Pink Zoning

In quest for street success, Detroit invites architects and planners to tear down zoning red tape

City Terrain Midwest News
(Barbara Eckstein / Flickr)

The City of Detroit has opened its zoning rules to public critique in a quest to remove barriers to developing vibrant commercial districts.

This week, the city launched Pink Zoning Detroit, a call to action for architects, landscape architects, policy analysts, planners, and preservationists to test the city’s zoning and land use codes for red tape–laden areas that hinder development in commercial zones.

The reforms are aimed at stakeholders like small business owners, for example, who find it taxing to navigate cumbersome city bureaucracy for approvals and correct permits. Over the course of six months, three interdisciplinary groups will generate ideas for mixed-use commercial corridors around the city. Those ideas will be tested against Detroit’s zoning laws to find obstacles and help city agencies make reforms that facilitate better commercial space. The teams’ research, design, and analysis will culminate in a series of recommendations next spring, and pilot “pinks zones” to test the modified regulations could be pinpointed by summer 2017.

The project is funded by a $75,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Along with the just-launched initiative to creatively re-use vacant lots, Pink Zoning Detroit hopes to be a model for other cities looking to reform staid land use rules that can impede development. “For us, it’s just kind of crazy that the urban life that we want is actually inhibited or stymied by the very rules that are supposed to enable them to happen,” Maurice Cox, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, told the paper. “We turn this upside down and say: ‘Let’s visualize the reality of this urban life that we want. Let’s look at where our current regulations don’t allow it and let’s just change the rules.’ This process will get us that.”

Cox cited the city’s West Village neighborhood as a real-world ideal: Agnes Street, its commercial spine, is an inviting allée graced by restaurants, shops, and bike parking. Other pink zoning targets are two block chunks of West and East Warren avenues, and a vacant lot at the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and the Dequindre Cut.

Applications for teams are open now through September 16. Prospective applicants may apply here.

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