Hazel Park 5 around table.For the past two years, several of us at the League have had the privilege of participating on the CNU24 Local Planning Committee with a passionate group of urbanists.  As the one clear voice for cities and villages of Michigan, the League is in a unique position to reach out across the state to our members to bring awareness to CNU and illustrate the common vision and goals both organizations share in building great communities.

With the annual CNU Congress fast approaching,  there have been several events leading up to the conference, including the Legacy Charrettes.  We made sure that staff attended the multi day workshops at its various stages, so that we could help support and create some buzz for these projects.  The first one I attended was the Hazel Park project.  Along with two of my colleagues, we came in on the third day of the “reveal” which followed two intensive days of public input and work.  My colleague, Matt Bach, attended the first day of this workshop, so check out his recap.

The anticipation of the crowd of local leaders, residents, and business owners was palpable.  Moule & Polyzoides, a firm of architects and urbanists out of Pasadena, California, along with Planners, Bob Gibbs, Peter Swift, and John Zanette, led this enthusiastic group during the three day workshop.

Hazel Park crowd around tableThe first day they shared a big vision of creating a walkable and connected downtown for Hazel Park.  The goal was to make people a priority over cars; leverage the existing buildings and open space, and enhance the quality of life.  Street calming, landscaping, and adding several gateways into the city would all play a role. Two days later, this collective vision came into focus as a plan was presented to make a place to create a pedestrian oasis and revitalize their downtown. This would be accomplished by creating three distinct districts of the downtown:  the Culinary District would be their town center, the Civic Center, where city hall is located, and the Arts District, that would include the conservation of buildings.  Although these seem like lofty goals, they are realistic ones.  Simple modest changes can be a good place to start and can begin to have a huge impact.

Hazel Park plan on tableJeff Campbell, Assistant City Manager and Planning and Economic Development Director of Hazel Park expressed his view of the process. “It has been an amazing experience working with CNU as planning and economic development coordinator and I have been humbled and stunned by the citizen participation and how much they care about Hazel Park.”

Will Herbig, CNU Program Director said, “This is just not about Hazel Park – it’s about the conversations, ideas, and a model for southeast Michigan.  I couldn’t be happier.”

Join us, along with over 1500 participants from around the world, in Detroit, June 8-11. There will be a feast of learning opportunities and experiences for anyone interested in cities and you will also have the opportunity to see the finished design product of all four of the charrettes!

Although there was lots of activity outside on a beautiful warm spring Sunday afternoon in Southwest Detroit, it was inside the Cristo Rey high school where some of the real excitement was taking place.

Vernor Crossing 1

Vernor Crossing is one of four Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) Legacy Charrettes – hands-on public design events – that were held in Detroit, Pontiac, and Hazel Park, last week. This work, called “Building affordable and market rate housing in Southwest without displacement,” is being done as a lead up to CNU24. My colleague, Rob Ferrari and I attended the last day of the Vernor Crossing workshop to see the culmination of two days of hard work that included significant public input from the neighborhood residents. This was led by Dhiru Thadani from Washington D.C. with support from NederveldZimmerman/Volk Associates and City Form Detroit. My colleague, Luke Forrest, attended the first day of the workshop discussion, so check out his blog, which set the stage.

Southwest Detroit is ripe for change. Home to a diverse and immigrant population, it is made up of artists, entrepreneurs and crafts people. Local leaders and residents were brought together to envision  a transformation of an area that would potentially become much more pedestrian friendly, provide a more diverse housing stock, enhance existing businesses to attract new businesses, and create more open green space for recreational activities. To achieve these goals, several tangible recommendations are being proposed.  Here are some of the ideas that are beginning to lay the groundwork:

  • Reroute truck traffic
  • Open up and repair Livernois and Military streets
  • Identify vacant sites that can be transformed into various activities
  • Renovate the Public Works building (which would act as a town center) to create an arts and culture center; put in 500 housing types (5 year plan – 100 per year) which would include apartments, single family home; create a playground and soccer field; civic space for recreational activities; farmer’s market
  • Provide a diversity of housing through rehabilitation and new – carriage houses, bungalows, single family, row houses, apartments, cottages
  • Provide free WiFi; encase antenna tower and use as a landmark.

These ideas and concepts will be shaped into a cohesive design plan and unveiled during the CNU in Detroit. Optimism filled the room for all the potential that hung in the air.  Of course, it will take a few years to accomplish many of these changes, but there are incremental steps that can be taken that will have huge impact. Participating in the workshop, Steve Maun, Principle and Founder of LeylandAlliance LLC, said that rerouting the trucks alone will already be a major improvement and smaller scale physical changes will begin to attract developers.

Be sure and check back in June as my colleagues and I continue to follow the progress of all four of the Legacy Charrettes.

Downtown Pontiac has tremendous potential - planners said following three-days of intensive study by the Congress of the New Urbanism.

Downtown Pontiac has tremendous potential – planners said following three-days of intensive study by the Congress of the New Urbanism.

Three days of conceptualization and team effort culminated in Sunday’s meeting to conclude the Congress of New Urbanism Legacy Project charrette in Pontiac, Michigan.

Intended to reimagine Pontiac’s downtown space, over 50 participants and residents met April 17 to share and take ownership of three days’ worth of ideas, goals, and concrete planning initiatives that can make these objectives a reality.

Project team leader Galina Tachieva of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. showed a series of photos illustrating the downtown’s lively past, and explained that the city has still managed to retain the bones of a thriving urban space.

With the right vision, management, and policy changes, Tachieva explained that these remnants of prosperity encased by the Woodward loop could begin to heal themselves and recover the vibrancy of their past.

The Phoenix Center in downtown Pontiac was the focus of some of the discussion during the three days of the CNU Legacy Project charrettes in the city.

