The German McCloy fellows visited Michigan in late March. The League had planned a very special Detroit itinerary for them, and we were excited to get started. But first things first–we gave them an introduction to the structure of local government in Michigan. They toured the League’s Ann Arbor building after a drive through Ann Arbor for a quick tour, and specifically to see some affordable housing development in the city.
We hit the streets of Detroit Monday morning. Our contingency consisted of Heather Van Poucker, Director of Information & Policy Research, myself, and our four fellows:
Dr. Christine Wilcken, Assistant Chief Executive, German Association of Cities, Berlin
Sandra Bohm, Head of Department, Vehicle Registration Center, City of Offenbach
Dr. Christine Meyer, personal assistant of the Lord Mayor of Nuremburg, City of Nuremburg and
Henrik Neumann, city and regional planner, City of Jena.
Our first stop: Recycle Here!. The fellows thought they were going to see a run-of-the-mill municipal recycling center. Surprise! I set the stage beforehand, but Recycle Here! is anything but run-of-the-mill, and they were rather astonished at it. The overpowering sensation is not just the art (murals on all the walls, inside and out, the fire-breathing dragon, the outside sculptures)-but the force that is Matt Naimi. He is fired up about recycling, he is fired up about art, he is fired up about community. His intent to start a recycling center in Detroit has morphed into so much more.
Our next site was the Green Garage & Green Alley. It is a building in Mid-town that is used as co-working space. It was a garage used to park fire trucks many, many years ago. It was reclaimed and rehabbed into a sustainable, energy efficient beautiful building. From there we moved on to visit the Revolve retail space around the corner. The last phase of our journey for the day was to the offices of Michigan Community Resources for an introduction to the Detroit Future City work. We learned about the effort to include residents from all areas of Detroit into the planning process. A particulary innovative approach was through the use of online gaming to reach young people. Dan Pitera, of Detroit Collaborative Design Center led us through the start of the plan via Mayor Bing’s initiative to its current phase. It was so impressive–so comprehensive and visionary. It covers economic growth, land use, transportation and infrastructure, neighborhoods, land and bulidings, and civic engagement. Some of the imperatives from the plan are:
“We must provide residents with meaningful ways to make change in their communities and the city at large” and
“We must use innovative approaches to transorm our vacant land in ways that increase the value and productivity and promote long-term sustainability”
We ended our day with a visit to the Guardian building to be awed by it’s beauty.