Posts tagged with "Detroit":

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Detroit Design Festival announces events schedule

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) has announced the schedule for the sixth-annual Detroit Design Festival (DDF). Entitled “Designing Detroit’s Future,” this year’s festival will highlight the city’s recent designation as a UNESCO City of Design. One of 22 cities named City of Design, Detroit is the only U.S. city with this designation, bestowed last December. “We are thrilled to host the Detroit Design Festival celebrating our new designation, Detroit City of Design,” said Melinda Anderson, DDF Creative Director. “[the festival] will also incorporate a new Design Summit where local and international leaders will help us further embrace and promote the design strength that resides in Detroit.” The five-day festival, open from September 21 to 25, will span across the city with installations, talks, and interactive events. Before the full festival, though, a UNESCO City of Design event will be held on September 8. This will include a design crawl through some of the city’s many design studios. The full festival will include discussions and lectures at University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan, and Lawrence Technological University, as well as nightly performances throughout the city. Daylong workshops and demonstrations will also be happening each day of the festival. Wayne State University and the Museum of Contemporary Art will be hosting events and installations, while corporate sponsors Lear, Chrysler, and Ford will also host events throughout the week. Detroit Creative Corridor Center, the festival's presenting sponsor, is a partnership between Business Leaders for Michigan and College for Creative Studies. The mission of DC3 is to encourage economic development through Detroit’s creative sector. Since its inception, the Detroit Design Festival has hosted more than 500 design events in over 150 venues throughout the city. More than 100,000 attendees have engaged with fashion shows, lectures, installations, and exhibitions. For more on the Detroit Design Festival, visit their website.
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What role should architects and outsiders have in reimagining Detroit?

There is often a barrier to entry when it comes to talking about Detroit. No matter how empathetically one approaches the subject, there is the distinct possibility of being accused of insensitivity. Detroit has been through, and continues to go through, some of the most difficult urban issues in the country. And, naturally, many Detroiters are downright tired of outsiders coming in and proposing “solutions” to the city’s ills. So when it was announced that the United States Pavilion for the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale would focus on the city, it was not surprising that some would take issue.

The United States Pavilion is explicitly about Detroit. The pavilion is organized by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and curated by Mónica Ponce de León, former dean at Michigan and current dean at Princeton University, and Cynthia Davidson, editor of the journal Log. Titled the Architectural Imagination, the two curators charged 12 design firms to speculate on four sites throughout Detroit—the former Packard Automotive Plant, the U.S. Post Office on Fort Street, and city-owned sites in Mexicantown and the Dequindre Cut. The firms range from lesser-known talent to well-known names like Stan Allen and Greg Lynn. All firms were given free rein to imagine what program and form should go on their sites. They met with city and community representatives to discuss their projects and gain a better understanding of the sites. Overall, the exhibition is fairly typical of what one might expect to see in a show about architecture, with large models and drawings filling the pavilion. (See our review of the pavilion and de León and Davidson's response.)

Before the exhibition opened, well before any of the designs were revealed, criticism was leveled against the show. Most notably this critique came from a group called Detroit Resists. Remaining anonymous, Detroit Resists released a statement linking architecture, and the institutions that generally support building, to some of the systemic issues that plague Detroit: mass water shutoffs, evictions, gentrification, and spatial racism. The group accused the organizers, and indirectly the participating firms, of political indifference.

And Detroit Resists was far from alone in its skepticism, if not in its fervor. The conversation of Detroit and its relationship to contemporary design and architecture is a popular one. The U.S. Pavilion is not the first, and will not be the last, to speculate on Detroit. The general criticism of any design proposals produced for the city is that the egoism of the designers and their lack of connection to the city mean that they could not possibly contribute to the betterment of the people of Detroit.

One could not have a conversation about the possible designs without also having a conversation about whether it was even appropriate to talk about architecture and Detroit together. Just weeks before the Biennale opening, New York’s New Museum hosted a weeklong workshop titled Ideas City in Detroit. The workshop brought together Detroiters, other Americans, and international designers and architects to discuss and think about the city. Similarly, the U.S. Pavilion participants engaged the community in conversations throughout the design process. A great deal of the conversation in that week, and in the concluding public forum, revolved around the role of outsiders in the reimagining of Detroit. Ideas City made very few proposals for the city, though. Instead, it reserved most of its actions to discussion and listening. By most accounts—from Detroiters and others—the event was productive.

Yet the skepticism of the U.S. Pavilion is not what is at issue. Rather, it is the preemptive cynicism and dismissive posture that came with that skepticism. To say that architecture, from within or from without Detroit, is inherently a negative for the city, is to negate any possibility of it being anything else. Having a serious conversation about architectural ideas means admitting that Detroit is not a war-torn wasteland, because it isn’t, and engaging with architects means accepting Detroiters as urbanites as much as any other city dwellers.

Now that the pavilion is open, we are able to look at the projects and judge whether they are doing the harm of which they have been accused. Proposals range from complex abstractions of information gathered from the community to complex postindustrial tech complexes. Others take on community gathering spaces, and yet others reimagine infrastructural amenities, such as urban farm space and material reclamation. Now is the time to carefully read the projects and decide whether they live down to the allegations of cultural insensitivity that were laid against them.

Detroit, like all cities, is inseparably linked with architecture, old and new. No matter how badly, or well, things are going, architecture is part of the city-making conversation. It will never heal the ills of any city. It is not a solution or a means to specific ends. Yet to dismiss the possibility of architecture is to close the conversation on the built environment. And though it is naive to think that architecture won’t be used for nefarious purposes, it is cynical to think that it has to be used as such. Where exactly it fits into improving the postindustrial city, or the racially segregated city, is still unclear. But there are people working on it.

The U.S. Pavilion, The Architectural Imagination, will be open from May 28 through November 27 at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. More information on Detroit Resists can be found at detroitresists.org

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

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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Redevelopment may finally begin at Detroit’s Packard plant

Redevelopment of Detroit's long vacant Packard Plant my finally begin this September. The 40-acre site, located on Detroit’s east side, is owned by Spanish developer Fernando Palazuelo’s company, Arte Express Detroit. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the 10- to 15-year multi-phase development hinges on the City Council passing a tax-freeze plan for the site. The tax freeze would prevent property taxes from going up for the property for the next 12 years if approved. The City Council is expected to vote on the measure the in early September, after their summer recess. The first phase of the redevelopment is targeted at the former Packard corporate offices. The 20,480-sqaure-foot building at the north end of the complex would be restored to office space for small firms and a job training center for Arte Express Detroit. Arte Express has secured the estimated $12 million for the project and is ready to begin if the tax-freeze passes the city. The second phase of the project is planned to be a recreational complex. The third phase includes redeveloping a five-story building into live-work spaces, art galleries, and a restaurant. Phase four will involve a collaboration with Dimitri Hegemann, owner of famed Berlin nightclub Tresor. The redevelopment will be in a seven-story building, and include a nightclub on the lower floors, a restaurant, a hostel, and a spa. The entire development is expected to cost nearly $500 million. It would represent one of the largest developments in Detroit in decades. Palazuelo bought the 3,500,000-square-foot plant in 2013 for $405,000. After Packard closed down in 1958, it slowly vacated until the complex was completely empty in 2010. Vandals and scrappers have left the buildings in decrepit condition. Recent years have seen the site used by movie and television productions for post-apocalyptic backdrops. The Packard plant has often been the site of architectural speculation. Recently it was one of the four sites picked by the U.S. Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Teams presented projects that ranged from urban farms and innovation centers, to a construction materials recycling center.
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Detroit releases RFP to redevelop hundreds of vacant lots

