Innovation Square, Detroit

The Project Site is a cracked, warped parking lot owned by TechTown, a Detroit business incubator and accelerator that helps local entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. The Site occupies the corner of Burroughs Street and Cass Avenue, sitting immediately adjacent to TechTown’s building and a charter elementary school’s playground. TechTown currently uses this 1/3 acre space for the East Lot, a 43-space priority parking lot reserved for visitors and anchor tenants. With the 148-space Amsterdam Lot operating at 70% capacity one block away, the East Lot could provide greater value in a district dominated by parking lots.

The surrounding 12-block neighborhood is a research and innovation cluster employing over 1600 people at institutions including TechTown, NextEnergy, Henry Ford Health System, and Wayne State University. In addition to offices, other uses are emerging including lofts buildings, charter schools, and police and fire stations.

The goal of the project is to transform a tired parking lot into an inviting outdoor space that encourages inter-organization collaboration and community development, with the goal of generating sufficient momentum to secure follow-on funding to make more extensive and permanent investments.

After suspending vehicle parking, TechTown will set up 3 movable tables and 12 movable chairs along with potted trees and shrubs. The proposed project will build momentum by satisfying a large, unfulfilled need of outdoor dining and meeting place for nearby professionals. The existing café immediately adjacent to the site and the provision of local food trucks will further activate the space.

This sort of undertaking succeeded recently in the international Park(ing) Day, San Francisco’s Pavement-to-Parks Project, New York City’s Times Square and even Detroit’s Campus Martius. This demonstration project’s goal is to remind employees, residents, and visitors about the value of high-quality public space. If this pilot phase generates sufficient momentum, a local foundation has agreed to allow TechTown to reapply the remainder of an existing grant to undertake more significant and permanent improvements in landscaping and furniture.

By transforming a space dedicated to cars to one dedicated to the community, this project will create the place and opportunity for employees to collaborate across organizational boundaries or residents to interact across apartment walls. A vibrant public space will reinvigorate a district critical to reinventing Detroit’s economy to include more than the automotive industry. Furthermore, a strong TechTown district will reinforce the City’s goal to strengthen the Woodward Avenue corridor from Downtown and Midtown through to New Center and beyond.

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