According to the American Public Transportation Association, a public transit advocacy group, there are more than 90 cities in the United States that are actively considering implementing streetcar systems. Of those 90, over a quarter are in the Midwest. Though all in different stages of planning, development, and construction, a handful are well underway, with service beginning as early as 2016. Kansas City and Cincinnati are both in the process of live testing their newly manufactured cars, while Milwaukee debates expanding its current plans. Though hundreds of cities across the country once had streetcars, by the 1960s most had been dismantled with the rise of the private automobile and public bus systems. The current renaissance of streetcar construction is often attributed to cities interested in bolstering downtown transit options, and encouraging more ecologically sustainable modes of transportation. Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, may be the first of the new Midwest streetcar lines to open in early 2016. Dubbed the RideKC Streetcar, the light blue electric trolleys will services a 2.2-mile street along Main St. The system will have four cars running between 16 stops for 18 hours a day. Similarly to streetcars of the past, electricity will be drawn from overhead wires. Unlike past services, the new cars will be wi-fi enabled and free to ride. This first leg of construction is being positioned as a first step in a much larger plan to link the entire Kansas City region with multi-model integrated transit system. Detroit’s new streetcar system will be unique in that it was masterminded by a private non-profit organization. The M-1 Rail, to open by 2017, draws on the economic power of small and large businesses along its route, philanthropic institutions, and a close tie with city government to realize a complex funding and administrative system for the public-private venture. At one point the project was envisioned to expand to a 9 mile route, with more involvement from regional transit partnerships. After multiple feasibility studies it was found that, for economic reason, the 3.3 mile current route was more viable, with possibilities of expansion in the near future. The path to building streetcar systems is often far from smooth. With resistance from state and local governments, it took Cincinnati voters electing new city councilors and rejecting multiple anti-rail ballot initiatives to realize their new transit system. With discussions starting in earnest in 2007 and construction starting in 2012, it will be nine years in the coming when the system finally opens in September 2016. The 3.6 mile loop will service the Over the Rhine neighborhood and the downtown, highlighting the original intent of the system to encourage development in both districts. The Over the Rhine neighborhood, a member of the National Register of Historic Places, has been experiencing a renaissance in the last 10 years, after decades of struggles with crime and declining population. In the case of Milwaukee’s streetcar project, set to open in 2018, the resistance has not been coming from the government as much as from a small group of vocal opponents, who have taken issue with the $124 million project. Though, with a recent failure of a petition to stop further expansion of the already approved first leg of the system, the opposition seems to have dried up. The majority of the funding for the Milwaukee Streetcar is coming from U.S. Department of Transportation grants and Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts. The city and the federal government are betting on the street car to relieve vehicle congestion and pollution while raising property values along the route. Anticipating the rail’s impact on downtown Milwaukee, a 44-story residential tower by local architects Rinka Chung is planned to begin construction in 2016. The base of the project will integrate a streetcar stop along with shopping and office programs. Though it may have been 50 years since many U.S. cities have had street cars, the next five years will see large moves to reverse that situation. Along with KC, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis, MO, and St.Paul, MN, are making moves to implement their own streetcar systems. With the rise of the suburbs and automobile travel often being blamed for the decline of the streetcar, it would seem that this new trend might be pointing towards yet another indicator of the tendencies of contemporary city dwellers. A greater environmental consciousness, neighborhood investment, and a shifted understanding of economic stability, define the values of a young population that streetcar systems across the Midwest, and the entire country, hope to leverage into success.
