Posts Tagged ‘placemaking’

Updates: Detroit RiverWalk, Belle Isle and more

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Much of this is older news and others, like Mode Shift have done a fine job covering last month’s RiverWalk announcements. We’ll just in some gaps and clear up some misconceptions.

In case you missed it, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Governor Rick Snyder and others broke ground more sections of the RiverWalk. More specifically, the Mt. Elliott Park makeover is underway. Not much has begun yet except for some construction fencing, but that will change soon.

As we mentioned, Mode Shift wrote a very good article on this event, as did the Free Press, Detroit News, and Click on Detroit (with video.)

The Governor has shown great interest as well and made this statement.

It’s a win for all Michiganders. The riverfront in Detroit coming back is a great thing for the citizens of Detroit and for all Michiganders. I encourage anyone in our state to come down and enjoy the experience. I’m looking forward to going for a bike ride myself one of these days.

Saddle up, Governor. Summer’s coming to an end.

The Governor continued his comments by stressing the importance of placemaking, which he views as a combination of “economic development, environmentalism, and community all coming together.” Former DNR Director Rodney Stokes has been transferred to the Governor’s office to work on placemaking, including Milliken State Park, the Globe Trading Building, and Belle Isle. This is a very positive move as Stokes is a former Detroit Recreation Department director and has put a priority on engaging urban youth in the outdoors.

Snyder also applauds the Detroit RiverWalk’s public-private partnership model, which he is also pushing for the new Detroit River bridge.

The Uniroyal site just east of Mt. Elliott Park continues to be cleaned. With some luck this work will be completed so that the RiverWalk connection to the Belle Isle bridge can be started next year.

That $44 million that was announced at the groundbreaking is funding we’ve already mentioned in earlier stories. Only now is the Conservancy able to spend it.

Some media stories have said this is the “final phase” or that these project will complete the RiverWalk. No, they won’t. They’ll complete the eastern portion of the RiverWalk. The western portion from Joe Louis Arena to Riverside Park, just beyond the Ambassador Bridge still needs to be completed.

Belle Isle

The state’s interest in helping Detroit with Belle Isle has gotten much press and attention. There’s both strong support, opposition and misinformation.

Here’s some questions and answers:

Q. The Belle Isle assistance is in city’s consent agreement. Does that mean it’s a done deal?

A. No. According to city councilmember we spoke with, it’s only an affiliated project. It’s not part of the agreement.

Q. If Belle Isle were part of Milliken State Park, would there be an admission fee?

A. No, but motor vehicles on the island would probably have to have a Recreation Passport. The Passport costs $10 a year and is valid in all state parks and state forests. It’s a bargain and costs less than a few gallons of gas.

Q. Does this bring Detroiter’s state tax dollars back to the city?

A. No. Since 2004, state parks have not received state taxpayer funding. Councilman Gary Brown, Deadline Detroit, and others have been mentioning this as a benefit, but they’re not correct.

There have been many concerns voiced about the state having a long term lease on the Belle Isle. We’re not concerned. Leases can be written to say what the state can and cannot do. It doesn’t mean the state will be building condos. These leases are common.

In fact there’s a similar lease just down the river. That land under Milliken State Park? It’s city land that’s on a long term lease to the state.

How’s that working out?

Place making: Is your plate full?

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Now and then an old Souvenir of Detroit item will appear on eBay.

These souvenir items often highlight the most memorable or unique locations within the city — the “must see” public spaces. This blue plate is one example.

If one were to make the plate for Detroit today, it would be a bit difficult choosing among the many site candidates: Campus Maritius, RiverWalk, Ambassador Bridge, Spirit of Detroit, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Dequindre Cut, Belle Isle, Renaissance Center, Book Cadillac, and the always-required Michigan Central Station.

The same cannot be said for many Detroit suburbs. What would you put on a Rochester Hills plate besides the Clinton River and Paint Creek Trail? It seems Troy’s choices drop off fast once you include Somerset Mall and their historic area. And what about Clinton Township?

So what? What’s the market for souvenir plates nowadays?

But it’s really not about plates. It’s about building memorable and unique public spaces that help attract and retain residents — something we’re not doing very well in Michigan.

According to a presentation given by Gary Heidel, Interim Director for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (October 2010):

If a region does not seize its unique place-based assets and positively exploit them to improve quality of life, then it will not be very successful in attracting a continuing supply of knowledge workers. Without the knowledge workers, it cannot successfully compete in the global New Economy.

Heidel also adds that urban/city placemaking should include:

Expanding a waterfront walk and bicycle system, and promoting and contributing to an integrated regional bicycle trail system with excellent connections in the city and adjoining jurisdictions.

So placemaking is just another justification for promoting bicycling and trails in Detroit.

And good placemaking means good plate making.