THE WOODWARD CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT.  Downtown Detroit has authentic character, scale, and intangible intrigue that have captivated national and international audiences for decades.  Most recently, Downtown Detroit completed the Greater Downtown TOD Strategy – a solid plan built upon proven urban principles of mixed use, walkability and transit. High vacancies, along with a small, but growing number of successful independent businesses begin to offer an initial glimpse of the District’s Consumer. The TOD Strategy defines three simple user profiles:

  • Employees.  For starters, the Consumer is a 125,000 person workforce within the 4 square miles of Greater Downtown – soon to be connected permanently along Woodward by M1 Light Rail. In recent months, the Live Downtown and Live Midtown incentive programs have contributed to residential rental occupancies in excess of 95%.
  • Visitors.  The 15 million annual visitors cited by the Greater Downtown TOD Strategy also drive major foot traffic and consumer demand during hundreds of annual downtown events. And Detroit’s sprawling Metro is home to millions of regional ‘Visitors’ who treat downtown as a temporal, drive-in destination for single use trips.
  • Residents. The Consumer is also a growing population of 25,000 Greater Downtown residents with a spectrum of consumer needs and desires that have helped fuel the recent uptick in indie retail start-ups. The City of Detroit has embraced the TOD Strategy’s recommendation to more than double the resident population in the next ten years.

THE URBAN PLAYGROUND.  Downtown Detroit continues to tamper with conventional wisdom: in one moment it’s bustling entertainment mecca and the next moment, it’s a ghost town. It’s home to inspirational architecture and tragic decay. Heroic vision and gap finance wizardry have given us the Westin and the two Davids, but millions of square feet of vacancy threaten the scores of buildings and city blocks that define our majestically intimate downtown setting.

In the meantime, national retailers continue to watch from the sidelines, while indie entrepreneurs put it all on the line – striving to harness the new-found energy emerging on the streets of the Woodward District. Can this energy be converted into economic growth? How do we design Woodward’s retail economic ecosystem so that the Central Business District becomes uniquely Detroit?  How can we expand upon the three TOD narratives outlined in THE URBAN PLAYGROUND?

What is your narrative?  How would you design your URBAN PLAYGROUND?

To download a full version of the URBAN PLAYGROUND, click here.