Posts tagged with "Detroit":
Detroit has begun the search for planners to envision new development along its East Riverfront of the Detroit River. Penned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC) and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, a request for qualifications is now open until December 4th. The DRFC and the City are looking for multidisciplinary teams with experience in public/private partnerships, completed work of similar scope and scale, as well as an understanding of the immediate context. The ultimate goal of the City and the DRFC is to develop a district plan to stimulate mixed-use development by re-connecting the city to the river. With a growing density of residence in the downtown, public access to the river and new recreational space are a high priority for the nearly 400 acres to be developed. Recent success of the Detroit RiverWalk, as well as riverwalks in other urban centers, has helped to refocus city attention on downtown river areas. Along with economic benefits, ecological improvements are major part of the city’s redevelopment. The new plan will include improved public transit and bicycle access, as well as wetland areas and storm water retention infrastructure. The plan, to be implemented immediately, will comprise of outlines of Community Engagement, Land Use, Infrastructure, Market Assessment, and Stakeholder Engagement. The comprehensive nature of the plan will hope to address the growing needs of the downtown area that has recently seen a resurgence of interest from young residence. Despite past hardships, Detroit’s downtown has a 98 percent housing occupancy rate. With the increase in demand for housing has come an increase in demand for amenities. Along with the proposed developments, three miles of the river front have already been improved, and a planned bike share program may be launched as early as spring 2016. Restaurants, jobs, and cultural attractions have also added to the downtown's revitalization. This includes the $300 million renovation of the river front Cobo Convention Center. The deadline for the RFQ is December 4th, with interviews of shortlisted teams taking place before January 14th. The winning team will have 120 days starting in March 2016 to produce the report, working with the community and civic stakeholders.
Detroit will soon be joining the over 70 other U.S. cities with bike share programs. The 350-bike, 35-station system is on track to open in 2016, with recent monetary support from public and private sources. The Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan has agreed to three years of support with an undisclosed amount to help with the estimated $1 million annual operating cost. An additional $1 million has been awarded to the program by the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Alternative Program Awards, offsetting a large portion of the $2 million startup costs. Despite its moniker as the Motor City, Detroit has had the fastest-growing bike ridership in the country over the last 15 years. Compiling data from the American Community Survey, the American League of Bicyclists found that Detroit’s bike ridership has grown by 403 percent since the year 2000. At the same time another study coordinated by Wayne State University investigated the feasibility of a bike share program in Detroit. That study, conducted in 2013, also presented an optimistic outlook on a bike share program, noting, “In particular [a bike share program] offers a means to strengthen connections between neighborhoods, complement existing and future transit services, serve as an amenity to both residents and visitors, and support the revitalization of Detroit.” That same study outlined a possible phased implementation as well as economic/administrative model for the program. It is from these suggestions that the city has settled on the 35 station initial launch, as well as its public/private funding of the system. The next steps will be to find a vendor and operator, which the report suggests should be a non-profit organization specifically set up for the program. Luckily for Detroit, there are now many precedents to follow in launching a bike share system. Cities like Philadelphia are providing models on which to base successful programs in cities historically dominated by car travel.
The Detroit Design Festival returns this year with 30 events and exhibits put together with contributions from dozens of architects and designers. The festival, which runs September 22–26, kicks off with “industry day,” featuring 3D printing demonstrations and a lecture by Stephen Hobbs titled “Defensive Architecture.” You can view a full schedule of the events here.
“Detroit is not having a renaissance,” philanthropist Gary Wasserman proclaimed in the Bushwick, Brooklyn studio space of painter Markus Linnenbruck, “It is an entirely new expression of urbanism.” With the sun pouring in through large, iron-frame windows, he introduced the concept for his new Detroit arts venue. Cities, he says, are “the 21st century frontier,” not the West or Space. “Detroit is not the only city to fail, but it is the biggest,” he said, noting that the city was once over 2 million people, but is now down to 600,000 or so. This has left massive amounts of transportation infrastructure, cultural infrastructure, and housing redundant and abandoned. In this landscape, the city needs more places to sustain urban activity. Wasserman wants to create “a destination providing something of interest that becomes another thread in the urban fabric,” he explained. Wasserman Projects will be located in an old 5,000 square-foot fire station in Detroit’s Eastern Market district and will open on September 25th during the Detroit Design Festival. The new arts hub is expected to spur artistic interaction and development. The space will grow to 9,000 square-feet in the coming months, and will eventually include a kunsthalle, chamber concert hall, a gallery, an artist’s residency, a studio space, and a permanent installation of The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, which is the work of Belgian artist Koen Vanmechlen. He breeds national symbolic chickens as a metaphor for human diversity. The opening exhibition will be a collection of paintings by Linnenbruck, shown in a pavilion designed by Miami architect Nick Gelpi. The pavilion is a large wooden structure that splits open to reveal a glossy, colorful interior painted by Linnenbruck. The two halves become an acoustic space for performance.
