Posts tagged with "Detroit":

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This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit’s growing creative class

Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.

Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.

“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.

Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.

Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.

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Designers propose park with rippling landscape for Michigan Central Station

It isn’t just the Michigan Central Station that is being eyed for redevelopment. Spread out before the domineering structure is what was once an ornate manicured garden known as Roosevelt Park. Designers and community members are hoping to transform the scruffy patch of green, which marks the intersection of Detroit's Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods, into a public asset. A direct result of the City Beautiful Movement at the turn of the 20th century, Roosevelt Park was originally designed by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. The park was specifically crafted to work with Judge Augustus B. Woodward's original plan for Detroit, which called for broad green boulevards and numerous public parks. This park was meant to be a grand welcoming space for the local community and those arriving to the city by train. The current project is being led by San Francisco–based Assembly Design Studio and Detroit-based community research consultants Human Scale Studio. Through a series of meetings with city officials and community workshops, the park's design now has three distinct paths forward in the form of three conceptual proposals. Each proposal addresses the concerns of the city and the community while focusing on a different theme and spatial arrangement. The first of the proposals holds closest to the original park while working to improve access and safety. Currently, the park is a traffic island, inaccessible except across multiple lanes of traffic. This plan calls for the removal of some roads that travel through the park while improving crosswalks, parking, and bike lanes around its perimeter. The second proposal responds to the greater city grid with changes to the surrounding and on-site roads. New pedestrian and bike-only paths would be added to the park, which is divided by several roadways. New sports fields, hardscapes, and softscapes would reflect back to the park’s original form and relationship to the train station. The final proposal is by far the most drastic of the three. Unified into a single large park space, the plan calls for large landscaped ripples emanating from the northwest corner of the park. Areas for food trucks and an area for a farmer’s market will provide food options, while an area for special events and an amphitheater will bring entertainment programming to the park. A formal gateway is also part of the proposal, as well as sports field and playgrounds. While these may not be the first new proposals for the oft overlooked park, they may have the best chance of succeeding. (In 2009 and 2010 two other groups began the process of bringing the park back to life.) With a “green light” from the City of Detroit, these current proposals also have support from business leaders and community members in Corktown and Mexicantown. While trains may not be returning to the area anytime soon, with a little love, people may find a reason to come back to Roosevelt Park.
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Under Armour opens new Brand House in Detroit’s historic Kresge Building

Detroit is now home to the newest Under Armour Brand House. The multistory sports-apparel showroom and store is housed in the historic 1917 Kresge Building in downtown Detroit. Local Kraemer Design Group (KDG) worked as historic consultant and architect of record on the project, and Sachse Construction was general contractor. Working with Bedrock, the building owner, KDG worked to maintain protected historic features throughout the project including the original marble walls and the brass handrails in a monumental staircase. At the same time, the space was altered to fit Under Armour’s brand. Since much of the space is on a mezzanine level, a new elevator was added, but otherwise the existing conditions in the one-hundred-year-old building were left undisturbed. The 17,000-square-foot store is just the latest of in a series of recently opening and planned flagship retail stores in Downtown Detroit, including a large Nike store and a future Warby Parker.

Under Armour Brand House 1201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit Tel: 313-335-3162 Architect: Kraemer Design Group
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Tony Hawk is building a skate park in downtown Detroit

Thanks to Tony Hawk, downtown Detroit will soon be home to a new skate park. The pro boarder is supervising the design of a 4,600-square-foot modular skate park that will be located just north of Campus Martius, the Detroit Free Press reported. Called Wayfinding, it's set to open on August 16, right in the middle of peak summer shredding season. Library Street Collective, a contemporary art gallery, partnered with developers at Bedrock, Quicken Loans companies, and the Cranbrook Art Museum to produce the project. Wayfinding has six skating areas and viewing platforms for onlookers; artist Ryan McGinness—whose work is influenced by the surf and skate culture—will create bold neon graphics for the site.

“It was a great opportunity to get something in the downtown area that is a proper skate park,” Hawk told the Free Press. “This one is exciting, although it’s not our usual style of skate parks. At the same time, I want to support anything that is public and will be available for people to skate.” A skate park without a concrete base can be challenging to build, he said, but noted that modular skate ramp technology has improved considerably in the last ten years.

