Ken Cockrel has stepped out of his role as Detroit City Council member and into a new role as executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office. Detroit Future City is an initiative to implement creative ideas to transform the city in a coordinated way through a well-researched strategic framework. Launched in early 2013, DFC has 36 pilot projects underway to address neighborhood stabilization, create new “green” infrastructure from underutilized land, and remove blighted structures by “deconstruction” rather than demolition.
“Detroit is at a pivotal moment in its history and the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework presents us with an exciting opportunity to rethink, reshape and rebuild our city,” said Cockrel. “I am honored to be able to continue serving the residents and neighborhoods of Detroit as we work with our partners to improve the quality of life in Detroit by carrying-out the recommendations of the Strategic Framework.”
With his experience as Council President and Mayor, Cockrel is uniquely qualified to work with all the stakeholders and collaborators that are using Detroit Future City to inform their efforts to revitalize Detroit.
As Cockrel takes on his new responsibilities leading the Implementation Office, Dan Kinkead will serve as Director of Projects; Heidi Alcock will serve as Director of Operations; and Carrie Lewand-Monroe will serve as Director of Policy. The Office has several dozen potential projects in planning stages aside from those already in progress. It also seated a steering committee of community, business, government, non-profit and foundation stakeholders to guide its work. Detroit Economic Growth Association remains the fiduciary for the Office, administering foundation support for its work.
2013 was a remarkable year for economic development in the city of Detroit — all the more remarkable because municipal government filed for bankruptcy in July. Developments in federal court, however, did not stop important progress on DEGC projects that demonstrate strength in a number of important areas: a vibrant Downtown, rebounding retail development, saving and adding manufacturing jobs, revitalized neighborhood businesses, and implementation of a broad strategic framework for future development. Here are a few examples.
General Motors is investing $105 million to upgrade its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant that builds Chevy Volts and Malibus. The French automotive supplier Faurecia has invested in the joint venture firm, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, which operates a plant in the Gateway Industrial Center. New Center Stamping is adding jobs as it installs a high-efficiency production line. Sakthi Automotive and Hyundai Mobis are manufacturing automotive components under the same roof in Southwest Detroit. These developments demonstrate that Detroit still has the talent and infrastructure for advanced manufacturing; it also shows the city’s attractiveness to investments from overseas.
Rivertown Phase One is a $55 million dollar mixed use development of 300 apartments and retail storefronts next to the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Greenway and Milliken State Park. It is the first major residential project that specifically takes advantage of those recreational attractions. In doing so, it embodies the vision of the East Riverfront master plan.
Yes, there are excellent choices for grocery shopping in the city. Meijer opened its first ever store in Detroit at Gateway Marketplace, a $62 million shopping center on Detroit’s northern boundary. Whole Foods Market opened its first Detroit store in Midtown, and a number of Detroit’s strong independent grocers have invested in major store improvements. These represent important new choices for Detroit grocery shoppers, especially because they are taking places in neighborhoods around the city. There is still significant work to be done, but 2013 was a huge leap forward.
The re-awakening of the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois is well underway thanks to a strong collaboration from community partners, anchor institutions, and a mix of funding support from local and state government and foundations. As permanent and pop-up businesses are opening and artists are creating unique installations, a strong sense of place is returning to this iconic district. And it’s another sign of redevelopment beyond Downtown.
Bicycling and Walking
Biking, running and walking have become hugely popular in Detroit, and DEGC is supporting that trend as a part of a City-led collaboration that is investing $23 million to create designated bike routes crisscrossing Detroit. As part of that project, construction has already begun on a northern extension of the Dequindre Cut Greenway that will connect it to Eastern Market at Wilkins St.
The Arena District
Much more than a big box for hockey, the $650 million of private and public investment in this key part of Downtown will generate a truly unique urban sports, entertainment, residential, retail and office district. The location within a walkable distance to Comerica Park, Ford Field, Masonic Temple Theater, the Fox Theatre, Michigan Opera Theater, Music Hall, The Fillmore and Gem Theater ensures that the district will be lively 365 days a year.
Each of these represents a significant milestone in its own right. Put them together and it is easy to see how far we have come, and how quickly we are moving ahead. As the pace accelerates, it is good that we have a solid planning framework in place in Detroit Future City. As Ken Cockrel joins the leadership team for the DFC Implementation Office (noted in this newsletter), we are in a strong position for a terrific 2014.
I-375 — a major gateway to Downtown Detroit is coming due for major repairs soon, so the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are asking the question, “Does the current configuration of I-375 really serve the needs of Detroit today – and into the foreseeable future?”
The opportunity to reconfigure I-375 comes at a time of substantial investments and anticipated development in the central business and waterfront districts, and coincides with the anticipated need for substantial repairs on the bridges over I-375 and other maintenance work in the near future.
The DDA has approved a planning contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff Michigan, Inc. to develop a set of alternatives to the I-375 corridor that connects I-75 to Downtown Detroit.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and other sources are paying for the $373,000 study, which will require traffic studies, stakeholder input, and developing concepts for five alternatives to the current configuration of I-375 from its intersection with Gratiot Ave. to Atwater St. Parsons Brinckerhoff is also expected to deliver an analysis of each option, including an economic analysis, traffic and environmental impact study and an assessment of the public spaces created by each option.
This was the perfect time to step back and take a look at how this important gateway to Downtown should be developed to serve a revitalized Downtown and East Riverfront. The DDA and MDOT have no pre-conceived ideas about what I-375 should be, just a recognition that whatever we do will have important economic development consequences for decades to come.