Dan Gilbert, billionaire founder of Quicken Loans and champion of downtown Detroit commercial real estate, last week announced he will buy the long-vacant 38-story Book Tower skyscraper and two other adjacent buildings on Washington Boulevard. The latest in a series of acquisitions for Gilbert sizable portfolio under Bedrock Real Estate Services, the buildings will cost about $30 million total, to be paid to Vancouver-based AKNO Properties. That's for the 1926 Book Tower, the 13-story Book Building and an adjacent 2-story community center. Read our Q+A with Gilbert’s real estate partner Jim Ketai here. The Detroit Free Press quoted Gilbert as saying he's planning "a game-changing, mixed-use development.” The tower and the Book Building have been vacant since 2009, and renovations are expected to cost more than $100 million.
Unmasking the Motor City: New mapping software by LOVELAND Technologies is helping to fight blight in Detroit
Detroit is in the midst of the single-largest tax foreclosure in American History. More than 60,000 foreclosed properties are clustered in the Motor City. The threat of eviction looms over remaining inhabitants and poses the larger long-term threat of a spike in homelessness. The root of the problem—unpaid property taxes—seems untenable when viewed alongside the resulting greater city-wide disaster. Auctions selling newly "vacated" houses—of which half are still occupied—for around $500 are becoming increasingly common. Any hope for a stab at renovating some of the vacant properties that litter the city, however, is outweighed by the uncertain outcome interested investors face at the prospect of having to devote their time and money to transforming blight-stricken zones into livable residences. Fortunately, public database LOVELAND Technologies has taken on the challenge of brightening Detroit's future. Founded by Jerry Paffendorf, LOVELAND started out by mapping tax-foreclosed and auctioned properties. The company took off when Detroit's Blight Task, founded by President Barack Obama, grew interested in LOVELAND's mission and hired them to map every property in the Motor City. LOVELAND Technologies has since developed into a team of employees located throughout Detroit, Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area. The company's aim is simple; to put America online, "parcel by parcel." An app called “Blexting” gives the public a medium through which to record and publish information and photos regarding abandoned properties, while the more recent "Site Control" gives people the opportunity to create their own custom maps on Loveland Technologies through personal accounts at $30 monthly and group accounts at $10,000 yearly. Allowing the public to have access to information regarding tax foreclosures and blight that is often withheld by the government opens up the playing field to authorities and investors. The power to research and gain a deeper understanding of the planning and development that may be needed for a parcel is readily available at LOVELAND online. LOVELAND promotes the belief that giving the public the tools to become more informed is key to finding a solution for Detroit's blight. As the company propels itself further into action, we're hoping they're right.
The curators of the 2016 US Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale have announced an open call for proposals for the exhibition The Architectural Imagination. They are looking for speculative projects that use Detroit as a testing ground for new modes of urbanism that could have application around the world. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon will commission twelve visionary U.S. architectural practices to produce new work that addresses 21st century urbanism. They are looking for “design excellence, innovative speculative thinking, and architectural expertise in built and/or unbuilt work.” For more information on how to submit, click here.
