TechTown, a Detroit-based non-profit development organisation linked to the local university, has asked a professional spin-off team from the University of Michigan to make a conceptual design for a new bio-technology district in a former industrial district in Detroit. The city is experiencing increasing unemployment and decay, as the workforce moves out. Bio-technology is one of the strategies to renew industries in Detroit, and the TechTown district serves as a state-wide example for this renovation.
As the urban designer in a small inter-disciplinary team of planners, designers and architects, I have been responsible for the overall research of the site and the city, designing the urban plan, the retail strategy, and partly for the landscape architecture. Also, in the northern part of the site, I have been responsible for the preliminary design for an intermodal transit terminal, and its immediate vicinity. This design is even relevant today as the current federal government proposes to introduce high speed rail in the region.
The plan incorporates a mixed-use district with laboratories, housing, offices and retail. The current derelict industrial district has been assessed, and existing buildings have been used as a setting for the identity of the new district. The final design incorporates a restoration strategy for these buildings, a development plan, an extensive parking plan, and urban design guidelines for further development.
Even though the design was mainly conceptual, it has certainly served its purpose: the media have widely published the plan. This has given the original TechTown concept a lot of press exposure, and it has led to concrete development initiatives for the area.