DC3 launches Detroit City of Design initiative

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) wants to help figure out how best to harness the Motor City's flair for design to improve its local economy, and it's launching the Detroit City of Design initiative to make that happen.

"We want to build a community vision for what the designers can achieve," says Olga Stella, executive director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

This effort comes shortly after Detroit was recognized as an UNESCO City of Design, the first and only one in the U.S. The Detroit City of Design initiative's goal is to bring together design professionals in industry, academia, policy, and community to collectively build an innovative, equitable, and sustainable city through the power of design.

According to Stella, they'll ask and answer questions like, "What is unique about Detroit? What are our assets and opportunities?"

The Detroit City of Design initiative will take place over 10 years. In its first year DC3 wants to lay the groundwork for creating a common vision on how design can best impact the region. Specifically, organizers want to see how such a vision can boost Metro Detroit's economy.

Other cities with UNESCO City of Design designations have harnessed them for a variety of purposes. Since 2004, the creative sector in Buenos Aires has grown by 90 percent. It now makes up nearly 10 percent of the city's gross domestic product and employs nine percent (almost 150,000 people) of the city's workforce. Since 2009, Montreal has invested more than $225 million in public projects hosting 25 public design competitions that resulted in $17 million in revenue for the local design community.

DC3 hopes to make similarly big gains by harnessing the UNESCO designation.

"For us, it's about economic development," Stella says.

DC3 will host a series of events celebrating design in the Motor City throughout this year, including the annual Detroit Design Festival on Sept 22-24. The three-day citywide celebration of design has attracted more than 100,000 people the past five years.

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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Read more articles by Jon Zemke.

Jon Zemke is a news editor with Model D and its sister publications, Metromode and Concentrate. He's also a small-scale real-estate developer and landlord in the greater downtown Detroit area.