Wayfinding is only temporary at this location, though. It's holding ground until Bedrock's latest development, Monroe Block, breaks ground in early 2018. The pieces will be moved to another part of the city when construction crews take over the site. Though the park is new, Hawk is no stranger to Detroit. He and his wife bought a home there last year, and in years past his eponymous foundation has donated to local philanthropic causes.
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Life returns to Michigan Central Station for first time in decades

No building has been used to represent the decline of Detroit more than the Michigan Central Station. Towering over the Corktown neighborhood just south of the city’s downtown, the once bustling train station has lain vacant since the last train pulled away in January 1988. Today the building’s owners, the Moroun family of companies, is hoping the iconic building can become the symbol of the city’s renaissance. For the first time in decades, a private event will be held in the vacant building. Slated for later this summer and produced by Crain’s Detroit Business, the fourth annual Detroit Homecoming is an event which brings back Detroit “expats” in a bid to bring investment into the city. The event will take over three days, starting on September 13th, and will bring together hundreds of former Detroiters and local business investors. The opening dinner will take place in the grand 53-foot-tall lobby. Tours up to the 13th floor will allow guests to look out over Detroit. Opened in 1913, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, the building has had brushes with restoration as well as demolition over the years. In the mid-2000s the city moved to demolish the building, which led to a lawsuit to protect the building. Designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, the 230-foot-tall Beaux Arts tower was once the tallest train station in the world. At one point, over 200 trains passed through the station every day and 3,000 office workers worked in the 500,000-square-foot building. In recent years, restoration has begun on the building. According to the Moroun’s, over $8 million has been spent on asbestos abatement, vandalism cleanup, initial interior work, and other early-stage renovations. Most visible of the changes to the building was the installation of 1,100 new windows in 2015. It is estimated that to complete the restoration will cost over $100 million. And though work has begun, no official word has been given on what the station may become. In the past, ideas have been floated including a convention center, a casino, Michigan State Police headquarters, and Detroit Police headquarters.
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Cataloging Detroit over 25 years, Camilo Jose Vergara has documented the city’s decline and decay

