Detroit Works long-term plan nears unveiling
The Strategic Framework Plan for Detroit's "healthy and vibrant future" is nearly complete as Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning finalizes input from those with a stake in the city's future. The plan will serve as a blueprint for the economic, social and physical redevelopment of Detroit.
Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), a community-oriented extension of UDM's School of Architecture, co-led the civic engagement portion of the plan.
The plan will help guide the city's future in six key areas:
- Economic growth
- City systems (water, electricity, transportation, etc.)
- Land use
- Public land (action items involving 65,000 properties)
- Civic engagement
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing launched Detroit Works in 2010 to address the use of vacant land in Detroit. City government is leading the short-term action. Bing appointed 13 steering committee members to oversee the long-term plan. Dan Pitera, associate professor of the School of Architecture, and executive director of DCDC, worked with his established advisory group of 16 people, called the Process Leaders.
"The plan is designed to amplify and realign existing efforts and assets that are in place," said Pitera, who presented the group's findings to the Long Term Planning Committee on Oct. 24, 2012.
The long-term plan blends respondents' ideas with research and data. Much of the community input is also available on the Detroit Works Long Term Planning website. The plan establishes metrics and goals around 14 quality of life categories, which include jobs, education, transportation and health.
"Our economy has been perceived as being a single economy - the auto industry," Pitera said. "However, it's much more poly economic. There are four economic clusters driving the region's economy. We have the ninth largest education and medical sector in the country, along with a new economy, targeted industry and local entrepreneurs."
One example of targeted industry is food system development, which includes urban farming, locally produced food products, and food distribution.
"We need the mechanisms in place to allow all industries to survive," Pitera noted.
For example, the city has no zoning for farms. Many respondents called for a unified economic development plan with the proper zoning and a unified method of doing civic engagement. "There needs to be a better method to coordinate agencies so they work together," Pitera said.
"The plan won't be judged by economic growth alone; it contains elements to improve the quality of life of all Detroiters," he adds. The intrinsic value is that it is a plan by Detroiters for Detroit.
For land use, there is a set of building blocks to reshape neighborhoods rather than eliminate them. The building blocks offer a variety of residential types (apartments, condos, single-family homes) several industry configurations (retail, light industry, "green" industry), and various landscape features (farms, fields, trees, ponds). Some of the urban ponds could expand across blocks of empty neighborhoods, providing an attractive water feature and storm drainage.
The plan was shaped by more than 163,000 voices: the community (residents, business owners and civic leaders) along with urban designers, landscape architects, engineers and economists. Community input took more than one year to obtain through traditional and nontraditional methods. Numerous community meetings were held. The Detroit Works team set up a traveling display in public places showing stages of redevelopment. It held popular town hall meetings via conference calls that drew thousands. And, it established a walk-in office near Eastern Market.
Unconventional methods included a video game, Detroit 24/7, which elicited ideas from young Detroiters. An oral history project shared residents' memories of growing up and working in Detroit. The use of social media invited comments and provided updates. Pitera said these innovative efforts obtained additional input and generated enthusiasm for the plan.
What surprised Pitera was how people began to see the connection between their neighborhood and the citywide landscape; how improvements in one area could be expanded to another section and lift up the city.
"This was very much a Detroit-centered dialogue," Pitera said. "It focuses on celebrating Detroiters and Detroit." The next phase will expand the dialogue into other regional sectors and the state.
The plan is supported by Michigan Community Resources (MCR). Funding comes from Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation and Kellogg Foundation. Technical consultants are managed in part by Hamilton Anderson & Associates (co-owner Rainy Hamilton is a UDM graduate).
For more about UDM's involvement with Detroit Works, see the spring 2012 article.