New ‘Detroit Sign’ a roving landmark designed for social media and small business

One good placemaking project deserves another, or so the saying goes.

In 2019, when the Downtown Detroit Partnership first debuted a light display spelling out “Detroit” in large block letters as part of its Detroit Aglow programming, the installation at Randolph Plaza became a popular destination for photographers and their social media posts.

The light display had other benefits, too.

“We had such good feedback from the small businesses around the sign that said they saw an increase in customers. We thought it would be good to build a second one,” says Gina Cavaliere, Chief Community Impact Officer and BIZ Director for the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

“Our board sees the value in that. They’re always stressing the importance that anything we do downtown should be replicable in the neighborhoods.”

Funded by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and the DTE Energy Foundation, The Detroit Sign is a roving landmark that will travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, encouraging people to get out of their cars, onto the sidewalks, and, hopefully, into the small businesses of Detroit’s neighborhood commercial corridors.

The structure itself is a 10-foot-by-10-foot aluminum frame outfitted with LED lights that can change colors. With Detroit arcing atop the circular frame, the structure appears as a gateway-like invitation to whichever neighborhood it’s placed.

And that’s by design. Lightweight enough to be moved by one or two people and powered through standard electrical outlets, The Detroit Sign is intended to move throughout the city, making stops for six to eight weeks at a time.

It was designed and manufactured locally by Studio Incognita and Metro Signs & Lighting, respectively.

“This was designed to withstand the elements and it can be moved year-round. Expect this program to last for years to come,” Cavaliere says.

The sign made its debut outside of Mike’s Fresh Market in the city’s Live6 district in the days leading up to this past Christmas. It can currently be found outside of Norma G’s restaurant in Jefferson Chalmers.

“The intent here is to provide a source of community pride. Detroit is a community of many unique neighborhoods that share a goal of promoting the entire city,” Cavaliere says.

“At this point in time, our commercial corridors need extra support. We want to help drive foot traffic and local pride.”

Follow along with The Detroit Sign by visiting the Downtown Detroit Partnership website.

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