The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and Midtown Detroit Inc. (MDI) have selected eight finalists for the “DIA Plaza and Midtown Cultural Connections” design competition. The competition seeks to improve the exterior campus of the DIA and refine the spatial relationship between other museums in Midtown, as well as educational institutions like Wayne State University and cultural stalwarts like the Scarab Club. “The overall quality and depth of the submissions far exceeded our expectations,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director and Chair of the competition jury in a press release. “This is testimony to the exciting challenge of transforming Detroit’s arts and cultural district, which represents more than 12 important cultural institutions in the city and benefits all the residents in the region.” The competition strives for a plan that provides the DIA and Midtown’s stakeholder institutions with a cohesive campus that has the flexibility to support events and public art, attracting both the local visitor and world traveler. The competition also aims to make the campus more accessible and user-friendly, considering ways in which people enter and exit each building while addressing parking and driveway issues. The eight firms will each make public presentations in the DIA’s Danto Lecture Hall on June 13 and 14. The eight finalists are local and global. They include Agence Ter (Paris), Hood Design Studio (Oakland, CA), Mikoung Kim Design (Boston), Spackman Mossop Michaels (Detroit), Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston), UNStudio (Amsterdam), Ten x Ten (Minneapolis) and WXY architecture + urban design (New York). Midtown, anchored by Woodward Avenue, has seen significant population and business growth in the last five years, attracted by institutions like the DIA. Yet the area struggles to resolve how to make surrounding streets and public spaces walkable while being bound geographically by freeways.
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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.
Given the severity and number of challenges facing Detroit, streetscape improvements might not seem like a very high priority. But in the Motor City's Midtown, one of the city's relatively resurgent neighborhoods, a local planning non-profit is betting that encouraging more bicyclists and pedestrians will be a boon for the area. As a result, Detroit may soon get its first buffered bike lanes. Between Temple Street and Warren Avenue, Midtown’s 2nd Avenue is the target of a substantial road diet, as first reported by ModeShift. As Curbed Detroit put it, “The street is practically wide enough to land a jumbo jet, so carving up this turkey will provide cyclists and drivers with large portions of road,” creating a backbone for bike infrastructure between Wayne State University and the waterfront. The 5-foot bike lanes would run for approximately one mile on both sides of 2nd Avenue, separated from 8-foot parking and 11-foot drive lanes by a 3.5-foot, diagonally striped buffer. Midtown Detroit is pushing the diet as part of a larger campaign to repurpose a slew of extra-wide and outmoded one-way streets in the city’s central business district. City Council has already approved the larger project, which includes opening 2nd Avenue to two-way traffic. In 2012 work began on the "Midtown Loop," which turned two downtown one-ways into two-way streets and made bike lanes out of car lanes in this district dense with cultural institutions and new downtown development. ModeShift reports the project should cost $200,000 plus inspection fees. The Michigan Department of Transportation will oversee the work, which is expected to win some federal money. MDOT previously authorized $1 million for non-car "enhancements" along Cass Avenue in 2014. As MDOT gears up to revamp I-375, alternative transportation advocates are pushing for green space and pedestrian-friendly accoutrements in the wake of the downtown highway's car-centric legacy.
A nonprofit in Detroit is calling on artists and designers “to breathe new life into the historical viaducts at Second and Cass Avenue in Midtown.” In partnership with the New Economy Initiative, Midtown Detroit, Inc. will sponsor public art and light installations in the TechTown District of Midtown Detroit. Accepted proposals win $75,000 per viaduct. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, April 30. Applicants can propose interventions for one or both viaducts. Apply here. The two viaducts, located between Baltimore and Amsterdam Streets in TechTown, were fully operational railroad bridge grade separations. Originally constructed in 1934, they’ve fallen into disrepair. While Detroit’s been happy for international design attention in recent years, this competition has a residency requirement. It’s open to “all professional artists, architects, designers, design firms and/or teams consisting of these entities located in the following eight southeast Michigan counties: Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.” Non-residents can join a design team as long as the project lead can prove physical residency in southeast Michigan. Read the full list of guidelines here.