Lately, one of the fascinating trends for urban renewal has been what is being dubbed the “Bilbao effect.” The implication here is that a city can build a structure, often times a cultural institution, that, in and of itself is a spectacle, and use this museum/performing arts center/cultural hub as a tool to generate tourism and a concentration of resources in the city. It’s some sort of interesting manifestation of the “anchor institution” concept.
Bilboa coined the phrase mostly because of what they did with the Bilboa Guggenheim Museum. They commissioned Frank Gehry to build what is an absolutely stunning structure as a means by which to draw people in and it has had significant economic impact– in 2010 around 213 Million Euros a year in direct investment, with the average user spending roughly 220 Euros each trip to the Guggenheim (including things like hotel, food, shopping, lodging leisure). Pretty stunning actually. They built this thing in 1997 and opened it up in 1998. That’s a lot of progress. And Bilbao isn’t alone in employing this method of development. Turin did it with the Silent Film Museum. Kansas City is doing it with the Kauffman Performing Arts Centre. On and on.
Last week, I was browsing Curbed Detroit (a nice blog, btw) to see that MOCAD has announced renovation plans for the museum. They have hired James Corner and Rice+Lypka Architects to handle the endeavor. Both firms, most notably James Corner, have taken some very impressive projects that have the same type of WOW factor tucked in the plans that unfolded with the Guggenheim and Kauffman Performing Arts Centre. Some examples of the work James Corner Field Operations have done:
I can’t help but think what kinds of tricks are up the sleeves of these firms with plans for Detroit. I don’t wanna jump ahead of myself and say that they are building the next Guggenheim in Detroit, but I think it’s worth putting a little social pressure on them to create something iconic, at the very least. And then, who knows, will the treasure troves of tourists pour in to Detroit? Aside from clogging up places like D’Mongo’s on a Friday night and possibly making it difficult to walk up to a Tigers game and get a great seat, I see this as a wonderful possibility. Think about the effect on our restaurants, retail and the occupancy rates of hotels in the area? Guggenheim alone shows that this kind of investment can have a massive effect (223 Euros of direct investment on average PER PERSON!) on the local and regional economy. So bring it on MOCAD, let’s cross our fingers for some bold and legendary design out of this little renovation that they are doing.
Paul Harris with the UK’s The Guardian came to Detroit not too long ago to produce an article on the way that urban agriculture is revitalizing and changing Detroit for the better. It was his second visit to the city and an attempt at presenting a wider view of the kind of strides farming is taking in the city. In the article he covers many folks in Detroit– Mark Covington and his Georgia Street Garden (the same guy featured in DL!’s documentary “The Farmer and the Philosopher”), beekeeper Rich Wieske with Green Toe Gardens, Taja Sevelle’s Linwood Street Urban Farm, Patrick Crouch and Earthworks Urban Farm and Mike Score with Hantz Farm. Quite a talent bill, eh? Harris weaves a fabric of hope in the article with equal parts devoted to each character. Covington tells the tale of gardens saving neighborhoods, Wieske talks about how perfect Detroit is for all sorts of agricultural endeavors, Savelle addresses the progress of the urban farming movement, Crouch discusses income potential from gardening for poor residents and Score looks at large scale commercial farming as a viable industry in Detroit. All pieces fit together nicely to display the potential of farming in this city from a variety of different angles. All of which point once again to the fact that as Detroit pushes forward re-defining itself with its signature pioneering spirit, there is a good chance other struggling cities will listen and take note. Evidence, once again, that we gotta keep pushing. Onwards.
Crain’s reports that the Kresge Foundation has been pushing hard for a redesign of Detroit with a proposal to Mayor Dave Bing that, if accepted by Bing and his cohorts, could have the structure of a brand new land use plan in four to six months. That’s kind of a big deal. The plan would aim to resize the city, something that has been lingering on Bing’s docket for quite some time now. In the long term, the shrinking plan would aim to concentrate investment and activity in various epicenters of growth around town. The fact that Kresge is heading up such an effort alongside Bing’s office with additional involvement form the Detroit Neighborhood Forum is also an interesting component to all this, as the groups have never consistently worked together. It’s clear that all groups have similar priorities, so there are certainly opportunities to align interests. The results, however, are all up in the air. But you can’t help but get a little excited that the “plan” is starting to form. It has been said for years that getting money tp rebuild Detroit (stimulus or federal funds) depends on the availability of a robust plan. It’s yet to be determined if this trifecta initiative will produce the plan we need, but nevertheless, it seems the steps are being made. And you know what? That’s sort of exciting.
