Great Things Newsletter

First-time grants allow
SOA Design Center to undertake new research

Detroit Collaborative Design Center

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center works with local groups in Detroit and nationally on community rebuilding efforts, such as the above project: Neighborhood Vision of West Warren prepared for the Prevailing CDC/ West Warren Business Association, Fall 2008.

UDM's School of Architecture (SOA) is embarking on an innovative research collaboration aimed at building on Detroit's vibrant community involvement and strengthening Detroit's democracy and accountable governance through the study of Detroit's regional policy and areas for reform. The funding comes from the Ford Foundation in its first grants to the School.

Research under the grants by the national foundation will be conducted by partner agencies. The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), an architecture and urban design center housed in UDM's School of Architecture, will work in collaboration with Building Partnerships USA, a lead partner that was instrumental in obtaining the grants.

Building Partnerships USA is committed to increasing civic engagement to advance community-led social change. The national group has partnered with organizations in ten metropolitan areas across the country to give civic leaders the tools to shape the futures of their families and regions. DCDC works with local groups in Detroit and nationally on community rebuilding efforts and has offices at the UDM School of Architecture.

Part 1
of the project concentrates on three main areas:

  • a scan of regional policies on land use, economic development and education
  • political dynamics
  • the perceptions and misperceptions of government the effectiveness and functioning of local government.

Part 2
is studying the history and contemporary dynamics of community and grassroots organizing in Detroit. The Design Center and Building Partnerships USA will collaborate on the administration and oversight of research being conducted by a small group of selected experts and investigators.

Warren Lorange Architecture Building
The Detroit Collaborative Design Center is housed
in the Warren Loranger Architecture Building
on UDM's McNichols Campus.

"It's a comprehensive project that will provide answers in Detroit and ultimately could shed light on national questions about how communities can lead reinvention of their cities," said Dan Pitera, associate professor and executive director of DCDC. "Grassroots-led groups must function within certain political and civic frameworks, which is at the heart of this project."

"Detroit has been on the point of the spear for economic and social trends sweeping our nation," explained Elly Matsumura, executive director of Building Partnerships USA, about the national group's interest in the project. "We believe that it can also spearhead the creation of community-led solutions to our shared challenges."
For 16 years, DCDC has worked with more than 80 community organizations providing urban design, landscape architecture and architecture services and facilitating community design workshops to help groups create viable, healthy neighborhoods.

For nearly a century, UDM has provided exemplary education and substantive community outreach in Detroit. The University is a steward of all Detroit neighborhoods. With these grants, UDM serves as a catalyst for foundations to help support sustainable change in government and policy that will positively impact the people and neighborhoods of Detroit and other communities.   

For more information about UDM, or to apply online, go to

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