Every so often, images of abandoned buildings circulate cyberspace, populating blogs or other online outlets in the form of slideshows and photo series. Chances are that if you have come across such photography, that you have seen the work of Camilo Jose Vergara. The photographer and writer specializes in capturing ruins and settings in states of decay and has become known for revisiting sites and producing a chronology of their fate. In 2013, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, being the first photographer to be awarded the medal. Vergara is prolific. The 73-year-old from Santiago, Chile has produced seven books that document dereliction in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Camden, New York, and Detroit. His work builds on that of Jacob Riis, a 19th-century documentarian who published the landmark book, How the Other Half Lives, in 1890. Times have indeed changed since then, however, and Vergara's work remains relevant. "All of this comes from the idea that the real poor and segregated neighborhoods are different in every aspect," he told me as we drank beers on the rooftop of his Morningside Heights apartment. "It's the idea that you have separate Americas... what really fascinates me is the history of places that are in decline because everybody concentrates on the history of places that are moving up, but the other process is just as interesting. It involves people, people coping with their circumstances and its arresting visually too." Over the course of numerous decades, Vergara, a MacArthur Award winner in 2002, has revisited the aforementioned cities, capturing their evolving urban and suburban environments. His methodology is meticulous, returning to the exact same point time and time again to take the same photograph, while also speaking to the local residents. While he occasionally takes portraits of those that approach him, Vergara prefers to shoot buildings and streetscapes as they represent, in his eyes, a place more accurately. "You develop a relationship with the city," he said. "You don't declare that you're going 'steady' with that city until you're going to be back unless you have some assurance that you're going to do it—it's like having a girlfriend." So how do you do it? "You need the money to go there on a regular basis; you need somebody to put you up, or enough money to pay for a hotel; you need money to rent a car, and all of those things are expensive," he explained. Detroit, in particular, became available to Vergara on a regular basis in 1991 when his brother-in-law purchased a building there that was only ever two-thirds occupied. All he needed, he proclaimed, was a mattress and he was set. Before the internet, getting back to an exact location required lots of notetaking. Besides location, Vergara added, the same lens is required and the lighting needs to be similar, if not the same (so you have to be there at the same time of day). "And then sometimes it is rush hour and traffic is in the way, or you have you park your car in the middle of the street and stand up on the roof," Vergara continued "I do that all the time! The car is running, I'm up on the roof, but I can get away quickly if I needed to." But sometimes this zealousness has its consequences. In Detroit, Vergara was once reminded of the city's tensions. "One time a man showed me his gun, he didn't point it at me, just showed it to me." He laughed, apparently unphased by this experience. "I went to the police station and told them and they said, 'What business do you have coming to this neighborhood?' Apparently, I didn't have the right to complain." Other dissenters of Vergara deride his (and his contemporaries') work as socially irresponsible poverty porn. Vergara considers this an "absurd accusation." His view is that derelict structures have permanency, history, "feed the imagination," and sometimes, can be a device to propagate the development of their surroundings. "A problem folks who are interested in poverty and ruins deal with is that ruins tend to be very beautiful," Vergara elaborated. "The most magnificent ruins are from buildings that were spectacular to begin with." "There is more than one way to look at my work," he continued. "One way is to look at it, say 'nice' then forget about it. But then maybe other people want to find out more about what they are looking at. Those people would find what I am talking about—the context." Vergara couples short essays and interviews with his work; he is a sociological documentarian more so than just a mere photographer. "The context I think adds interest and gives it relevance." As for carrying out his work, Google Maps, he said, is making things easier. "It has changed they way I work tremendously. Before I go back to reshoot a location, I look at my old photographs and think to myself, 'What's around this place?' There is no way in the world I am going to photograph every building in Detroit so I use Google Streetview, using the time sequences they offer as well as my own work. After all this, I have a pretty good idea of what I want." Both online and in real life, Vergara has been roaming Detroit's poor neighborhoods, visiting housings projects and rooftops. I asked him if, despite being from Santiago and now living in New York, if he felt like a citizen of Detroit. "I feel like I am a citizen of the ghetto because those are the places I know the best," he replied, referencing the ghettos of Camden, Newark, South Chicago and Harlem as well. Detroit, though, has been Vergara's main focus. It was the city where his love of ruins brought him to and it is also the city on which he focuses on in his latest book, Detroit Is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City of the Industrial Age. Every year, for the past 25 years, the documentarian has visited the city for at least a week. The book catalogs Detroit's ill-fated suburbs, the city center's partial revival, as well as murals, churches, and signage. The latter is indicative of Detroit's changing landscape and morphing typologies. "The signs I photograph stand for the culture that has been developed over many decades," Vergara said. The subject of signage is even more poignant in Detroit, too, in a city that once produced the automobiles of America—cars that symbolized success and the American dream. Over time, the city's car mechanics and garages transformed into cheaper-to-run car washes, and drive-ins, as money left the area. "It's not just the white flight, it's the money flight," Vergara remarked. More than automobile imagery, Vergara argued religious signage is more representative of Detroit's visual culture. It's residents, he says in his most recent book, are waiting for God to save the city. In one instance, on 14849 Livernois Avenue, a church photographed in 2000 changes to become home to "Motor Sales." Vergara, on his rooftop with me, called these "storefront churches." This theme has been prevalent in his work for some time, most notably seen in his book, How the Other Half Worships, an explicit nod to Riis that tracked how poor neighborhoods embraced religion. Murals and signage are important to Vergara. In 2015 he was invited to speak at the Black In Design conference at Harvard University. "You think they're going to get the sign painter that worked for car washers in Detroit?" he asked me. "No. They got designers that went to Ivy League schools and worked at high-end firms. "That leaves out this visual culture." "I like to call attention to this," he continued, evidently agitated. "You can't just ignore segregated areas like you get in Detroit where people have been there for decades and don't have the money to move." Another annoyance of his is how new, predominantly white residents, who set up shops, bars, and restaurants in Detroit's downtown, display images from the 1930s and '50s. "My beef is, why don't you use the visual culture that was born from the riots?" (This year will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots. A film called Detroit is coming out this August to mark the event.) In a lecture at M.I.T. this year, he furthered this sentiment, pointing out how neighborhood artists are unaware of how to publicize their work due to issues such as not having an email account of having their phones disconnected. Of the artists he had spoken to, some had either done time in jail, were homeless, sick, or made money away from art. "In contrast, white artists are often represented by galleries and are able to apply for and receive foundation grants," he said. "Local sign painters and commercial artists with a shrinking neighborhood market see their work further diminish as handmade signs are replaced by vinyl signs made inexpensively by commercial printers." In that same lecture, he added that it is his goal to acknowledge the "history and achievements" of people from Detroit's segregated neighborhoods, "no matter how insignificant they may seem to the rest of the nation. I also try to answer the question, 'What happens next?' as I track these neighborhoods within the city’s larger evolution." Vergara's answer to that question is bleak. To him, there appears to be "no way" of improving the living conditions of the majority of the population. "A dual city continues to develop in which a growing educated population is surrounded by 131 square miles of decline, where poor African Americans survive amidst decaying buildings and empty lots." As the original population flees the poverty stricken suburbs, local businesses such as dry cleaners or barbershops become unsustainable, a scenario Vergara only sees worsening. "Already a quarter of a century ago, black Detroiters believed that the city might not be theirs for very long," he said. "Now throughout Detroit one can find adumbrations of a white paradise of bed and breakfasts, fruit orchards, woodlands, goat farms and artists’ lofts." And as for what happens next to his own work? "Whether or not my work is used in 30 years time, I do not know," he answered. "But it will be preserved because the library of congress purchased my collection." Vergara does, however, have a proposal for Detroit. "As a lifelong documentarian of the ephemeral visual culture of the American ghetto, I believe that the weathered commercial signs with their whimsical lettering, the religious imagery, the Afrocentric historical murals and the memorials to the dead found in the city’s neglected neighborhoods are defining elements of the Detroit spirit." This visual culture, he attests, is overlooked by companies such as Shinola who prefer to reference the industrial age of Motor City. The artwork and signage by locals, argues Vergara, must be preserved and thus acknowledged by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and furthermore, this art should be encouraged. In addition to this, he calls for the production and worldwide marketing of luxuries (such as the products from Shinola) made out of street art, with some of the profit going back to the neighborhoods. "Detroit has a history that hasn't been told all that much, if at all. This is what I am trying to do."
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Nonprofit developers propose $32 million mixed-income project for Midtown, Detroit

