National publications provide insight into Maurice Cox, city of Detroit's planning director

Maurice Cox, director of the city of Detroit's Planning Department, is the closest thing there is to a public official celebrity. Given his department's role in major urban infrastructure projects, like the new riverfront redesigns, it's understandable why he's been profiled in local and national publications. 

Two recent articles were published on Cox in the last month, and they contained some interesting insights into his thinking and, well, plans. 

Since his hiring, Cox has been keen to attract talent from around the country to the planning department, like central district director R. Steven Lewis. Gregor Macdonald, in a long profile on the department for Next City, writes about a moment during a conversation-style event at the University of Michigan between the two that indicates an important emphasis for the department:

"In the event of an economic downturn, typical of every business cycle, Lewis speculates whether 'downtown could forever be ok, but then the neighborhoods surrounding it could be as unchanged as they are today.' If that happened, Lewis continues, 'We'd all be failures.'"

Later in the article, there's talk about Cox's plans for the city's ample vacant land. "Cox recruited from Australia the well-known landscape architect Elizabeth Mossop to address Detroit's immensity of acreage. What might the future be of this great expanse? The word archipelago comes up often, in conversations with Cox and others, to describe a network of beautified neighborhoods joined hand-to-hand by ribbons of green space. In addition to agricultural businesses, Detroit might also choose to deploy solar and wind farms."

In a Q&A with the Civic Commons, Cox talked about plans in the Live6 area, which echo some of what we wrote in our article on the McNichols corridor. "We have the opportunity," said Cox, "to create a new 'Main Street' anchored by African-American businesses and property owners, a new open space network that supports sustainability and pedestrian mobility, and a connection of neighborhoods and residents to the communities of two institutions of higher learning."

Once again, community engagement is a point of emphasis in the interview, with Cox saying how important it is to "test ideas with the community, gather real-time feedback, and make the process more accessible to those who lack familiarity with maps and drawings."

One way the department is making itself more outward-facing is with the new HomeBase, which will be a headquarters for the Live6 Alliance, Detroit Collaborative Design Center, and the city. Through an open door policy, community members can directly interface with leadership to voice their concerns, as well as use the space themselves for meetings or other projects. 

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is the managing editor of Model D and a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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