11-14-17

2017 Midwest Urban Design Charrette: North End Narratives

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Each year, Kent State University partners with graduate students at Lawrence Tech University and Ball State University for our Midwest Urban Design Charrette, a weekend-long design workshop where we collectively tackle an urban design project. Last year the CUDC hosted our visiting universities here in Northeast Ohio, working on the Akron Innerbelt redevelopment site. This year, we were all excited to caravan up to Lawrence Tech’s beautiful facility in Midtown Detroit.

Over the weekend of October 20th through the 22nd, CUDC staff and students, plus a few Cleveland State University planning students, teamed up with our counterparts at Lawrence Tech and Ball State, working collaboratively between design disciplines. Three teams generated distinct ideas for the future of the Oakland Avenue Commercial Corridor in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.

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The North End is known for its Motown past, its rich and collaborative arts culture, and its recent forays into large-scale urban agriculture. As development pressure increases in the Midtown neighborhood to the south, the North End could face new market demand and resulting development opportunities; however, many community members have specific concerns and ideas about what shape those opportunities should take. The students’ task across the weekend was not merely to generate realistic design ideas, but to do so while navigating a complex social fabric already existing in the neighborhood.

team1_axoGroup 1 design idea. 

Over an intense 48 hours, the students visited the site, including unique neighborhood assets like a schvitz (a historic public bathhouse) and an urban farm. After a team dinner, we all rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Saturday afternoon each team presented their initial ideas to the community, who had useful and specific feedback; the teams were able to take their input into their final design proposals. The final presentations, on Sunday afternoon, found a receptive community heartened by the incremental and pragmatic ideas for how to move their existing commercial corridor into a new and inclusive future.

team2_2Group 2 design idea.

The final design ideas will be shepherded by our Lawrence Tech University partners, and assembled into a report with ideas for implementation. We look forward to revisiting the North End again the next time we’re fortunate enough to visit our neighbors to the north (maybe to check out the Schvitz now that it’s open again!). Thanks to Lawrence Tech for hosting another successful Midwest Urban Design Charrette!

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group3_afterGroup 3 design idea.

 

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