The Phoenix Center in downtown Pontiac was the focus of some of the discussion during the three days of the CNU Legacy Project charrettes in the city.

The team presented a wide range of short-term, mid-term, and long-term proposals to reshape Pontiac’s urban space. These included immediate fixes to lacking crosswalks and inadequate street parking, as well as future plans for a public marketplace, safe and expanded transit hubs, and eventual redevelopment of the Phoenix Center roof into a central space for leisure, exercise, and arts in the community.

Together these plans, just a brief overview of a comprehensive and wide-scope project, will help bring the kind of large-scale retail and restaurant development described by consultant Bob Gibbs, equating to $55.2 million in annual sales.

The residents who participated in Sunday’s wrap-up seemed enthusiastic about the many possibilities that this project raises for the future of Pontiac. Specifically, participants engaged in discussion regarding the placement of transit stops, development of multi-use housing, and location of a public marketplace.

The diverse team of consultants and planners that worked on the project reminded those attending the wrap-up that these plans, though comprehensive, were only a departure point. From here, the residents of Pontiac will take ownership of this project, and work together throughout the next decade towards growth and vibrancy. The project, called “Revitalizing downtown Pontiac through transit-oriented development,” was lead by DPZ & Partners and had local support from Archive DS and Gibbs Planning Group.

Posted by Matt Bach on behalf of Samantha Audia. Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter and spring.

Designer Vinayak Bharne talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Team Leader Vinayak Bharne of Moule & Polyzoides Archtects & Urbanisms talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Hazel Park residents, city leaders and business owners got good news from an urban planner during a special design charrette kick-off meeting Tuesday. The news – Hazel Park has a tremendous market potential for restaurant growth and retail development.

Building on the highly successful and widely popular Mabel Gray restaurant could result in the economic boost Hazel Park leaders are seeking for the section of John R Road traversing through the heart of the southeastern Michigan city, said Bob Gibbs, urban planning and retail consultant director for Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham.

This message came during the first of three days of an intensive design and planning charrette being done in Hazel Park by the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU). It’s one of four such charrettes happening in southeast Michigan this week in conjunction with the international CNU 24 conference coming to Detroit in June.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

The other three charrettes are April 15-17 in Pontiac and in two Detroit neighborhoods – Grandmont-Rosedale and Vernor Crossing. The work done at the charrettes will be presented to planners, architects, urban designers and municipal leaders at the CNU 24 in Detroit June 8-11, 2016 in what are being called Congress Legacy Projects. For details on the conference go to CNU24.org.

Gibbs’ market study was used as part of a much larger urban design strategy prepared by the lead design team from Moule & Polyzoides Architects & Urbanists from Pasadena, Calif. The entire project, called “Creating a walkable and connected downtown for Hazel Park,” was directed by MPA’s Vinayak Bharne with support from Madison Patrizi. The was work was two-fold – an urban design project and economic development strategy.

The team met with about 50 Hazel Park residents and supporters Tuesday, April 12, 2016, and told them the good news about their community’s development. Hazel Park, Gibbs said, has about 70,000 households and 160,000 people living in its primary trade area and about 200,000 people living within a short drive to the city’s restaurant district. A market analysis showed Hazel Park could support 165,200 square feet of retail. Specifically it could support 11,100 square feet of limited service eating, 10,300 of apparel and shoe retail; 15,000 square feet of general merchandise retail, 5,600 square feet of full-service restaurants, 21,200 of department store goods retail, 35,400 square feet of grocery retail, such as an open-air market.

“I was in an Ohio community recently and did a market study like this and their potential was a gas station and three vending machines,” Gibbs told the crowd Tuesday night. “Not all these market studies turn out as strong as this one in Hazel Park. It’s nice to know this community, in my own backyard, has such a large potential. Will this happen overnight? No. But it’s better to know you have the potential than no potential.”

Gibbs said main obstacles to creating this development is a lack of parking and the four-lane, pedestrian-unfriendly John R Road that goes through Hazel Park, Gibbs said.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

To capitalize on this high density and potential customer base, Gibbs suggested the city look at narrowing John R – or putting it on a “road diet” – to allow for additional on-street parking much like Ferndale officials did on West 9 Mile in the early 1990s.

Designers, residents, business owners and city leaders will continue to spend today and Thursday working on the design plan that will be presented at the CNU conference in Detroit in June, said William Herbig, program director for CNU.

Hazel Park city leaders will also take the plan to help them make informed decisions on moving the city forward, said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher.

“This is about our quality of life here and improving our quality of life and believing that we deserve this,” said Jeff Campbell, assistant city manager and planning director.

Ten-year Hazel Park resident Jennifer Jackson is actively participating in the charrette and was inspired and excited at the end of the first day of work.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

“Today was fun and it was nice to see someone else’s vision for a city similar to ours,” Jackson said referencing Gibbs’ presentation that showed the design worked implemented and planned in other communities, such as Petoskey and Marquette. “I really want to see Hazel Park become a destination and be able to service our residents more appropriately. Right now to do any type of entertaining or clothing shopping or going out to dinner we have to leave the city limits and go elsewhere. We go to Detroit, Ferndale, Royal Oak, but I’d like to be able to stay in my own community and spend our money here.”

Jackson was particularly excited to see the correlation of creating a more vibrant community to an increase in housing values, job creation and tax revenues.

“I liked being able to envision having a vibrant downtown in Hazel Park,” said Jackson, who is working with another woman to start up a farmers market in the city. “I liked the idea of the road diet because it would require traffic and people to slow down and stop and take a look at what’s around.”

For more information about placemaking go to placemaking.mml.org and for details on the CNU24 go to cnu24.org. (View additional photos here).

Matt Bach is director of media relations. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.