The City of Detroit is working to rehabilitate 100 vacant houses and 257 empty lots in northwest Detroit. The Housing and Redevelopment Department has issued two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in order to find developers for the sites. One of the RFPs, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, targets the 100 houses. The other, a Productive Landscape Development RFP, seeks landscape development options for the 257 lots. Suggested programs for the empty lots include community gardens, orchards, meadows, and space for urban agriculture. Park and green space developed by the RFP will be maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department. Landscape architecture firm Spackman Mossop and Michaels (SMM) worked with the city and the community to outline a framework to develop new productive landscape projects. The SMM plan outlines three phases to the landscape redevelopment: Vacant parcels will be converted into a public greenway and neighborhood park that will be redeveloped and maintained by the City and “Neighborhood Hubs,” smaller social spaces maintained in partnership with the community; larger clusters of vacant lots that can be redeveloped into productive landscapes, whether for crop production, orchards, or other uses to be proposed through this Productive Landscape Development RFP; and individual and highly dispersed parcels that can be redeveloped into lower-maintenance meadows through the Housing Developer RFP, or for compelling proposals, could be developed by the Productive Landscape Developer of Development Team. Aside from the parcels in the first category which will remain publicly held, the framework plan allows flexibility. The Housing Rehabilitation RFP focuses on rehabilitating “salvageable, publicly-owned structures.” Houses that are beyond repair will be demolished. The lots left behind will either be transformed into low-maintenance landscapes, or they will be attached to neighboring redeveloped houses. The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project is part of the larger Livernois/McNichols Corridor Revitalization Initiative.  The initiative aims to transform northwest Detroit through coordinated projects addressing physical social and economic concerns. The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project represents one quarter square mile of that larger plan. Detroit recently demolished its 10,000 vacant house in front of the press and public. At that event Mayor Mike Duggan commented on 2,000 houses are currently being renovated in the city. Jason Cole, Executive Director Michigan Minority Contractors Association also discussed plans to rehabilitate 1,000 more houses.
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Wayne State University breaks ground on new business school

Detroit’s Wayne State University has broken ground on the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The new building was designed by Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR, and is named after the Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch. The school will be part of The District Detroit, a multi-block entertainment district which includes the under-construction Little Caesars Arena. When completed the school will house 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The new building includes open collaboration space, student support facilities, a conference learning center, classrooms, lab space, and faculty offices. “We’ve already seen a boost in applications as a result of the gift announcement last fall, as prospective students recognize the opportunity that comes from studying in an innovative environment and location like this,” remarked Robert Forsythe, Dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The genesis of the new school was a gift of $40 million from Mike and Marian Ilitch. The gift is the largest Wayne State has ever received, and is in the top ten for largest gifts to any public business school in the United States. Along with the Ilitch family’s philanthropic investments in Detroit, the family has an estimated $2 billion of investments in downtown Detroit buildings. These include the Little Caesars Area and a recently announced headquarters for Little Caesars, also designed by SmithGroupJJR.
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Detroit mayor live-streams 10,000th demolition

Mayor Mike Duggan took to social media to live stream the demolition of the 10,000th abandoned house in Detroit since the city started its current blight removal program. Along with remarks from the Mayor, the District 1 Manager Stephanie Young, and other community leaders, the video shows a house being razed in a matter of minutes by a large backhoe. The wood frame house was located on Marlowe St. in District 1 on Detroit’s far west side. “It’s been an incredible learning process,” Mayor Duggan remarked in the video. “But nobody in America has begun to try to address blight at the rate we have.” As part of the city’s program to rid itself of tens of thousands of empty structures, a new website tracks and maps every demolition planned and carried out. According to the mayor, 5,000 houses are planned to be demolished in 2016, with 7,000 more planned to be by the end of 2017. The final goal of the city is to demolish 40,000 structures in an eight-year period. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572386339589052/ The Mayor was also quick to point out that some 2,000 houses are currently being renovated in Detroit, a sign that value is returning to many communities.  Commenting at the event Jason Cole Executive Director Michigan Minority Contractors Association discussed plans to rehab 1,000 more houses, and the possibility of building 10,000 more new units. Much of the discussion also touched on the safety concerns surrounding abandoned properties. With thinly stretched fire and police departments, arson and crime in abandoned houses is a major issue in Detroit. The mayor answered questions about the effect of the demolitions, pointing out a 25% decrease in building fires over the last year. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572399202921099/ The City wasted no time and continued onto the 10,001 demolition two doors down. https://www.facebook.com/MayorMikeDuggan/videos/572408446253508/
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Help save this folk art landmark in the middle of Detroit