Parsons Brinckerhoff is expected to spend the first month conducting research and gathering input from surrounding property owners, community representatives and other stakeholders. The schedule anticipates Parsons Brinckerhoff will present the client group’s preferred alternative no later than July 2014.
Ed Tatem, Michigan President of Parsons Brinckerhoff says, “We are very excited to be responsible for studying traffic, gathering input from all stakeholders — including commuters — and presenting fresh ideas for this significant project.”
Kelby Wallace, MDOT Project Manager says, “The potential to transform this corridor will need to fit the future vision of the city, that is why the study is engaging numerous partners and investigating all options.”
Download additional background information and a PDF map of the I-375 study area in DEGC’s reference library.
Tooles Contracting Group is a full service general contractor that has operated in Detroit for the past seven years. The team of estimators, schedulers, project managers and administrative employees are proud of the world-class results with their “out-of-the-box” thinking.
While most of its work is in Detroit, Tooles Contracting Group also has an office in Las Vegas and was recently nominated for an award for its outstanding work on the iconic Las Vegas Strip. Tooles Contracting Group President and CEO Damon Tooles shared with us his thoughts on contracting in Detroit.
What are some of the current projects you’re working on in and out of Detroit? We just completed our work on the Cobo Center project. We’re currently working on the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Station, which is a new $28 million train facility in Dearborn Michigan that affects Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. We’re also currently completing 14 incinerators at the Detroit Waste and Sewage Department (DWSW) facility. Another great project in the works is the Mt. Elliott Park, which is an extension of the RiverWalk in Detroit for the Riverfront Conservancy – it’s a $12 million project.
What types of services do you provide? We are a general contractor and deliver services related to that, as well as design-build contracting and construction management. We have self-performed services and self-perform drywall, metals and concrete.
How have you partnered with the DEGC in the past? Do you hope to continue a partnership in the future? The DEGC is a great group to work with. We’ve had some projects with them in the past, like the Capitol Park project and the Cobo Center convention center. We look forward to continue working with them in the future.
What aspects of contracting in Detroit do you enjoy the most and why? We’ve had the opportunity to work on some very unique and diverse projects in the city, like the DWSW project and the new Cobo Center renovations. Working on various projects throughout the automotive industry in Detroit is enjoyable. We also get to do some architectural and industrial work in the city, like the Guardian building project, a $22 million renovation of the 80-year-old building for the County. The diverse number of projects that we get the opportunity to get involved in is wonderful in Detroit.
We’ve been in Detroit for seven years and we have 37 staff members in the city. We enjoy all of the excitement that’s happening downtown. The things that DEGC is getting into is refreshing. Looking at Detroit’s growth over the past years is interesting. There used to be a time where you could go to lunch at noon and get a seat immediately. Now you have to go at 11:30 a.m. because there’s a lot of activity down there.
What was it like to be nominated for the Contractor of the Year Award by the Nevada Minority Business Development Council? We’ve had an office in Las Vegas for five and half years. We had an opportunity to work on the strip at the New York New York casino, as well as the MGM Grand. It was very nice to be recognized as a company that was coming from halfway across the country and have the Nevada Minority Business Development Council recognize and see the work we were doing to meet their goals. It was very rewarding.
Art in Motion is a ceramic studio on Livernois Avenue where anyone can participate in workshops, attend classes, gain technical skills, enjoy private lessons and work in an open studio setting. The studio also represents artists in the Detroit community. Co-Owners M. Kay Willingham and Audrey Long popped-up the studio last May and June while participating in REVOLVE Detroit’s “Art + Retail on the Ave.” program to revitalize Detroit’s historic Livernois Avenue of Fashion. Art in Motion went on to be one of the Art and Retail Ave. winners, and its permanent presence launched during the Detroit Design Festival.
Where did you get the name Art in Motion? I’ve worked with ceramics for a decade – selling my own personal art, doing private shows and teaching. I realized that as I move through life my pieces also represent movement, so the name was born, and it has stuck and grown into the businesses and studio that Audrey and I have today.
What made you want to expand your presence in Detroit? I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life, and I grew up in this area near Livernois. I attended Cass Technical High School, and the University of Detroit for my undergrad in marketing and management and my graduate degree in management and psychology. Needless to say Detroit lives in my heart. Becoming involved with REVOLVE was the next step to doing what I love in the city I love.
Describe your experience with REVOLVE. Our experience with REVOLVE can be described in one word: wonderful. It made the business change in some exciting ways going from being a pop-up to becoming permanent in the area. REVOLVE and DEGC offered us great support throughout the competition, and still remain a great contact as we continue engaging in the community.
What is your company culture? Our doors are open to anyone. Our artists come from a mixed and diverse culture. We’re all very passionate about art, and bettering Detroit. Think of the TV show The Voice, no one is looking at the contestants, they’re assessed based on their talents – we’re the same way. We come together in the name of art, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from or anything really – if you enjoy and are interested in art we’d love to meet you.
We also reach out to others to share our passion. We’re involved with Play with Clay for Kids, which is a program that allows us to go into schools and teach art technical skills to elementary and middle school students. It’s really rewarding to give children an opportunity to be creative and have an outlet they may not have had exposure to otherwise.
Art is truly in one’s spirit.
What’s coming up for Art in Motion? Currently we’re working on offering additional workshops and classes for people of all ages. We want people to come for date nights, senior nights and all kinds of other occasions. Our doors are open to anyone and everyone, and we look forward to offering more of a variety of experiences for them. We are also in the process of scheduling a few private shows in January and February.