Detroit Big Winner in Knight Contest for Innovative Civic Projects

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and engages design talent and developers to help reshape commercial districts.

The phrase “pink zone” comes out of the lean urbanism movement and refers to pre-permitting and loosening regulations in certain parts of the city that are ripe for redevelopment. (The bureaucratic red tape is lightened to pink, hence the name.) Detroit has long been known as a place where the process of obtaining building permits is maddeningly (and often needlessly) complicated, so this is quite a revolutionary project, Locker said.

“To have the city be an innovator—we never would have seen that a few years ago,” she said. “Cities have gotten so intense with planning that it’s hard for small designers to test their ideas. We have all these old buildings in Detroit; can we think about zones where we lessen regulations without lessening safety to enhance the development of that area? This is an opportunity to explore that idea.”

Give a Park, Get a Park, submitted by the City of Detroit ($75,000): Creates sustainable micro-parks in Detroit neighborhoods that are designed in response to community needs, require few resources, and are easy to maintain.

Locker said both municipal projects were submitted by Maurice Cox, the city’s director of planning. “They’re not large grants, but both projects are working to reimagine city planning,” she added. “These are things to experiment with despite a budget shortfall.”

Bike-a-logues, submitted by Cornetta Lane ($30,000): Explores Detroit’s untold history through monthly bike tours that lead participants through different areas of the city and gives residents a chance to tell the story of their neighborhoods.

The Underground Order of Tactical Urbanists, submitted by Chad Rochkind ($184,080): Creates a network of tactical urbanists who collectively select a single challenge each year and then implement quick, low-cost, creative improvements. “With Chad and Cornetta, there was no organizational structure, just ideas,” Locker said. “Neither is associated with a nonprofit or institution, and that’s really affirming.”

Dequindre Cut Market, submitted by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy ($135,665): Creates spaces for entrepreneurs to set up shop along the Dequindre Cut, an old railroad track that has been transformed into a biking and walking path, with shipping container pop-up shops. Locker said the soon-to-open Dequindre Cut expansion ends at Eastern Market, and the idea is to bring market traffic to the pop-ups, which will be run by entrepreneurs from the Build Institute.

Locker said what’s almost more thrilling than Detroit’s banner year in the Knight Cities Challenge is the way the 21 finalists rallied around each other, even when they didn’t end up winning. “All of the finalists met each other, and it was nice to see them support one another,” she said. “I’m just excited that the community keeps showing up with all these great ideas.”

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