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Placemaking projects seek to re-energize struggling section of Michigan Avenue

A mural painted by returning citizens on a Michigan Avenue commercial building

Window installations created by returning citizens

Partipants in the Mi Town project on Michigan Avenue

A certain block of Michigan Avenue has received some special attention lately with a series of placemaking initiatives that have incorporated public benches, art, and returned citizens to make the area more welcoming to neighborhood residents and more attractive to potential businesses. The project will be completed in the spring with the installation of a pocket park.

The joint "Mi Town" Pilot and P(ART)icipate! programs are seeking to re-energize a commercial strip on the south side of Michigan Avenue between Junction and Lockwood streets. While blighted, the surrounding area does contain a number of notable businesses, including Hazel's Place lounge, El Barzon Restaurante, and Detroit Moped Works. The moped shop is the only one of the three located in the footprint of the "Mi Town" Pilot and P(ART)icipate! projects.

As part of the "Mi Town" Pilot project, public benches that incorporate planters and bike racks were built and placed in front of Detroit Moped Works. As part of the P(ART)icipate! project, returned citizens painted a mural and window installations, with aims to mitigate both blight and perceptions of returned citizens. A pocket park will be completed as the weather warms back up.

The project consists of three partners: the American Institute of Architects Detroit Urban Priorities Committee (UPC), the Michigan Avenue Business Association, and the design firm Acute E. A number of other organizations helped with various components of the project, including Detroit's Department of Planning and Development, the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project, and Southwest Solutions.

For UPC, the project was an opportunity to expand on earlier work in the area. In 2014, the group had created a visioning document for Michigan Avenue between Martin Road and I-75. It was also an opportunity to build something. Having previously assisted in a Hart Plaza design competition and pop-ups along the East Jefferson corridor, "Mi Town" Pilot and P(ART)icipate! were something that had more direct and physical results. They were, as UPC chair and Acute E owner Réna Bradley puts it, something for UPC to dig their teeth into.

"Overall, it's great to see people come and work together," says Bradley. "And it's great to do something that has life beyond what we already did."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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