Hatch Art has launched a crowd-funding campaign to save a quirky and kinetic piece of folk art in their hometown of Hamtramck, Michigan, a city of a little over 20,000 surrounded by the city of Detroit. The non-profit art organization is raising $50,000 for a comprehensive renovation of the site. Formerly the home of Dymtro Szylak, an auto-worker turned sculpture artist, was affectionately nicknamed “Hamtramck Disneyland” for its bright colors, lights, and eclectic collection of pop-culture iconography. Szylak worked on the installation above his garage for thirty years, from his retirement from General Motors until his death in 2015. The project is adorned with images of Disney characters and painted in bright colors inspired by its namesake theme park. Syzlak assembled everything by hand, including colorful windmills and other moving sculptures. Part of the charm of Hamtramck Disneyland is its unlikely location, in a residential neighborhood of a relatively unknown city. Hamtramck was a hotspot for European immigrants like Syzlak, who came to the United States from Ukraine. The sculpture was initially unpopular with Syzlak’s neighbors and the city council, but thousands of tourists have since made the pilgrimage to Hamtramck and were often greeted by the artist himself. Hatch Art purchased the property in May 2016 to preserve Hamtramck Disneyland as a folk art landmark. A group of volunteers is currently working to make critical structural repairs to the site, and to rewire and replace the mechanical parts and lights that bring the sculpture to life. They also plan to retrofit the interiors of the garages into a public art space and an artist’s studio. The crowd-funding campaign seeks to raise $50,000 by August 20, which will be matched by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Development Authority for a total of $100,000 if the campaign is successful. Hatch Art is also looking for volunteers to help with the restoration.
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L.A.-based Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects may be opening Detroit office

After announcing two Detroit-based projects in the last month—Olayami Dabls’s MBAD African Bead Museum and four corner buildings in the Brush Park revitalization districtLorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) is bringing a bit of the Sunset Strip to Detroit Rock City. But is the 26-year-old L.A. firm setting its sights on even greener pastures and considering a Midwest outpost? Sources indicate that LOHA recently signed a lease in the historic Chrysler House in downtown Detroit. So get ready, Rock City, things are about to get a little sandy.

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Little Caesars releases renderings of new Detroit headquarters

Downtown Detroit is getting its first new corporate headquarters building in nearly 15 years. The Detroit-based Little Caesars pizza company has released the first renderings of their planned 234,000-square-foot headquarters. The Little Caesars Global Resource Center will be the new home of approximately 700 employees. Located across the street from the company’s current headquarters, the buildings will be connected with a 7th-floor skywalk. The project will be one of the first to be built as part of $1.3 billion The District Detroit development. The District Detroit is centered on the under-construction Little Caesars Arena, the future home of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings hockey team. The Ilitch family, founders of Little Caesars, are heavily involved with the development and own much of the land it will be built on. The defining feature of the new headquarters will be a triangulated mullionless facade. The Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR designed the 120 glass panels to echo the shape of the company’s main product, as well as provide unobstructed views in and out of the building. Each glass panel will be 14 feet tall and comprised of two inches of laminated glass. The building will hold collaborative workspaces, informal meeting rooms, and a cafe for workers. The ground floor will include a two-story lobby and a new welcome center. The street front will also have a flagship Little Caesars and other retail. A fitness center and 425-seat training room are also planned for the building. The Resource Center will function as the company’s headquarters as well as a training and research facility. Originally announced in 2014, construction is expected to begin this summer, which a move in date of fall 2017.        
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Detroit launches interactive demolition map

