame for Contributions to the Public Realm 
Michigan State Housing Development Authority