Southwest Detroit, Hamtramck get walkability audits

Last week, Hamtramck and two areas of Southwest Detroit were the beneficiaries of Walkability Audits conducted by Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, Inc.

What's a Walkability Audit? lt consists of an "on the street assessment" of a neighborhood or city's environment as it relates to pedestrian and bicycle access, intersection and roadway design and overall "walkability." Burden walks the streets with community developers, business owners and residents, helping them see the area through the eyes of an urban designer.

After the walk, Burden advises his clients on programs they can implement to make their community more walkable and thus more attractive to residents and visitors -- things like street corridor and intersection design, traffic flow and calming, and "road diets." He has over 37 years of experience, and has worked on similar projects in San Diego, Portland, Las Vegas, Boulder and Honolulu.

Along the West Vernor corridor in Southwest Detroit, the area's main business district, Burden observed a dense residential population that supported the commercial endeavors that line the street. One recommendation included unified signage "to help improve the overall look," says Vittoria Katanski of Southwest Detroit Business Association, an audit participant.

Katanski said neighborhood participation helped make the audit a worthwhile endeavor. "We had people from the residential area as well as city planners and some architects that we are working with," she says. "People that are invested in our corridor came and paid attention to the fact that this national expert was there, and heard first-hand what other neighborhoods are doing."

The Walkability Audits were sponsored by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Community Health and the Governor’s Cool Cities Initiative.

Source: Jason Friedmann, City of Hamtramck and Vittoria Katanski, SDBA.
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh