Detroit’s Belle Isle Could Become a State Park, Save City Millions

Midwest
Monday, January 21, 2013
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Detroit's Belle Isle park. (Courtesy Liza Lagman Sperl via Flickr)

Detroit’s Belle Isle park. (Courtesy Liza Lagman Sperl via Flickr)

The Detroit Free-Press is reporting Belle Isle could become a state park. A public hearing is expected Thursday, and city council could vote on the plan as soon as January 29.

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.

Hotel Made from Shipping Containers Planned for Detroit’s Eastern Market

Midwest
Thursday, September 6, 2012
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Collision Works would be a boutique hotel made from shipping containers in Detroit's Eastern Market area. (Courtesy Detroit Collaborative Design Center.)

Collision Works would be a boutique hotel made from shipping containers in Detroit’s Eastern Market area. (Courtesy Detroit Collaborative Design Center.)

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.

Continue reading after the jump.

Detroit’s Lafayette Towers Skirt Auction Block, For Now

Midwest
Friday, July 27, 2012
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Detroit stalled HUD's planned auction of the Mies towers. (COURTESY GEHAD HADIDI VIA FLICKR.)

Detroit stalled HUD’s planned auction of the Mies towers. (Courtesy GEHAD HADIDI/FLICKR.)

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.

Detroit RiverWalk gets $44 Million from Feds and State

Midwest
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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Detroit, on the water. (Image courtesy Bernt Rostad via Flickr.)

Detroit, on the water. (Image courtesy Bernt Rostad via Flickr.)

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.

Continue reading after the jump.

Michigan Looks to Raze Derelict Homes in Detroit

Midwest
Thursday, July 19, 2012
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Demolition happening today in Detroit. (Courtesy Curbed Detroit)

Demolition happening today in Detroit. (Courtesy Curbed Detroit)

Detroit Mayor David Bing is making good on his pledge to demolish 10,000 derelict buildings in the city by the end of his first term in 2013—his administration has already taken down 4,500 abandoned structures, with another 1,500 demolitions planned by the end of September. (Five more came down this morning, and Curbed Detroit was on the scene to document the demolition.) Now the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is expected to announce state support to help raze more buildings in the name of public safety.

With an initial focus on Detroit’s east, southwest, and northwest sides, the governor’s administration is currently identifying neighborhoods for a pilot program. The Michigan Land Bank, Detroit Public Schools, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are among the many agencies and private sector actors involved in the effort to reclaim Detroit’s wealth of abandoned and unused land.

Neighborhood stabilization and economic development have been at the core of many of Bing’s proposals as mayor. But with Wayne County facing a $155 million budget deficit, efforts to transform Detroit’s well-documented decline will have to do more with less.

Spatial Ops’ Optical Architecture Engages with Disorientation

Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
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(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

Occupying a room in the abandoned Federal Screw Works factory in Chelsea, Michigan, General Manifold is an immersive environment that aims to disorient as well as engage. The installation is set in an 80,000 square foot factory, founded in 1913, that once employed 250 people. When it was shuttered in 2005, only 37 remained. Spatial Ops, with students from their Meta Friche seminar at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, engage the factory’s history, showcasing the ruin and rendering its inverse. Their insertion is an attempt to cultivate enthusiasm for the ruin and to gain support for its transformation, the first step in a forthcoming master plan for Chelsea Common. Read More

Where Today Meets Tomorrow Night

East, East Coast
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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(Click to enlarge)

What do Eero Saarinen and Susan Skarsgard have in common? They both worked for GM: he, the Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, his first great commission; she, graphic design for the Big Three car company for more than 15 years. They also share space at the Museum of the City of New York, where Skarsgard will be giving a talk tomorrow night at 6:30 about her sumptuous, custom-made book as part of the museum’s ongoing Saarinen show, Shaping the Future. Weighing 35 pounds, Where Today Meets Tomorrow was painstakingly produced by Skarsgard over a number of years at the Technical Center, which also happens to be her office. The one-of-a-kind book, through which Skarsgard will guide the museum’s guest on a virtual tour, includes rarely seen archival materials from GM and Saarinen. We got a few more shots after the jump to whet your appetite, but if that’s not enough, check out a book of the same name we just found online produced when the center first opened, with principal photography from none other than Ezra Stoller. Read More

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