September 21, 2021

Eastpointe: Winner of AIA National & Mayors Innovation Project Grant

The Mayors Innovation Project is a national learning network for mayors committed to shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. This year, they partnered with The American Institute of Architects (AIA) to help mayors build zero carbon, resilient, healthy, and equitable cities.

AIA National is bringing together communities, civic leaders and architects to re-imagine a built environment that addresses the urgent needs climate change presents through their Blueprint for Better Campaign. Three cities, including our very own Eastpointe, have been offered the opportunity to partner with an architect to tackle a local renovation, reuse or retrofit challenge that aims to reduce environmental impact and equitably serve the surrounding community.

Architects know that the greenest building is the one already built. And many cities across the country have an overabundance of vacant, deteriorating, or underused buildings that could be transformed into community assets.

EASTPOINTE’S PROJECT: TRANFORMATIONAL FARMER’S MARKET

The City of Eastpointe is planning the installation of a permanent open-air gathering space that will be set up similarly to a farmer’s market in the City’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) District.

The City has already dedicated public space entitled the Children’s Garden, located within the DDA District and adjacent to the Eastpointe Memorial Library. The walkway wanders through landscaped gardens with a giant turtle sculpture and other fun objects for children. Last summer, during the pandemic, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) selected the Children’s Garden in Eastpointe for the installation of the Rainbow Maker, a public mural, through the DIA’s Partners in Public Art Project.

The painting of the Mural, outdoors and accessible to everyone during the pandemic, led to the idea of creating a unique public gathering space; a fun place for families to visit that would create opportunities for local farmers, artists and other vendors, while promoting the walkability of the DDA District and supporting local businesses.

Aerial image of the Library (red roof) and the project site (adjacent parking lot).

The proposed market place will be located in the large, city-owned parking lot next to the Eastpointe Memorial Library, just steps from the Children’s Garden. The vision is to install permanent, carport-style coverings over the parking spaces that surround the large bioswale that intersects the lot, thereby creating two long rows of socially-distant ‘booths.’ Those covered spaces will be available for events on the weekends while being used for free downtown parking during the week. The addition of solar panels on the roof areas would allow the marketplace to truly be zero-carbon friendly, as the panels would generate and store electricity for booth vendors.

AN AIA DETROIT ARCHITECT IS NEEDED

This is the first time AIA National has worked so closely with the Mayors Innovation Project on this city-based grant partnership. It is important to understand that while Eastpointe was awarded a small grant by AIA National, the work of the architect is expected to be pro bono (free).

If you are interested in learning more about Eastpointe’s project and would like to meet the City’s team, please email staff@aiadetroit.com and let us know!

The 3 Winning Cities were each promised:
• Technical assistance with final written recommendations from an architect, customized to suit the specific project scope and needs.
• Up to $5,000 per city to cover necessary city staff time, engagement tools, and supplies.
• The opportunity to present their project at a future (virtual or in-person) Mayors Innovation Project event.

EXPECTED PROJECT IMPACT

Eastpointe only has two grocery stores, both on the far east side of the city. A centrally located farmers market would help alleviate the current food desert within the city. Additionally, the proposed marketplace can be the impetus for the desired transformation of the area to a true downtown, attracting redevelopment and new businesses. Scheduled events will attract visitors to the nearby brick and mortar businesses, and the increase in customers will create additional local job opportunities. Local entrepreneurs, artists and vendors will have a place to showcase their creations, and musical events will be planned for all age groups.

Local partners, in addition to the DDA, include other local commissions focused on bringing diverse events and cultural opportunities to the residents of the City. Urban Seed, Eastpointe’s Community Garden, has gardening enthusiasts that focus on sharing their knowledge of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers with children, providing endless educational opportunities within the project. Underserved families will have access to fresh local products while learning how to create a garden of their own at home.

PROJECT READINESS & TIMELINE

The timing of this grant opportunity fits perfectly with a number of projects already planned and funded, or being proposed, in the City of Eastpointe’s downtown area.

It was during the past year that local leaders and residents began discussions on the importance of improving current and creating new dedicated public and green spaces. The pandemic clearly proved the importance of outdoor activities, as more families began using local parks and started walking and biking as a way to safely leave their homes.

While the total cost is unknown at this time, the DDA also has the ability to borrow money for the project and then collect taxes to repay the loan. The funds will be used to purchase and install the parking space coverings and solar system in the parking lot, and to add permanent benches, picnic tables and other family-friendly amenities to the islands and gardens. Final touches will include planting colorful yet sturdy perennials that require little maintenance.

The insight and assistance by creative national experts would be greatly appreciated. What preparation needs to be done at the parking lot; what is the best location for the coverings; what are the best products and prices to ensure a zero-carbon design? Many questions needing answers so as to bring a vision to reality.

Back to News