The transformation of Midtown Detroit symbolizes much of the wider change that is happening in Detroit. For good and for bad, areas of Detroit are quickly being developed, and with each new announcement comes questions of responsibility to the very people that have stuck it out in the economically-depressed city. Unlike much of the development, which is being funded by some of the city’s wealthiest, one recently unveiled project is being led by two nonprofits. This mixed-use mixed-income housing development will be located at the corner of Garfield Street and John R. Street, across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, in the Sugar Hill district. Working with the City of Detroit to realize the project are Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). Both developers are members of the Housing Partnership Network (HPN). Develop Detroit was founded in 2016 in the wake of the city’s municipal bankruptcy. POAH has been behind a handful of mixed-income complexes across the South Side of Chicago. "We’re partnering with this outstanding team because of the city's strong focus on equitable and inclusive development," said POAH Managing Director Real Estate Development Rodger Brown in a press release. "This transformational project is completely aligned with our core mission and we’re confident that in partnership with Mayor Duggan and Develop Detroit, our team can create a project that will further enhance the Sugar Hill Arts District and contribute to the economic growth of the city of Detroit.” Comprised of 84 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space, the project will cost $32 million. Notably, 25 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing for residents making between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. Units will include studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom layouts. The residential units and the commercial space will also be served by 300 parking spaces and green alleyways. Construction is tentatively expected to begin by September 2018, pending full city approval. Phil Freelon, design director at Perkins + Will is leading the design in partnership with Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates. "Our work in Detroit continues to be an exciting and energizing experience for me,” said Freelon in a press release. “I look forward to the Sugar Hill project and expanding our partnership with the city as we work to implement innovative strategies that contribute to Detroit’s resurgence.”
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Watch drone footage of the new Detroit QLINE

