Much has been made of the decline of American industry and, more recently, the rise of small-scale urban industry, but one of the largest international manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn, could change the industrial scene completely if it decides to build factories in the United States. The Guardian reports that Foxconn is considering Detroit and Los Angeles for potential outposts thanks to rising costs overseas, but the company infamous for manufacturing Apple products among others at its 800,000-worker-strong Chinese facilities would have to adapt to radically different American ways of working. It was early last year—after a string of workers committed suicide and a lethal explosion tore through a plant—when Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook asked the Fair Labor Association to assess Foxconn’s working conditions. Reforms where set in place that doubled Foxconn’s worker salary levels in China and cut overtime hours. The increase in costs in places like China has prompted the company to consider locations overseas. In September, plans were announced for a nearly $500 million factory to be built in São Paulo, Brazil where Foxconn will hire up to 10,000 people to make computer and some Apple products. The company also plans to open a new phone factory in Indonesia by the end of 2012. If built, Foxconn's new U.S. factories and work standards would be altered for the American workforces, who won’t likely work for China’s low wages or live in work dormitories. Instead of manufacturing products that rely heavily on hand labor, the American factories would primarily build flat screen televisions, which use a primarily automated process. Company officials would not comment on the possible expansion into the U.S., but did say American engineers will be invited to its Chinese facilities to learn about its manufacturing process.
Posts tagged with "Detroit":
Not long after the Detroit Design Festival, Detroit’s design enthusiasts have another event to celebrate: DLECTRICITY begins today and runs through Saturday. The “contemporary light art festival” features 35 local, national, and international artists who will illuminate historic structures in Midtown Detroit. Buildings including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, and the Detroit Public Library will become canvases for 3D video mapping, laser displays, and light sculptures. Click here for a full schedule and map of the events.
Following the many interesting developments in Detroit these days, one gets a sense that the city’s post-industrial landscape is fertile ground for innovative design. A boutique hotel made of shipping containers seems to back up that trend. Collision Works, as the project is called, touts the structural merits of shipping containers. “Shipping containers are considerably more durable than standard construction, can cost less, and most importantly are about 30 percent faster to build,” writes project founder Shel Kimen. Similar plans for low-income housing in Detroit built from shipping containers were scrapped during the recession. And there are other precedents—Steven Flum, who designed a development made of shipping containers in 2007, will advise the project. Distill Studio’s New England “Box Office” has been successful in attracting tenants since it was completed last year. The firm’s Joe Haskett told Core77 they didn’t set out to design a building from containers, but it reduced the project’s environmental footprint and its bottom line. Even so Haskett said he worried it would be written off as folly. Good design made sure it wasn’t. Likewise some may view the graffiti-splattered renderings from the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and worry the conceit reinforces “ruin porn” stereotypes of their city. KOOP Architects’ design will factor into the final verdict on that, as will the future of the project's Eastern Market neighborhood. They plan to break ground in spring 2013.
Starchitect Daniel Libeskind will help judge this year’s Detroit by Design competition to design public spaces along the Detroit River. AIA’s Detroit Chapter is a sponsor of the competition, which will focus on the area between Cobo Hall and the Renaissance Center, and between Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit River. The site includes an entrance to the tunnel to Canada, the Port Authority Building, and Hart Plaza—a 14-acre space at the heart of downtown. Submissions are open through November 30. If Libeskind and the other jurors like your design, you could win $5,000 and a trip to the Motor City.
It looks like Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Towers in Detroit may avoid the auction block a little longer. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosed on the high-rise apartment buildings in February, and HUD had planned to put them up for auction this month (albeit with a litany of multi-million-dollar renovations required of the lucky winner). Detroit exercised its first right of refusal on that course of action, wary of the iconic towers falling into the wrong hands. New York-based Northern Group bought the buildings in 2008 for $16 million in cash, but stopped making payments on its loans by 2010. The towers were transferred to HUD soon after. Now the city’s group for planning and facilities is seeking a private owner to bring the buildings back from disrepair.
For many years much of Detroit’s riverfront was an industrial utility, characterized by derelict manufacturing sites. But efforts to reclaim public spaces on the waterfront have made considerable progress in recent years. Now a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state of Michigan ensures transformation along the Detroit River will continue. Planned projects include the redevelopment of Mount Elliott Park, improvements to Gabriel Richard Park, and an expansion of Detroit’s RiverWalk. The walk is currently not continuous between downtown and Belle Isle, but the new funding aims to close some of the gaps. $29 million comes in the form of federal highway money, while $15 million is from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Detroiters haven taken to Yelp in recent years to express their support for the ongoing project. “To the skeptical first time visitor of Detroit,” wrote one visitor from New York last year, “RiverWalk is a shining symbol of what the city is actually made of.”
Detroit Mayor David Bing is making good on his pledge to demolish 10,000 derelict buildings in the city by the end of his first term in 2013—his administration has already taken down 4,500 abandoned structures, with another 1,500 demolitions planned by the end of September. (Five more came down this morning, and Curbed Detroit was on the scene to document the demolition.) Now the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is expected to announce state support to help raze more buildings in the name of public safety. With an initial focus on Detroit’s east, southwest, and northwest sides, the governor’s administration is currently identifying neighborhoods for a pilot program. The Michigan Land Bank, Detroit Public Schools, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are among the many agencies and private sector actors involved in the effort to reclaim Detroit's wealth of abandoned and unused land. Neighborhood stabilization and economic development have been at the core of many of Bing’s proposals as mayor. But with Wayne County facing a $155 million budget deficit, efforts to transform Detroit's well-documented decline will have to do more with less.
