Although there was lots of activity outside on a beautiful warm spring Sunday afternoon in Southwest Detroit, it was inside the Cristo Rey high school where some of the real excitement was taking place.
Vernor Crossing is one of four Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) Legacy Charrettes – hands-on public design events – that were held in Detroit, Pontiac, and Hazel Park, last week. This work, called “Building affordable and market rate housing in Southwest without displacement,” is being done as a lead up to CNU24. My colleague, Rob Ferrari and I attended the last day of the Vernor Crossing workshop to see the culmination of two days of hard work that included significant public input from the neighborhood residents. This was led by Dhiru Thadani from Washington D.C. with support from Nederveld, Zimmerman/Volk Associates and City Form Detroit. My colleague, Luke Forrest, attended the first day of the workshop discussion, so check out his blog, which set the stage.
Southwest Detroit is ripe for change. Home to a diverse and immigrant population, it is made up of artists, entrepreneurs and crafts people. Local leaders and residents were brought together to envision a transformation of an area that would potentially become much more pedestrian friendly, provide a more diverse housing stock, enhance existing businesses to attract new businesses, and create more open green space for recreational activities. To achieve these goals, several tangible recommendations are being proposed. Here are some of the ideas that are beginning to lay the groundwork:
- Reroute truck traffic
- Open up and repair Livernois and Military streets
- Identify vacant sites that can be transformed into various activities
- Renovate the Public Works building (which would act as a town center) to create an arts and culture center; put in 500 housing types (5 year plan – 100 per year) which would include apartments, single family home; create a playground and soccer field; civic space for recreational activities; farmer’s market
- Provide a diversity of housing through rehabilitation and new carriage houses, bungalows, single family, row houses, apartments, cottages
- Provide free WiFi; encase antenna tower and use as a landmark.
These ideas and concepts will be shaped into a cohesive design plan and unveiled during the CNU in Detroit. Optimism filled the room for all the potential that hung in the air. Of course, it will take a few years to accomplish many of these changes, but there are incremental steps that can be taken that will have huge impact. Participating in the workshop, Steve Maun, Principle and Founder of LeylandAlliance LLC, said that rerouting the trucks alone will already be a major improvement and smaller scale physical changes will begin to attract developers.
Be sure and check back in June as my colleagues and I continue to follow the progress of all four of the Legacy Charrettes.