As service begins on the 3.3-mile stretch of Detroit’s QLINE light rail, riders will be jumping on at 20 new stations designed by Detroit-based ROSSETTI, in collaboration with AECOM. The rail runs into Downtown Detroit along Woodward Avenue between Congress Street and Grand Boulevard. New drone footage released by ROSSETTI lets you see the new station and the QLINE in action as it glides into the heart of the city. "Our goal was to create minimal and elegant structures that were both transparent and durable. We wanted the shelters to be visually identifiable as part of the QLINE rail system," Jon Disbrow, Principal and Architectural Lead at ROSSETTI, explained in a press release. "But simple enough that they would blend into the context of the various locations where they would be placed." The stations are divided into two typologies. The base station type consists of a set of amenities that are shared by all of the stations. Meanwhile, the other is designed to accommodate possible future public space, art, additional setting, bike racks, and other amenities. Each of the 98-foot-long stations is distinguished by a different color of Detroit’s Pewabic tile. In addition to this, each station is also equipped with heating for cold Detroit winters, concrete bench seating, WiFi access, security cameras, emergency phones, and ticket vending machines. The pre-cast concrete used for the stations includes an anti-graffiti admixture, and partitions are constructed out of durable laminated glass. Take a tour of the new rail line with this drone footage (below) of the new stations.
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Two Cuban artists uniquely capture Detroit’s built environment—both its decay and hope for the future

Two Cuban artists, Alejandro Campins and Jose Yaque, feature in the City of Queen Anne’s Lace exhibition now on view at the Wasserman Projects gallery in Detroit. Using painting, sculpture, and drawing, they embody the emotion of Detroit's past, present, and future. Campins' works, laconic in style, are similar to those of Polish artist Joseph Schulz, whose Form 14 (archetypal of Schulz's style) exhibits architecture without detail. That work was cited by critic Stephen Parnell in his essay "Post-truth architecture." "Stripped of just a few elements, such as lettering, mundane architecture can reveal an uncanny elegance," Parnell said. The same could be said of Campins' paintings, if not for the moody tones and visible brush strokes (he used oils, watercolors, and also pencil) that convey the opposite. His works represent an abandoned Detroit, yet, despite their sense of silence, there are symbols of optimism: A green traffic signal and blank billboard can be interpreted as signifiers of opportunity. Yaque's work, meanwhile, is more explicitly optimistic. Made from Detroit's recycled trash, a large-scale installation rises up from the ground, topped with grass, flowers, and other greenery. The work appears at a glance to be molded by layers of sediment and soil (and Detroit's history)—almost as if a section of the earth's crust lifted from the ground. The piece physically dominates the gallery; exactly what is atop the chunk of recycled earth is unknown and out of sight, but we know from what we do see is that the land upon which is grows is evidently fertile. This piece also references the exhibition's name. Also known as a "Wild Carrot," Queen Anne's Lace is a flower that is commonly found sprouting from the city's decaying buildings. While most often associated with Detroit's downfalls, the plant has substantial nutritional value. Yaque also uses a more traditional medium. Like his Cuban counterpart, he draws, though Yaque employs charcoal to depict Detroit's urban vernacular. Yaque's technique allows his drawings to be nostalgic as they don the faded aesthetic of a century-old photograph. Smudging, often applied to the based of a work, connotes energy—the lost energy of the lonely landmarks and time passing by, wind-like and invariably contributing to the building's demise. Unlike his built work, these images hark back to a Detroit that is certainly consigned to memory, with buildings either no longer used or repurposed. However, in a similar vein to his sculpture, this reference point is only implied. City of Queen Anne’s Lace has been curated by Rafael DiazCasas, an art historian and independent curator based in New York City. The exhibition came about after Wasserman Projects founder Gary Wasserman saw Campins' works while in Havana. Through DiazCasas, the two discussed the parallels between Detroit's and Cuba's history. Inspired by this, Campins visited the Michigan city for himself, later introducing Yaque to the city too. The pair encountered much Wild Carrot during their foray into Detroit. According to a press release, they found the flower to be symbolic of change and natural rebalancing. This sentiment formed the basis of their work for the exhibition, promoting a feeling of hope while looking at Detroit through an alternative lens. City of Queen Anne’s Lace is on view at Wasserman Projects through June 24, 2017.
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Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood to be completely transformed

