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U-M Charrette teams call developers to action

The fifth annual Detroit Design Charrette, Jan. 10—13, presented new visions to the city of Detroit to complement the recently announced riverfront plans and $500 million commitment for a three-mile Riverwalk and a Tri-Centennial Park. The presentation, held at the UAW-GM Human Resource Training Center on the Detroit River, challenged the audience of 350 citizens, stakeholders and civic leaders in attendance to "make it happen."
An illustration of the proposed future for Franklin Street, looking west toward the Renaissance Center (above) and the marina toward the new mall and light rail system (below).(Courtesy Charrette 2003. Photos by Ken Arbogast-Wilson)

Seventy U-M graduate students in architecture, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, art, business, law and public policy formed four competing teams to brainstorm creative visions for the design and implementation of new neighborhoods between the Detroit River and E. Jefferson Avenue. Seven high school students from Cass Tech in Detroit also participated. The teams were led by two dozen faculty members, local architects and planners, visiting national urban design experts and other consultants who worked day and night, adding up to some 4,000 hours of time and energy as part of the University's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

The intensive study, organized by Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, focused on 150 acres in a largely abandoned industrial and warehouse district south of Jefferson Avenue between the Renaissance Center and the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle. Group members were hosted, equipped and fed at the downtown Detroit Edison Headquarters where they worked. The proposals strove to preserve the historic assets and the industrial character of the area as a symbol of Detroit's legacy as a "City of Innovation" and link the city to its riverfront through pedestrian-scaled streets, public transit and green public spaces.

Taubman College Dean Douglas Kelbaugh said, "This particular charrette holds the most promise yet for informing and influencing immediate outcomes because the city's new riverfront initiative makes this area extremely ripe for development. The four design proposals build on the riverfront plans already in place and flesh out the residential neighborhood and commercial development that will soon emerge north of the river's edge."

Paul Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, gave the closing statement at the charrette presentation. He thanked the students and team leaders for their hard work and said, "The whole charrette embodies the University's mission of research, teaching and service in this one event. Detroit established the University of Michigan, financed it and sent its children there. It is a point of pride that our (sometimes austere and distant) academic work can be so much a part of Detroit today."

The four team presentations soon will be available on the Taubman College Web site at http://www.tcaup. http://umich.edu , and a book and CD will be published later this year.

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