Crain’s reports it all here for those that are members.
The New Republic, a magazine that provides commentary and strategy as it relates to politics, foreign policy and culture, just published The Detroit Project. It shapes up very similarly to a lot of the critical looks at Detroit, stating the downfalls, the disparities, but then lays out some ideas for Detroit based on what has been done in other European cities– mostly based on (surprise!) leadership and land-use. This method of comparison is by no means a new concept– after all, it seems HAA’s lecture series is doing this once a month– but it is perhaps interesting to see multiple case examples that similar re-invention has happened in another corner of the universe. We ain’t alone. Hey, we can do this! MLive’s Jonathan Oosting posted a response and reaction to the project which helps to really get down to the nitty gritty of the whole thing. Now, it’s just a matter of taking part and contributing to that transformation.
What would you do with an inch of land if you could buy it in Detroit? Well, LOVELAND aims to bring that possibility to your doorstep. For $1 you can buy an inch of land and use it any way you see fit. So what are you going to do with an inch? Well, it’s all about the collective ownership and creative re-use of the property that is purchased. With 50 people invested, maybe creative re-use doesn’t quite seem plausible. But what if there were 10,000? It could become this wild 21st century creative studio of sorts with colonies all over the city and inchvestors transforming the landscapes, giving land use a new spin in Detroit. It’s all an experiment, so have a read on the website and get the full rundown.
Friday the 13th wasn’t so bad after all. City Bird had their grand opening in Midtown on Canfield, right next to Bureau of Urban Living, which goes to show you that small business is not just surviving, but actually thriving in Detroit. Perhaps it’s in large part due to a gathering called Open City. Small business owners and those that simply want to give it a shot gather at Cliff Bells once a month to discuss successes, failures and otherwise to help current proprietors hone their game, but also to give the noobs a shot, those that are anxiously waiting on the sideline. It’s an infectious group, enlightening of the many possibilities that exist in Detroit. And with a tagline like “The future of Detroit is small business. Join the revolution.” how can you not want to get involved? The next Open City event is this Tuesday, November 17 at Cliff Bells from 6:30-8:30 pm.
Jim Griffioen, the fellow behind the wheel at Sweet Juniper, a local blog about being a stay-at-home Dad, Detroit and contemporary social issues, will be giving a lecture at The Johanson Charles Gallery in Eastern Market (map) on the regeneration of urbanism in Detroit. According to his website, he’ll be talking about “Detroit’s ruins, urban farming, Henry Ford, historic preservation, blogging, photography, tourism, the suburbs, the picturesque, Rosa Parks, Greenfield Village, and the aesthetics of abandoned places.” Check it out tomorrow evening, 6 to 7pm.
Update (8/18/09): The lecture went off well, with a casual Jim Griffioen leading the discussion. The general thematic delivery was aimed at encouraging local Detroiters to embrace and take ownership of the “ruins” around town. Instead of seeing them as indications of peril and demise, we should embrace the beauty that is contained within the social and historical compenents of the site. Ruins can be intriguing to some extent because at some point everything dissolves. So, watching and understanding the natural process unfold can be enthralling. The talk lasted about an hour and was well attended by people of all ages.
The latest DL! production, a mural wall installment at Gratiot and Dubois, is moving along quite well. New portions of the paint job were made today. Word on the street is that eventually there might be martians involved in the design. You can see pictures of the latest progress in the PROJECTS section just a few pages down. And hey, go check out the wall. And hey! If someday you want to help paint, then SHOUT! Well, how about sending an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a note through Facebook.
The Georgia Street Community Collective, our do-good-in-Detroit community gardening partner on the East side is going to be filmed on July 23 for the PBS television program This Old House. At this point, there’s no telling when the segment will air, but it’s an exciting development for Mark (the collective’s founder) and the garden. They held a cleanup effort on July 18 but head over to the garden to see if they need any more help to prep for the big day. They would like some people to be present for the filming, so stop by on the 23rd if you feel so inclined. Get more details and learn more about the garden here.