The implosion of an historic Detroit hotel on Saturday helped clear the way for a $650 million hockey arena that developers say will more than pay for itself in economic ripple effects, but critics see the demolition as the latest casualty of an ill-conceived scheme receiving public financing. The Red Wings will skate in a new arena slated to open in September 2017, the team and owner Mike Ilitch announced last year with splashy renderings and a pledge to "stabilize and develop dozens of underutilized blocks, create more jobs more quickly, and allow the city to spend public funds on other priorities.” But coming just weeks after Detroit became the largest city to declare bankruptcy in U.S. history, the Red Wings' management came under fire for their plan to use $283 million in public money (mostly in the form of tax increment financing). Vacant since 2003, the 13-story Park Avenue Hotel apparently stood in the way of the new arena's loading dock. Designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1924, the Park Avenue Hotel was demolished over the weekend, its collapse captured in the drone video above. Since its glory days as a symbol of glitz in ascendant Detroit, the hotel had become a senior housing center and later a rehab facility. Locals gathered to bid the building farewell, reports the Detroit Free-Press. Meanwhile the public financing of arenas including the Red Wings' has sparked debate about whether wealthy private interests need such incentives from cash-strapped municipalities and states. The same day Detroit leveled the Park Avenue Hotel, late-night comedian John Oliver ridiculed the taxpayer funding of sports arenas on HBO, calling out the Red Wings and Ilitch in particular. The Red Wings responded today with a statement, saying "This project is about so much more than a world-class sports and entertainment arena; it's about transforming a core part of our city for the benefit of the entire community.” They did not, however, address Oliver's disdain for Little Caesars pizza, which Ilitch founded.
Detroit's Public Lighting Authority is bringing light back to some dim city neighborhoods, which have been expecting new LED streetlights by the end of the year. As the Detroit News reports, that plan is ahead of schedule. All 40,000 LEDs should be in place by the end of July. Installations are occurring in every zip code of the city, making the construction an especially wide-reaching task. Their next job will be relighting Detroit's major streets and highways, including Michigan, Fort, Gratiot, Grand River, and Jefferson streets. That work, scheduled to begin next month, is planned to wrap up by the end of 2016. The Detroit News interviewed Detroit Police Officer Jennifer Moreno, who credits the new efficient lighting with helping to reduce crime. But the future's not entirely bright:
Odis Jones, executive director of Public Lighting Authority of Detroit, said streetlights are being vandalized in some areas. The authority, he said, has been monitoring the incidents and working closely with police. “Any major city is going to experience some of that, so we’re no different,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are still some businesses that don’t enjoy operating in light.”
BREAKING: Davidson and Ponce de Leon to Curate the U.S. Pavilion Exhibition in the 15th International Architecture Biennale in Venice
Call it the Floating City meets Motor City. The U.S. Department of State selected the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to organize the exhibition of the United States Pavilion in the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon take Detroit as their starting point. Out of the ashes of Motown and Ford comes an urban archetype that provokes the exhibition title: “The Architectural Imagination.” Much has been made of Detroit’s “ruin porn” and the pervasive blight that has transformed the city from a dense urban fabric to a patchwork. In Venice, “The Architectural Imagination” will present new ideas for sites in Detroit that ultimately have global application, each developed and explored by a select architectural team. As such, the city, which comes with a narrative of the hopes and fears of twentieth century urban America, might prove the model for a creative, resilient, and sustainable 21st century city. “Historically Detroit has been a place of invention from the Kahn brothers to Motown to techno,” explained Davidson. She noted that the city is a site of American ingenuity applicable to many cities, however underscored architecture as the critical component. “Architecture itself has an important role to contribute to any city through form,” she continued. “We should be speaking through architectural form not just urbanism. Detroit is a laboratory for rethinking typologies.” The organizers are forming a committee of advisors to select four sites in Detroit. A call for participant portfolios open to U.S. citizens and residents will go out in a couple of weeks, said Davidson. Davidson is executive director of the nonprofit Anyone Corporation, based in New York City, and editor of the international architecture journal, Log. Ponce de Leon, recently named next dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, is currently the dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and principal of MPdL Studio.
When the Future had Fins: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959-1973 Christopher West Mount Gallery, Pacific Design Center 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA Through May 20 Once upon a time the American car industry was king. Nothing captures the prestige, aspirations, and mythology of Detroit’s heyday quite like the working sketches and drawings used to develop and promote the land boats we used to call automobiles. A new show at Christopher W. Mount Gallery focuses on sketches from designers at the “Big Three”—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—from 1959 to 1973, when those companies were as important as Google, Apple, and Facebook. The sleek, colorful cars with their dynamic angles and large hoods capture the sexiness and muscle that is long gone in today’s car culture. Visionaries like Ford’s John Samsen and GM’s Bill Michalak had a mastery and an expressive craftsmanship on paper that is far removed from the digitized and sanitized world of 21st century rendering.