The City of Detroit is embarking on a two-year-long project to revitalize hundreds of properties in its Fitzgerald neighborhood. With the announcement of a development team, led by developers Century Partners and The Platform, $4 million will be invested to rehabilitate 115 vacant homes, create a two-acre park, and landscape 192 vacant lots. The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project is expected to break ground later this spring, with a focus on the area around the intersection of Livernois and McNichols. The 115 vacant homes being renovated will be transformed into a mix of rental and sale properties at the neighborhoods market rate. Twenty percent of the homes will also be affordable for households making 80% or less of the area’s median income. In total, the improvements will directly affect over 600 families already living in the area. The new two-acre park will anchor a greenway path that is being created through the entire neighborhood. The 192 vacant lots in the area will be cleared for community space and productive landscapes. Land will be set aside for urban farming and low-maintenance landscapes. Residents will be given the opportunity to move from their current homes, by either buying or renting the newly renovated properties. The initiative aims to transfer all the publicly owned property in the neighborhood to community assets. “This project is about creating opportunity and working together to strengthen our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Duggan in a press release. “Whether you’re a renter or homeowner or someone who just wants to live in this neighborhood, there’s a place for you in Fitzgerald. This is the kind of work we’ll be doing in neighborhoods across the city.” Construction on the central park and quarter-mile long greenway will begin in July. The park space will sit where 60 houses have already been demolished as part of the city’s regular demolition program. Once two more houses are demolished in mid-April, the site will be ready to be revitalized, with completion expected by the end of 2017. When completed in 2019, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project will have increased the density of the neighborhood without building a single structure, a feat which the city of Detroit hopes to repeat across the city. The effort will be the initial model for the $30 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which is working to stabilize Detroit neighborhoods. To raise the needed funds, the city partnered with the Kresge Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation as part of the Reimagining the Civic Commons grant.
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Detroit’s Heidelberg Project forced to move headquarters

Detroit’s enigmatic Heidelberg Project (HD) has become a victim of its own success. The urban art project, which is known for turning entire city blocks and vacant houses into art pieces, must move its headquarters. After eight and a half years in a large space in Detroit’s Midtown, the non-profit is packing up as the building was sold in December for $1.2 million, well more than the project could afford. Always the optimists, the timing may be serendipitous as HD is in the midst of a change in direction. Called Heidelberg 3.0, the new plan is to engage with the community even more than in the past. The project has also recently gone through a change of leadership with Jenenne Whitfield, the founder Tyree Guyton’s wife, becoming the CEO and president. “Detroit is changing. Its neighborhoods are changing and Midtown is a prime example,” said Whitfield in a press statement. “When we came to the neighborhood in 2009, the buildings around us were vacant and run-down as evidenced by the building adjacent to us. The Heidelberg Project brought an energy and a creativity that certainly contributed to the new energy that the Midtown area is experiencing today. While we made an effort to purchase the building, the realities of the market are beyond the reach of our non-profit arts organization.” Currently, the main portion of the project, which attracts an estimated 200,000 visitors a year, is being packed up and readied for storage. While the plan is to eventually relaunch the project, for the time being much of the artwork created by Guyton since 1986 will be out of public view. These changes, though daunting, are still far from the most adversity that the Heidelberg project has been up against. Since 2013, a string of over a dozen acts of arson destroyed portions of the project. Perhaps the latest news will complete the phoenix-like story of this one-of-a-kind urban experience.
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New plans revealed for Detroit’s East Riverfront

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC), the City of Detorit Planning & Development Department, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) announced the latest plans to expand Detroit’s riverfront land for public use. SOM has been working on the strategic framework plan for the East Riverfront since the Spring of 2016. Six local firms, including McIntosh Poris, Giffels Webster, Kraemer Design Group, AKT Peerless, Rich & Associates, and E. Austell Associates, also provided significant consulting throughout the planning stages. “We’ve had tremendous input from the community throughout the planning process,” said Mark Wallace, president & CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. “The East Riverfront is a special place for all Detroiters, particularly families and the elderly. This plan builds on the lessons we have learned since opening up the RiverWalk in 2007.” The plan calls for the transformation of the former industrial area into a public waterfront. One of the most significant aspects of the scheme is a large swath of the riverfront that will be designated as parkland, indefinitely free from development. This area includes three sites that were previously slated for private development. New greenways will also connect several east side neighborhoods to the RiverWalk. Surrounding streets will also receive improvements in the plan, including more bike and pedestrian-friendly amenities to better connect the neighborhoods immediately to the north. Much of the work is expected to begin in the next few months. The first steps will include streetscape and promenade improvements. Along with the announced plan, the DEGC released an RFP asking for ideas for the adaptive reuse of the Stone Soup Building. The city is hoping to redevelop the historic riverfront structure into a dense mixed-use project. “The riverfront belongs to all Detroiters,” said Maurice D. Cox, director of the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department. “Thanks to the involvement of hundreds of residents, we have principles that frame an international riverfront that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.”