Despite the Motor City’s notoriety as a symbol of urban decay, development is actually going on in Detroit. And with almost 40 square miles of vacant land, Detroit has the chance to redefine urban renewal outright. The city recently took note of one major way some residents are turning blight into bounty: Mayor David Bing signed off on Michigan State University's plan to seed urban agriculture in Detroit with $1.5 million over the next three years. There are scores of farms and gardens already operating within the city. D-Town farms, Eastern Market, and Earthworks are among a network of urban agriculture outfits growing tons of produce within city limits. This has been going on for some time, but MetroFoodPlus—the name proposed for MSU research center—represents an unequivocal municipal endorsement of activity still prohibited by zoning. Entrepreneurs like John Hantz hope to help put thousands of vacant parcels back on the tax rolls and recast Detroit’s infamous depopulation as a unique asset. Hantz hopes to acquire 300 acres on the city’s East Side, though his dream is 10,000 acres. He may find a helping hand in MSU’s innovation cluster. Their agreement with the city is short on details for now, but its stated goals are ambitious: to turn Detroit into a global hub for food system innovation.
Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Towers are up for sale. It’s a striking reminder of the symbiosis between cities and iconic architecture—one which speaks to the mercurial nature of Detroit’s real estate market since World War II. The twin high-rises were foreclosed in February, and will go up for auction later this month. All 584 apartment units will go to the highest bidder July 18, but this is no ordinary sale. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will require the lucky winner to spend more than $10 million on an 80-page list of renovations to the historic buildings, and invest $2.5 million in an escrow account for HUD to hedge their risk.
As community groups and government agencies in Detroit struggle to find a solution to the depopulation and economic problems facing the city, one group sees opportunity in the city's abandonment. A rather imaginative new proposal seeks to create a destination out of dereliction—a morbid amusement park out of a moribund neighborhood. A zombie experience park! Z World Detroit proposes to transform a 200-acre blighted area of the city into an interactive zombie park where abandoned warehouses become sanctuaries and condemned homes into hideouts as visitors run for their lives through city streets while the undead hordes trail closely behind. As you and a group of friends forage for food and water in this surreal over-night adventure, empty stores and forgotten factories may house the last supplies and provisions. The project's creator, Marc Siwak, encourages Detroiters to look beyond traditional modes of neighborhood revitalization, taking advantage of and embracing the rare opportunity that derelict post-industrial remains afford. To realize their dream, a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign has been launched with a goal of $145,000 to complete a comprehensive study to locate the ideal site for the project. With 39 days remaining, nearly $2,800 has been pledged. It seems zombies will never be as popular as Robocop in Motor City. Sarah Cox at Curbed Detroit mused that a tweet from Detroit's Mayor Bing might be needed to push the campaign over the top, as was the case with a proposed Robocop statue, but so far, the concept has not been approved by the city. Rather than abandon large areas of the city as Mayor Bing has proposed, Z World utilizes existing resources. According to Siwac's website, “The Z World Detroit initiative is a radical rethinking of urban redevelopment and Detroit’s well documented blight and depopulation. It turns perceived liabilities into assets that will bring renewed vitality to a struggling neighborhood.” And, if everything goes according to plan, it will create a one-of-a-kind destination that will generate jobs and spur local development.
When it opened in 2006, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit became known as a cutting edge venue for showing contemporary art. Designed by Zago Architecture, the museum's raw interior and graffitied exterior seemed to fit its mission and speak to the Motor City's gritty present. How quickly museums grow up! Today, the museum announced it had selected Rice + Lipka Architects and James Corner Field Operations to renovate the building and redesign its adjacent public space. According to a release, the renovation will include updated climate controls, improved galleries and staff offices. The exterior and surrounding site will be redesigned to accommodate programming. "Our team is thrilled to be selected by MOCAD for this visioning project that has such great potential to inspire and engage the community," said principal Lyn Rice. The project has received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and Leveraging Investments for Creativity for design work, and a $350,000 grant for construction from ArtPlace. The museum hopes to begin construction in 2013.
On Wednesday, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively killed Detroit's planned light rail line, citing doubt about the city's ability to build and maintain the project, given its dire finances and collapsing levels of density. He instead pushed for bus rapid transit along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Elsewhere, however, transit seems to be gaining traction. The much debated Cincinnati Streetcar just received nearly $11 million in federal TIGER grants, allowing construction of the Over-the-Rhine to downtown line to commence, and planners will extend the line to the riverfront development called The Banks, as well as the adjacent stadia. A vociferous opposition has fought the planned line at the ballot box and in the courts, but so far they have yet to block it. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis the Central Indiana Transit Task Force are pushing for a modest tax increase to vastly expand that city's transit system, including doubling the city's bus fleet and building a commuter rail line to Noblesville. The three tenths of one percent income tax increase would be passed through a local two-country referendum, but first the state legislature must give the go ahead to allow the local referendum. That is not an insignificant hurdle in the very conservative, Republican controlled state government, but with much of Indy's business community, including it's chamber of commerce, supporting the tax, it may stand a chance.