Detroit has a history of inspiring creative opportunity and community-based initiative out of the city’s limitations and constraints. From transportation infrastructure to urban farming, our exhibit’s participating businesses and focus areas represent the breadth of past and present efforts to nurture and invigorate the city of Detroit and its residents.
Anahata Yoga, Established 2011
Detroit native Nicole Martin started a pop-up studio to serve residents near the west side of the city. Anahata Yoga offers affordable yoga with quality instruction, and certified teachers, and aims to reach and maintain a student population and collaborative relationships with business partners who can share responsibilities. Nicole continues to evolve her business model in response to varying economic and community constraints and verbal community feedback.
Allied Media Conference and Allied Media Projects
Established in Bowling Green, Ohio, 1999
Allied Media Projects and the annual Allied Media Conference cultivate media strategies for a just, creative and collaborative world. Drawn by Detroit’s creative atmosphere and rich history of social activation, the conference left Bowling Green, Ohio in 2007. Since then, the organization has aided community-based and grassroots initiatives by strengthening their messages and amplifying their voices through strategic planning based on community feedback.
Back Alley Bikes, Established in 2000
The nonprofit organization Back Alley Bikes began in 2000 to enable youth to transport tools and art supplies while participating in a community project called Detroit Summer. BAB operates with a small staff that includes volunteers who teach maintenance and earn-a-bike classes to kids, teens, and adults. As operations and supplies of donated bike parts grew, BAB opened The Hub, a retail outlet to sell refurbished bikes and offer repairs at reasonable rates. In 2014, 437 bikes were sold, 245 earned, 238 were given away, and 376 were recycled at The Hub and BAB.
Detroit’s Food Landscape, 2015
Alex Hill is the co-founder of Detroitography, a website that combines city data and analysis with cartography. The website has an open submission policy, and Hill is an advocate for community-based empowerment. While much of his work focuses on access to food and nutrition, maps include data on art, crime, economics, education, employment, health, income, land use, politics, population, property ownership, transit, and the environment.
Detroit Future City, Established in 2010
Detroit Future City was conceived of as “a highly detailed long-term guide for decision-making by all of the stakeholders in the city.” The plan is an evolution of Detroit Works, which was written under Mayor Dave Bing. DFC is backed by the Kresge Foundation, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In an effort to engage all the city’s stakeholders, DFC created the Roaming Table to travel throughout neighborhoods to collect data and solicit feedback for long-term strategies and solutions.
EMPWR Coat, First design, 2011
The Empowerment Plan, Established in 2012
Veronika Scott’s first version of the EMPWR Coat was created in a Design Activism class at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Scott prototyped her coat while doing field research at the Neighborhood Service Organization, a Detroit community development center. Since going into large-scale production, the project has evolved into a business called the Empowerment Plan that employs homeless women as seamstresses. In most cases, this gainful employment has enabled workers to move into permanent housing. TEP estimates that close to 9,000 coats have been distributed over the past three years.
Lafayette Park, Mies van der Rohe
Residential District, 1961–65
Lafayette Park, designed by architect Mies van der Rohe, landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, and urban planner, Ludwig Hilberseimer, was envisioned as a space in which the middle class could find a home within Detroit’s city limits. It was one of the first projects created under the frame of urban renewal, a nationwide initiative to fight suburban flight from American cities through the construction of highly-designed residential developments. Though many urban renewal projects faced harsh criticism and serious concerns such as crime, unemployment, and low-quality living conditions, Lafayette Park escaped such critique and remains highly desirable today. The three apartment towers and one- and two-story townhomes have maintained high occupancy rates and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Motor City Mapping, Established 2013
With Detroit’s long-term economic difficulties and sprawling size, blight challenges every neighborhood in the city to varying degrees. While some locations are salvageable, many require demolition in the interest of neighborhood safety. Loveland Technologies, a Detroit-based business, has developed the online project Motor City Mapping to comprehensively “digitize Detroit’s property information and create clear communication channels between the public, the government, and city service providers.”
OmniCorpDetroit, Established in 2010
Established by Jeff Sturges, founder of Mt. Elliott Makerspace, OmniCorp began operations as a tech studio and tool shed for local creatives after nearly a year of build-out. By definition, it is a hackerspace focused on design, with members creating furniture, graphics, and other objects.
Mt. Elliott Makerspace, Established in 2010
Fueled by experiences in the South Bronx, Jeff Sturges founded Mt. Elliott Makerspace in 2010 with a $200,000 Kresge Foundation grant. As a place where underprivileged youth could gain technical and vocational skills, Mt. Elliott has offered classes in carpentry, welding, sewing, cooking, prototyping. In direct response to community feedback and needs, Mt. Elliott realigned its mission with that of the Church of the Messiah, the building in which the organization resides. They work together to tackle transportation and employment concerns, while the church provides a community space and a safe space for the congregation and neighborhood.
Social Club Grooming Company, Established in 2013
Sebastian Jackson’s Social Club Grooming Company offers the best grooming services, while being a force for positive change in the community, and helping to sustain the environment. As barber shops have long served as informal gathering spaces for the dissemination of information and ideas, SCGC hosts a monthly series, Shop Talk, which features discussions on social, business, political, and civic issues. Invited panelists receive a haircut while talking about their personal and professional endeavors. Jackson also serves as a mentor to many of SCGC’s stylists who aim to become business owners in the future.
Grasping Detroit’s geographic scope—138 square miles—is an integral part of understanding movement in the metropolis. Street cars drawn by teams of horses were the first system instituted by the Detroit United Railway (1900-1922). Public services have since included street rails and busses under the Detroit Metrobus Company and Municipal Operations (1920-1931), the Department of Street Railways (1922-1974), and the Department of Transportation (1974-present).
In response to shifting economic conditions, Detroit’s urban planning priorities have changed, causing the city to re-evaluate alternative transit systems. One area of focus is new bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Current formal bike path coverage in the city extends for 3.76 miles in the Midtown loop, 1.4 miles on the Dequindre Cut, and for 3.5 miles along the Riverwalk.
In the past 10 years, more civic attention has been paid to grassroots networks of urban agriculture in a city home to over 1,300 registered community gardens and farms. Investment spans a wide range of scale from individual backyard plots to mid-size community gardens and large agricultural sites throughout the city.
With over 12,800 acres or 20 square miles of farmable land, there is significant potential for urban agriculture to provide fresh local produce for citizens. Some organizations empower citizens by providing education on nutrition and farming techniques that can be used in their own gardens.