In the fall of 2015, I co-organized the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a NEA-funded workshop that brings together mayors and urban designers to discuss their most salient urban issues. This workshop has yielded several spin-off design projects, some of which I have tackled with students, and one of which I tackled myself in a team setting. This is the case of downtown Pontiac.


Pontiac is a mid-size post-industrial community north of Detroit, which in many ways has suffered the same fate as the Motor City itself. Suffering from a poorly designed and managed urban renewal scheme and decades of economic headwinds, downtown Pontiac has lost a significant amount of its urban vitality. After attending the MICD workshop, Mayor Deirdre Waterman contacted me to join a design charrette with a team of urban designers including DPZ (Miami, FL) and Archive DS (Detroit, MI) and retail planner Robert Gibbs (Birmingham, MI).


Over the course of only a few days, our team assessed the quality of the existing downtown of Pontiac, MI, including physical analysis, stakeholder interviews and design research. In close cooperation with local stakeholders and citizens, we then provided conceptual design solutions for the revitalization of downtown, including build-out scenarios, public space design and conceptual planning. Citizens and the local press were excited about the results, which can be downloaded here.

Pontiac - charette for downtown

IMG_2571 Pontiac report front