Placemaking efforts a big hit in Greektown: Streetscape improvements to remain into November

Detroit-based Virtuoso Design+Build, the firm behind the design, fabrication, and installation of the recently-debuted updates to the Greektown streetscape, are seeing their work rewarded with a 2-month extension of the placemaking effort. Originally scheduled to come down in September, the various streetscape elements will now be taken away come November. As they were designed to be easily cycled out for the cold-weather months, the pieces should return to Monroe Street the following spring.

Before the build-out, Monroe Street, host to the many restaurants and cafes that characterize Greektown, had few outdoor dining options. Now several of the restaurants between Beaubien and St. Antoine streets offer patio seating. The efforts coincide with Greektown at Sundown, which closes a stretch of Monroe Street to vehicle traffic and opens up the street to pedestrians.

Many of the restaurants in Greektown were the benefit of the streetscape improvement efforts, receiving rails, platforms, and new Ikea-donated furniture for the patios that now dot the sidewalk. Umbrellas and greenery are also elements of the improvements. Virtuoso Design+Build worked in collaboration with the Greektown Historic Preservation Society, Rock Ventures, and local businesses.

"I've noticed a change on Monroe Street already," says Mark Klimkowski, owner of Virtuoso Design+Build. "I live right around the corner and walk along that street every day. It's more pedestrian friendly--there are more strollers and families. It's a more pleasant atmosphere."

Virtuoso Design+Build, finalists in this year's New Economy Initiative grant competition and the company behind the design of, the UFO Factory in Corktown, a Big Sean-donated recording studio at Cass Technical High School, and the forthcoming Gabriel Hall location in West Village, is currently undergoing an expansion and plans to hire more employees soon. Klimkowski says they're working internally to develop products like furniture, architectural wall coverings, and even pre-fabricated homes. The company recently moved operations to the Letts Industries building on the city's east side. They're leasing 4,000 of the Albert Kahn-designed building on Bellevue Street's 70,000 square feet.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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