The Detroit Works Project has received the economic boost it needed to put its Detroit Future City plan into action. Detroit Free Press reported that the Troy-based, Kresge Foundation will give $150 million over the next five years to help accomplish the objectives outlined in the 347-page plan, which focuses on creating economic growth and building infrastructure in Detroit. A technical team led by Toni Griffin, a New York-based urban planner, crafted an extensive list of recommendations such as blue and green infrastructures, job creation, and management of vacant land.
Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that Detroit’s M-1 Rail project, aka the Woodward Light Rail Line, will receive $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The plans for this 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue will include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center. According to the Detroit Free Press, $100 million has already been raised of the light rail line’s $140 million price tag. Officials said the first trains could be running by the end of 2015.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that the city will close 51 parks. The Detroit Free Press’ Matt Helms has the full list of parks here, including an additional 37 parks that will receive limited maintenance.
The closures are the result of massive cuts to the city’s parks and recreation budget due to the City Council’s rejection this week of a plan to lease Belle Isle to the state. Details of the council’s decision were evidently worked out late Thursday night, so the devastating cuts came as a surprise to many residents. The move recalls closures announced, but avoided, in 2010.
Belle Isle is a 985-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While details are still being negotiated, it appears the plan could save the City of Detroit $8 million per year in operating costs. Though Detroit would still own the land, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would operate the island as a state park, charging motorists an $11 entry fee. Bicyclists and pedestrians would still get free access.
The potential deal comes on the heels of some good news for Motor City urbanists. In addition to filling out the gaps in the city’s riverwalk, Detroit is moving forward with its M-1 Rail plan, as well as an ongoing $300 million renovation of its Cobo convention center.
Much has been made of the decline of American industry and, more recently, the rise of small-scale urban industry, but one of the largest international manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn, could change the industrial scene completely if it decides to build factories in the United States. The Guardian reports that Foxconn is considering Detroit and Los Angeles for potential outposts thanks to rising costs overseas, but the company infamous for manufacturing Apple products among others at its 800,000-worker-strong Chinese facilities would have to adapt to radically different American ways of working.
The “contemporary light art festival” features 35 local, national, and international artists who will illuminate historic structures in Midtown Detroit. Buildings including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, and the Detroit Public Library will become canvases for 3D video mapping, laser displays, and light sculptures.
Click here for a full schedule and map of the events.
Following the many interesting developments in Detroit these days, one gets a sense that the city’s post-industrial landscape is fertile ground for innovative design. A boutique hotel made of shipping containers seems to back up that trend.
Collision Works, as the project is called, touts the structural merits of shipping containers. “Shipping containers are considerably more durable than standard construction, can cost less, and most importantly are about 30 percent faster to build,” writes project founder Shel Kimen.
It looks like Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Towers in Detroit may avoid the auction block a little longer. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosed on the high-rise apartment buildings in February, and HUD had planned to put them up for auction this month (albeit with a litany of multi-million-dollar renovations required of the lucky winner).
Detroit exercised its first right of refusal on that course of action, wary of the iconic towers falling into the wrong hands. New York-based Northern Group bought the buildings in 2008 for $16 million in cash, but stopped making payments on its loans by 2010. The towers were transferred to HUD soon after. Now the city’s group for planning and facilities is seeking a private owner to bring the buildings back from disrepair.
For many years much of Detroit’s riverfront was an industrial utility, characterized by derelict manufacturing sites. But efforts to reclaim public spaces on the waterfront have made considerable progress in recent years. Now a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state of Michigan ensures transformation along the Detroit River will continue.