Eastern Market is one of a handful of projects that attendees visited during the Legacy City Design: 2013 Bruner Loeb Forum. The Forum focused on two topics: Vacancy, Weeds and Infrastructure and Vacancy, Density and Neighborhoods, and the schedule was divided among site visits and bus tours, presentations about Detroit and other Legacy Cities and working sessions.
Rick Reinhard (LF ‘96) was familiar with Eastern Market but had never had a tour and briefing, and he was impressed. "It’s an asset to be built upon. You can get your arms around that, even if you can’t get your arms around thousands of vacant properties.”
Other initiatives ran the gamut of entrepreneurial incubators and facilitators, environmental remediation and prevention, urban agriculture, infrastructure reuse and conversion, building community, art installation and job training, and that’s not an exhaustive list. First Container is the pilot program for a shipping container boutique hotel and community engagement vehicle being developed by Collision Works. Student entrepreneurs are setting up booths at the Eastern Market retail market and gaining career skills at Detroit Food Academy. Youth are also learning leadership, activism and planning skills while practicing urban agriculture and forestry. Participants discussed growth potential and impact.
Maurice Cox (LF ’05) argues, "Taking it to scale doesn’t mean replicating; it’s showing what’s possible and catalyzing other activity and projects.” Dan Pitera (LF ‘05) agrees, "It’s so important in this work, scaling up. In retail it means more or bigger: think of a café or Walmart. That doesn’t work when the community wants to retain control. But we’re not talking about isolated projects either. I’m in favor of creative amnesia: remove the preconceptions and see things and situations differently. We’re figuring out how you connect the dots to have broad impact and sustainable density.”
The forum broke into working groups to brainstorm innovations. Participants generated additional ideas like land banks and zoning flexibility to allow atypical land uses and "twofers” - combining stormwater management with recreation spaces and public art; combining land use and transportation planning. There were fanciful ideas like importing sheep for lot clearance, which in fact is in the pipeline.
Chris Reed (associate professor of landscape architecture) proposed other intermediate steps: setting aside vacant properties to be recycling centers for building materials; breaking up obsolete roadways to improve drainage and reduce storm water runoff. Where houses have been removed, break up basement walls to create sloped catchment basins for storm water.
Vaughn Horn is an architect and DDes candidate at the GSD, who is focusing his research on Detroit. He said, "This is changing the way I think. As an architect you’re given an existing shell and you focus on making it nicer. But once you’re outside the walls and you see how the neighborhood views and uses a project – especially the neighborhoods with all the 'unders': under-resourced, underserved, underprivileged, undereducated – you focus not so much on built object but on the neighborhood’s hopes and dreams. It’s empathy versus apathy.”
Next City blog, a new media partner for the Forum