The City of Detroit has launched an interactive map of past and future demolitions throughout the city. The site was launched in the interest of transparency as the city plans to demolish 40,000 structures over an eight year period. Specifically, the Detroit Demolition Tracker maps demolitions since 2014 and those buildings that have been contracted to be demolished. Since 2014 9,591 structures have been demolished and 2,047 are planned for 2016. At an average cost of $12,269 for each residential demolition, the city has awarded more than $90 million in contracts to local demolition companies. The tracker is a continuation of an overhaul of the city’s demolition program, which was launched in 2014. The goal of the overhaul was to streamline the demolition process, hold contractors accountable for their work, and protect the public from the environmental hazards involved with demolition. A task force, working with government regulators, introduced regulations for contractors, hired watchdogs to monitor the program, and started a campaign to inform residents about potential hazards produced by building demolition. Now home owners are notified before houses on their block are demolished and they are instructed to stay indoors and close doors and windows if possible. Additionally, an epidemiologist within the city’s Department of Health and Welfare is tracking elevated blood-lead levels in children and respiratory hospitalizations often associated with asbestos and demolition dust. Since the overhaul, the EPA has recognized the city’s environmental standards, stating, “Detroit’s new demolition practices balance speed, cost and environmental performance.” Under the new program the estimated time to demolish a planned 40,000 structures has been shortened from 30 years to just 8 years. Most of the demolition in the city is federally subsidized by the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). Demolitions using the HHF can only be used within federally-designated areas throughout the city. The interactive map outlines these areas, as well as the Nuisance Abatement Program (NAP) boundaries. The NAP areas are where the city has taken legal action against owners of vacant structures. Owners of distressed properties are given the option to either improve the property within six months or transfer the property to the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Money from the HHF can only be used on houses owned by the DLBA. Each entry on the interactive map includes the address, demolition contractor, projected demolition date, and price. This transparency is a key part of the city’s attempt to save money through accountability, and ensure the safety of residents
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Brush Park, Detroit in line for major urban development

Los Angeles-based studio, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA) are designing a major complex in Brush Park, Detroit for Brush Park Development Company. (Billionaire Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services are the driving force behind Brush Park). Totaling 210,00 square foot, the scheme comprises four lots where a combination of residential and mixed-use buildings will be constructed. The development also includes Boston-based Merge Architects, Chicago-based Studio Dwell, and Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates. The city, which was the focal point of the U.S. pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale, has been the subject of urban regeneration plans within many circles of the architecture and development industry. Located just outside of Downtown, Brush Park would see four developments of 134 unit multifamily housing units total and ground floor retail erected on the site. In May this year, AN reported on how Detroit planning authorities had originally called for 500 mix-income units (40 units per acre) that would  respect the history of the area and “the rich African-American heritage in the city.” According to LOHA, their scheme is part of the "city’s largest residential project in decades." Their four buildings will sit on four block corners in the neighborhood offering housing, retail, dining, and various community amenities. The scheme forms part of a wider development that will encompass town homes, duplexes, carriage homes, and further apartments along with public transport connections. LOHA's scheme aims to compliment Brush Park's low-rise and historical suburban scene while increasing density within the area. This is achieved through staggered massing that tightens the proximity of dwellings but on a scale that doesn't overtly dominate the site. Buildings will also be clad in local materials such as brick, metal, and wood while each will retain a sense of individuality. Aside from addressing urban problems, communal and ecological issues are also on LOHA's agenda. Public gardens (a tradition in Detroit) will be placed on rooftops looking onto the streetscape and also double-up as places for rainwater collection and bioswales. As for the plots themselves, the Southwest building's envelope will make use of cedar—treated for texture and warmth—and floor-to-ceiling windows that would create an open environment for the retail base. The Northwest building will use charcoal-gray bricks in a stepped formation. On the opposite side, to the Northeast building would be the most visually striking structure. Clad in red metal, the building would add "warmth and color to the otherwise more neutral material backdrop of Brush Park," LOHA explained. The final building in the Southeast corner at the intersection of Brush Street and Alfred Street uses a modulating brick pattern in conjunction with wooden decking to "key into significant folds, formal moves, and unique spaces."