News Release

UDM’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center helps build on Detroit’s Future

University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), part of the School of Architecture, was instrumental in crafting the recently released Detroit Future City strategic framework plan, which has been endorsed with a $150,000,000 pledge from the Kresge Foundation.

In July of 2011, DCDC was selected by both the Kresge and Ford Foundations to lead a renewed effort to engage residents and key stakeholders in the city of Detroit to actively participate in the planning phase of Mayor Bing’s “Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning” Initiative. From November of 2011 through December of 2012, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, led by Associate Professor of Architecture Dan Pitera, FAIA, guided a collaborative effort to fully engage all citizens and community leaders in a dynamic conversation that was instrumental in shaping the recently released Detroit Future City strategic framework. Over this time period, the University has received approximately $2,000,000 from the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in support of this process.

The Design Center’s contribution to the Detroit Works Long Term Planning Project, now entering a new phase under the name “Detroit Future City,” has been crucial to the project’s success. One of the key characteristics of this process, in contrast to typical urban redevelopment plans of the past, is the unprecedented level of meaningful community engagement that was built into the process. The plan will certainly prove to be transformational in the evolution of Detroit in terms of the impact it will have on future land use, prosperity, and quality of life for Detroit’s residents, and in the arena of urban design and urban planning, it is certain to receive global recognition for the groundbreaking nature of the Design Center led community engagement process.

The Center co-authored the plan, reaching out to 163,000 community members in over 30,000 meetings with area stakeholders. “People are our greatest asset,” said Pitera. “And it’s the people who will define the vision of the project. We didn’t come in with an idea of what the end result would look like. The vision is being created by the Detroit community, through the process of engagement", he added.

The expertise of the Design Center staff has developed over the past 19 years and has earned a global reputation for setting the highest standard for the meaningful participation of stakeholders in various projects. DCDC has completed hundreds of projects over the years that have been guided by an exemplary community participation process. With the Detroit Works Project, that expertise has evolved remarkably to engage the entire city in order to give Detroiters a meaningful voice and ownership in the process of envisioning new potentials for the city.

One of the most important successes of the civic engagement process so far is that the collaborative work of the Design Center has helped to knit together the beginnings of a strategic coalition of community leaders that will be crucial for the implementation of these ideas. Dozens of key community leaders in the public, private and philanthropic communities have already come together to help craft the plan, and those networks of collaboration will be extremely valuable as the project moves forward.

As the Detroit Future City initiative now moves into various stages of implementation, the Design Center will continue to play a vital role in the process and the ongoing conversation with all Detroiters. Their expertise will also be instrumental in helping neighborhood groups and non-profits develop project plans on a more local scale.

To view the Detroit Works plan, visit the website at:

Local & National Media Coverage Highlights

January 16, 2013

  • Detroit Metro Times
    Detroit's vision and revision
    Which brings us back to Dan Pitera, an associate professor of architecture at UDM and executive director of the university’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center, which, as the school’s website notes, is focused on “fostering university and community partnerships that create inspired and sustainable neighborhoods and spaces for all people.”

January 13, 2013

January 9, 2013

Release date: January 14, 2013

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The University of Detroit Mercy is Michigan's largest private Catholic University, with more than 100 academic majors and programs. Sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Sisters of Mercy, the University has campuses located in downtown and northwest Detroit.

UDM is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and the largest of 17 Mercy institutions of higher education in the United States. For the 15th consecutive year, University of Detroit Mercy is listed in the top tier of Midwest regional universities in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges."