July 20, 2022

Detroiters Rally to Repair Virginia Park Street, One of the City’s Last Brick Roads

Sarah Raza | Detroit Free Press

Volunteers stacked bricks and sifted through dirt Thursday evening in a multiday effort to save the historic Virginia Park Street, one of Detroit’s last original brick roadways.

The street has witnessed history, but alongside that has come wear and tear, leaving it in desperate need of repair.

The community in New Center has been drawing new residents to its large Colonial Revival and Neo-Georgian style homes, and they don’t stay vacant for long. Residents say they love the neighborhood and want to maintain the block for their children and grandchildren that will come after them.

Nearly 20 people came to help Thursday evening, some showing up after a day of work and others joining with their families. Most said they volunteered because they love their neighborhood.

“We are a very strong community,” said Tony Smith, who has lived on Virginia Park Street for nearly three decades. “We look out for each other, our neighbors.

The street repair, organized by the Virginia Park block club, has been four years in the making, although longtime residents said they have wanted the street repaired for decades.  

Virginia Park Street was built for bikes and wagons 115 years ago before the automobile became the city’s main mode of transportation.

The Virginia Park Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. During the Detroit riot of 1967, a Patton M60 battle tank drove on the street, creating cracks in the street.

Decades later, General Motors experimented with the street grid in New Center, sending vehicles from cars to tractor-trailers through the street.

And when many of the east-west street roads in New Center were cut off from the Lodge Service Drive, thousands of vehicles cut through using Virginia Park Street, including ones like cement trucks and gasoline tankers, which only accelerated the damage. 

“Driving down the street, it can destroy your car,” said Zoe Bowman, who moved to the neighborhood last year. “But the road holds so much history … there’s nothing else like it in Detroit.”

The idea of repairing the road was proposed by Steve Waldrop, a longtime resident who moved to Virginia Park Street in 1972 to live in what was then a Wayne State University fraternity house.

He originally proposed the idea in 2018, but when repairs were proposed, the city offered to pave over the brick with asphalt.  

“The mayor said it wasn’t fair for him to spend millions of dollars on just three blocks of road,” said Jeff Cowin, who recently moved to the neighborhood and has helped organize the effort.

He added that given that the neighborhood was designated a historic site, the city has always wanted to repair the road but couldn’t justify the expense.

The neighbors, however, believed this quick fix would result in the loss of a historic piece of the neighborhood.

Once they decided they wanted to repair the brick in the road while maintaining its historic integrity, it quickly became clear that it would be an expensive undertaking that could cost up to a couple million dollars. 

Fortunately, a project between DTE Energy and ITC Holdings meant 1,000 feet of historic brick road needed to be removed in order to create a new substation. The bricks, 1904 Nelsonville Block pavers, match the bricks needed to repair Virginia Park Street.

When the companies heard about the block club’s project, they agreed to donate their bricks to the effort. 

Now, there are an estimated 20,000 brick pavers sitting in piles at 6460 East Vernor Highway, across from the Downtown Boxing Gym.

The task is to stack the bricks and transport them 3 miles west to Virginia Park Street, where they’ll sit on the neighbors’ lawns until the repair project begins. 

The block club sent out emails, passed out flyers, and created a Facebook event that ended up reaching even those from out of town. 

“I just came to help,” said Janet Rohloff, of St. Clair Shores. “I was born and raised on the lower east side, and it’s nice to meet with people and find out what’s happening in the community.” 

Patricia Felder, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1985, said the community has wanted to repair the street for years.

“We’ve been trying to repair the street for almost 30 years, but we didn’t have enough grant money,” she said. “Now it’s finally happening in 2022.”

For those interested in helping, the group said it looking for volunteers to come out and help on Friday until 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. 

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
June 5, 2022

Design Core Detroit Names Co-Executive Directors to Succeed Olga Stella

Sherri Welch | Crain’s Detroit Business

Design Core Detroit, the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, has named two leaders of the organization as its new co-executive directors.

Bonnie Fahoome, director of business programs, and Kiana Wenzell, director of Detroit Month of Design, have been promoted to jointly lead the organization. They succeed Olga Stella, who was promoted to vice president of strategy and communication at the College for Creative Studies in September 2020 but had also continued to oversee the executive director responsibilities.

In her new role, Stella has oversight of marketing and communications and the Office of Partnerships and Community Arts Partnerships. She will focus her efforts on increasing the college’s visibility, grow new partnerships and develop the college’s new strategic plan for the future.

“Working together, Bonnie and Kiana have the vision, leadership, and collaborative style that will propel Design Core into its next phase of impact for Detroit’s design community,” Stella said in a release.”I could not be more confident and excited about the organization’s future and look forward to supporting them in their new roles.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
May 16, 2022

How Detroit-based Architect Saundra Little, FAIA, Designs for Her City

Christina Sturdivant Sani | TopicA

By Christina Sturdivant Sani

After co-founding Detroit-based Centric Design Studio and operating it for a decade, Saundra Little’s firm was acquired by Washington, D.C.-based Quinn Evans Architects in early 2019. With more than 15 years in the industry, Little had designed several notable projects at that point, including design-build renovations at Burton International Academy, a Detroit public school, and the award-winning design of the David Klein Gallery. The acquisition of Evans’ company landed her the role of principal in Quinn Evans’ Detroit office.

Three years earlier, Little’s history and documentation project Noir Design Parti was selected as one of Detroit’s winners in the 2016 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge. The project, which she conceptualized with historian and diversity and inclusion advocate Karen Burton, documents the careers and creative works of Detroit’s African American architects.

Most recently, Little accepted the position of director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Quinn Evans. “I’m interested in seeing how I can continue to move the needle in architecture for minorities in the profession,” she says. She also serves as the Midwest Vice President of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

Read on to learn about her passion for community development and history, the challenges on her road to becoming an architect, and vision for Noir Design Parti.

How would you describe your niche as an architect?

All roads lead to history. I work on a lot of adaptive reuse projects, and I do some new construction, but everything is in the community neighborhood setting. So I would say any project that has a community or historical impact.

Do you have any favorite projects?

I’ve done three co-working spaces: TechTownSpaceLab Detroit, and then a concept for an art co-working space that hopefully gets built out in the next year. I like coworking spaces because I used to be a small business owner, and I feel like coworking spaces level the playing field for anybody starting a business. It gives you access to amenities that most small business owners who are bootstrapping can’t get, and it gives you a leg up.

A new favorite under construction now is Allied Media Projects. It is a four-story renovation to a warehouse building here in Detroit. The vision of the project is led by each of the tenants, who are all nonprofits.

Total accessibility for the building has been the focus of this renovation. They didn’t go straight for LEED certification but had sustainability, accessibility, and inclusive design in mind. I can’t wait for that project to be completed. It was just great working alongside an owner with a vision like that.

What initially sparked your interest in architecture?

It started with an interest in art and drawing, but I’ve found that along the way, there have been different things that led me to architecture without me even realizing it.

For instance, I visited a building that Nathan Johnson designed as a kid, and I was struck by the mid-century modern [design] and how he created this odd-shaped window without any structural kind of emphasis at this corner. And he completely framed out a view of the neighborhood.

What have been some of your biggest challenges on the road to becoming an architect?

It was tough not knowing a lot about the profession before heading into it in college. I didn’t have a mentor who could give me words of wisdom. My family was like, ‘Are you sure you want to be an architect? Nobody in our family is an architect.’ Though I didn’t have any support, I just went for it. And I’m lucky that I made it.

Why did you choose Noir Design Parti for your Knight Foundation submission?

Karen Burton and I had been talking about it for a long time. We always heard people say, ‘I didn’t know of any Black architects until I met you.’

But I came up through firms that were minority-owned. And I was like, how did they not know these people? I’ve also heard about Black architects from the trailblazing generations before me [who had] retired by the time I started to practice. So I was like, we have to get this out here because I don’t want to hear that anymore.

What have you enjoyed most about the project?

It’s been great seeing them highlighted and telling their stories. Just being the first of anything is history-making. Nathan Johnson started his practice in 1954 right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. There were only two or three architecture firms in the state of Michigan at that time that were Black—so that’s just remarkable to me.

We recently made it a focus of the project to write letters of recommendation for Black architects for AIA awards. So just to see these people get awards while they’re still living has really meant a lot to me.

Where do you see [this project] going in the future?

Now that we’ve gathered all this information, it needs to be archived [in] a place where people can look and learn about how Black architects did a lot of things against all odds. I’m also interested in getting a book done so we can have a print version of what we’ve been researching.

Have you been able to outline your priorities as Director of DEI at Quinn Evans?

Trying to figure out the pandemic and this position at the same time has been interesting. But one of the goals for this year is to come up with objectives for the position and the firm.

One of the things that got me very interested in Quinn Evans when we were talking about the acquisition was that, as of April of this year, Quinn Evans will be a woman-owned firm. A 200-person firm that’s woman-owned interested me three years ago, and to see it really come to light this year is going to be amazing. I think that’s going to be a great attraction for diversity when others hear about the big changeover in April.

Read the original interview here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  

The Future of Practice: Interview with Imani Day of RVSN Studios

Pansy Schulman | Architectural Record

The Detroit-based architect puts her focus on socially conscious work.

As part of an ongoing interview series about the future of practice, RECORD is speaking to small firm-owners who are representative of the younger cohort of architects who are, both consciously and instinctively, trying to practice the business of architecture differently.

Imani Day, 32, graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Architecture. After working for Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York, she moved to Detroit in 2015 to work for Gensler. Her firm, RVSN Studios, began as a part-time project in 2018, but in April of last year, Day formally left Gensler to focus on running her studio full time. Day has taught at the University of Detroit Mercy and Florida A&M University and will be starting a research fellowship at Cornell this fall. She serves on the executive boards of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and the AIA’s Detroit chapter. Day is the 13th Black woman to become a licensed architect in the state of Michigan and the 463rd in America.

Can you tell me about your time in school and coming up as an architect?

I came to Cornell in the summer of 2007, for a pre-college summer program for minority students. It helped me feel a little bit more comfortable on campus, but like any experience of coming to any predominantly white institution, it was a pretty strong shock to the system. Where I’m from in Montclair is a very diverse, liberal suburb of New York City. I don’t recall ever being the only person of color in the room. But at Cornell, I was one of maybe five or six Black students in my year.

I love Cornell, but nothing of my identity or my known history really ever showed up in the curriculum. My grandparents are civil rights activists and writers, who are so well versed and rooted in Black history. And I just never saw anyone who looked like me, which is common among Black architects.

Before starting your own firm, you worked at several large firms. How was that transition from academic to professional life?

The start of my career was really me trying to find my actual interest and grounding. I spent time working on cool projects, trying to find my voice, and navigating some of that imposter syndrome of: “Am I on the same page as everyone else?” “Can I keep up in conversations?” The most important career advice I’ve ever gotten came from Liz Diller. She told me to find my voice, use it very specifically, and be as vocal as possible. That was the beginning of me starting to talk about the disconnects I see in the industry.

What are the disconnects that stood out to you?

If you look at MASS Design Group, for example, many times people say they do really great, important work, but their business model isn’t replicable. Or that because they are doing it, let them do it, problem solved. There’s so much to be said about American Black issues that need to become a standard, normal part of how we practice as an industry. That was a huge missing link for me. I wasn’t really seeing other Black people working with me, or a Black client, which concerned me. And when I found myself working on some big museum project or someone’s lake house, I thought, well this is cool, but it’s very far from where I thought I would be.

Why did you decide to break off and start your own firm?

I started my own firm because there’s such a big gap in the industry for Black female architects, and a really big demand for clients who want to keep their funds and their work in the Black community. One part of that is being able to show up for the community, to know and understand the vulnerabilities and the historical traumas that come from white people in the industry damaging or erasing Black communities.

Good design can coexist with communities in need. It doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice something along the way. We need to get better at understanding and reworking our systems in the industry so we can do this work better. That was something that I couldn’t do working for a firm; I really had to chew on this by myself and then find collaborators who are on the same page.

RVSN’s first project was the Lip Bar in 2018. How did that project come about?

I was just starting out with RVSN and honestly, the client, Melissa Butler, really took a leap of faith with me. It was small but a big marker in my career as an independent architect. I realized that there was actually going to be a supply and demand issue here. There are Black people and business owners all over America, but in Detroit particularly, there are young, hungry change agents in their community looking to work with someone like them, of which there are finite numbers. It is really a special opportunity and experience as a Black architect to be able to say that the majority of my clients are Black.

What kind of projects do you take on now and how has the scope of your practice expanded?

There’s a very clear thread in my brain of healing neighborhoods from the trauma of historical divesting. The work that I choose to take on typically has to have some socially progressive attitude. Almost all of my projects now are either multifamily or single residential in Detroit. We have a neighborhood project that is working to bring very simple concepts of health, wealth, agency, advocacy organizing, and enough resources into a neglected community. The commercial spaces are usually by these very fun, cool, young Black clients just trying to put resources in their neighborhoods. The first thing that I understood about Lip Bar, for example, was that there is a really big gap in representation in the beauty industry. People like me don’t necessarily see ourselves represented in the beauty industry; products are not made for us, the colors are not made for us. [The founders of Lip Bar] are change agents in the makeup industry.

RVSN is not architecture only; we do a lot of design-related projects, too. We just did a fun project creating a logo and graphic signature for a Black film company. A Black law firm in Chicago came to us for brand strategy. We’ve been collaborating with poets for hypothetical projects. We’re in our first year and a lot is in the works.

Do you have specific business practices that you’ve put into place in terms of your work environment and the expectations you set for your employees?

I have two employees—one is a student, and they’re both in entry-level positions. That number flexes into five other people that could be on a project at any point in time, but they’re all in. I don’t know that there’s a perfect business model for firms like us, but I think a lot of us are operating in a similar capacity where we call on each other project by project to see what is possible. I think I care the most about flexibility and people feeling like this is a good investment of their time. There’s still this pattern and habit that says anxiety and depression are good: “Stay here all night. I don’t care.” But there’s a lot to be learned from the generation coming into the workforce right now that actually wants their mental health to be respected. The power is coming back to the employee.

How do you see RVSN moving forward?

We’re so new. There’s a lot of room for input. I want to remain very open-minded. I think flexibility is going to be important, and I’m hoping and aiming to have this be something [my employees] are proud of what we’re building too. I know the work will come and I know that there’s plenty of work to be done in the neighborhoods and in the communities that I work in. I don’t see that there’s any shortage of ability to run the company and be profitable. It’s going to be about actually sustaining a good culture within the company—keeping people feeling empowered and able to make change in the company as well.

Read the original interview here.



Categories: AIA Detroit News  

New Renderings Released for Dan Gilbert’s Hudson’s Site Project in Detroit

JC Reindl | Detroit Free Press

Dan Gilbert’s real estate firm has released updated renderings of what its ambitious Hudson’s site development will look like once construction finishes in a few years.

The images were recently shared on the project’s website at Hudsonssitedetroit.com

The development, 1208 Woodward Ave. downtown, broke ground in December 2017 and is still under construction. 

The project consists of two buildings: a skyscraper with luxury residences and a luxury hotel, and an 11-story mid-rise with more than 550,000 square feet of office space, exhibition space and ground-floor retail, according to the website.

The buildings are expected to be done in 2024, two years behind the project’s originally announced timeline.

On Wednesday, city officials approved a variance for the skyscraper’s upper-level floorplates, which Bedrock representatives said was needed because the tower’s floorplates will get increasingly smaller at higher levels.

Bedrock has yet to announce how many floors the skyscraper will have, although building permits last year put it at 49 floors and 680 feet in height. Early on, the tower was planned to soar 912 feet tall — overshadowing the 727-foot-tall Renaissance Center — but plans were downsized.

The skyscraper’s 100 to 120 luxury apartments and condos will begin at floor 26, and the 227-room hotel is to go below.

Bedrock has yet to announce the hotel brand. The Free Press reported last fall on the possibility of an ultra-luxury Edition Hotel in the skyscraper, and Crain’s Detroit, citing an anonymous source, recently reported that Edition Hotels last year signed an agreement for the site.

The Hudson’s site was once home to the massive J.L. Hudson department store, which closed in 1983 and was imploded in 1998.

Read the original article here.

Categories: Uncategorized  


Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

DETROIT (APRIL 22, 2022) -The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is excited to announce the Detroit Riverwalk has been named Best Riverwalk in the 2022 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards contest. It is the second year in a row that the Detroit Riverwalk has been recognized as the Best Riverwalk in the country.  

“We are thrilled to be voted number one for the second year in a row,” said Matt Cullen, board chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “This is going to be a big year for us as we break ground on new projects, mark the completion of our East Riverfront vision and make plans for our 20-year anniversary in 2023, so it is incredibly rewarding to be able to celebrate the Best Riverwalk honor during this special year.” 

“The entire Detroit Riverfront Conservancy team is proud to be recognized again on this national level,” said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy “This honor is also very exciting because we are being recognized as the Best Riverwalk based on the votes submitted by people throughout our community who voted for us.  Detroiters love their riverfront.” 

Nominees for USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards were selected by10Best editors along with a panel of urban planning experts, but members of the general public voted for their favorites throughout the competition.  There were 20 Riverwalks across the country in the competition. Among the Riverwalks making the top 10 list were the Smale Riverfront Park (Cincinnati, Ohio); Wilmington Riverwalk (Wilmington, North Carolina); Waterfront Park (Louisville, Kentucky); San Antonio River Walk (San Antonio, Texas); Schuylkill River Trail (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania); Milwaukee RiverWalk (Milwaukee, Wisconsin); Bricktown River Walk Park (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); Mississippi Riverwalk (Dubuque, Iowa and Canal Walk (Indianapolis, Indiana).

10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. 

The Detroit Riverfront attracts 3.5 million visitors annually.  The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has invested more than $200 million in the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront, which in turn has generated more than $2 billion in public and private investment.  The Conservancy will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2023.

Read the original article here.


Categories: AIA Detroit News  
April 26, 2022

Act Now & Urge Your Representatives to Vote “NO” on House Bill 5538 (Design-Build for Schools)

ACT NOW to urge your Michigan Representative to vote NO on HB 5538 (Design-Build for Schools)
PLEASE contact your State Representative ASAP to ask them to vote NO on House Bill 5538. This legislation violates Article 20 and allows a ‘design-builder’ to offer design professional services if the design-build firm employs a licensed architect or engineer. Under HB 5538, the architect/engineer is employed by the design-builder and thus is supervised by and responsible to them as an employee or by a contract. Unfortunately, the duties to the design-builder and the owner can come into conflict. By contrast, where the architect/engineer is under contract directly by the owner, that sort of conflict can never arise.

Find & Contact Your Legislator: https://www.house.mi.gov/#findarepresentative

Contact them via email or phone and say:

“Representative XXXXX,

I am urging you to vote NO on House Bill 5538. This legislation violates Article 20 and allows a ‘design-builder’ to offer design professional services if the design-build firm employs a licensed architect or engineer. Under HB 5538, the architect/engineer is employed by the design-builder and thus is supervised by and responsible to them as an employee or by a contract. Unfortunately, the duties to the design-builder and the owner can come into conflict. By contrast, where the architect/engineer is under contract directly by the owner, that sort of conflict can never arise.

–  In order to safeguard the public, it is necessary to ensure that life safety decisions are made by those licensed to do so. Therefore, the composition of the design-build firm must comply with Michigan licensing laws if they are offering engineering, architectural, or surveying services.
– There is great potential for a conflict of interest when the architect/engineer is employed by the design-builder and not by the owner. The school district could be harmed.
– HB 5538 eliminates “checks and balances” for the school district as the school district is not required to directly hire a licensed engineer/architect to review design plans and specifications or oversee construction activities.



Further Legislative Information:


For more information feel free to contact the following Michigan GAC members:

Jan Culbertson, jculbertson@a3c.com

Jeff Ferweda, jeffrey@sfarch.us

Eric Biller,  billere@progressiveae.com

Steve Smith, ses@pobox.com

April 18, 2022

Could 3D housing be in Detroit’s future?

Christine Ferretti | Bridge Detroit

A shortage of affordable housing has Detroit exploring whether a 3D-printing robot could help.

A robotics company in southwest Detroit is hoping so and plans to deliver the city’s first factory-printed concrete home to the Islandview neighborhood later this year.

It’s billed as faster, low-cost and nonprofits, state housing and city officials say it’s a practice gaining momentum across the globe to increase move-in ready housing stock in distressed communities. The emerging technology is being explored as one tool to tackle the massive problem but the long-term sustainability and benefits aren’t yet known.

“We believe this is one way to start building better homes, more homes, faster,” said Evelyn Woodman, who co-founded Citizen Robotics in Detroit with her father, Tom Woodman.

The nonprofit launched just over two years ago and has other 3D home building projects planned for Flint and Grosse Pointe Woods. In Detroit, the company intends to build an 850-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath house geared toward senior living.

The project, designed by Brian Cook of Develop Architecture, president of the Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, is expected to get underway after the company finalizes the purchase of a Detroit Land Bank Authority parcel where it will be built.

Citizen Robotics Executive Director Tom Woodman said his company chose Detroit and Flint for its initial projects because they have vast amounts of land and demand for affordable housing.

“The situation is dire. They are striving for solutions,” he told BridgeDetroit. “In this case, it’s the disruptive technology you want: better, faster, cheaper. But it’s going to take a minute to get there.”

The single-family home planned for Detroit is anticipated to be the first state-funded 3D printed house in Michigan. It’s being financed through the Neighborhood Housing Initiatives Division of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, said Katie Bach, a spokeswoman for MSHDA.

MSHDA is covering about $150,000 in construction costs for the partnership project between the state, a nonprofit group, the land bank and Citizen Robotics. The home, Bach said, will serve as a “proof of concept project” to help state officials determine if 3D home building is sustainable, cost-effective and energy efficient.

The house will be marketed to low-income buyers at 80% of the area median income, which is $50,240 or less for a two-person household in Detroit. The design and location are being finalized.

“MSHDA is exploring the possibility of encouraging the use of 3D technology to construct infill affordable, move-in ready homes in neighborhoods,” Bach said in an email. “This pilot project is expected to help determine the feasibility of the 3D concept as we explore creative solutions to address Michigan’s housing supply shortages.”

For Citizen Robotics, it will be the first completed home. It will be printed in sections in the company’s warehouse near Michigan Central in Corktown and transported to Islandview for assembly.

Concrete construction is air-tight, noted Woodman, who said he estimates it will reduce energy consumption by about 80% over time. Another benefit of 3D printing, he said, is that the housing design can be adapted to meet the needs of Detroit’s varying communities.

One thing that’s “broken in homebuilding,” he said, is “who gets to decide what gets built and where.

“Community engagement is not an afterthought for us,” Woodman said.

Detroit City Councilman Coleman A. Young II told BridgeDetroit he has a vision of his own for testing out the technology. It calls for 3D construction of multi-family homes in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

“I need to do all I can to be able to make sure within my power that we are able to provide housing for those who need it the most,” said Young, an at-large councilman and the son of the city’s first Black mayor. “I want a pilot program to address the issues with affordable housing in areas that are the hardest hit.”

Young said his plan is in the preliminary stages but it has begun with an analysis from the council’s Legislative Policy Division. He said he’s seeking input from the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department and evaluating how a 3D printer could be acquired and the cost.

Woodman said there are a half-dozen styles of 3D printers that run from $275,000 to $1 million and he hasn’t heard of any municipalities that have purchased one thus far.

Young’s proposal comes as the city, affordable housing advocates and philanthropic partners are evaluating ways to renovate Detroit’s aging houses and bolster home repair programs and equity in mortgage lending.

Last month, Detroit Future City’s Center for Equity, Engagement and Research released a study that found lending has improved in Detroit over the past decade but many areas see few, if any, mortgage loans each year. Credit challenges, unfavorable debt-to-income ratios and bias in property appraisals are among the issues that put Black buyers even further behind.

“We have issues with diversity, equity and exclusion in terms of the issue of single-family housing and zoning. I want to open that up and make it affordable for people in the city of Detroit who are hurting the most,” said Young, adding he’d like a pilot to be targeted for “extremely low-income” residents at about 30% of the area median income – or $18,840 or less for a two-person household.

Last summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Citizen Robotics at the nonprofit’s warehouse to announce the state’s plan to invest $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding toward the construction of thousands of affordable homes statewide.

Young said it’s too early to know whether his vision will coincide with Duggan’s administration.

Julie Schneider, who heads the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department, said 3D home building is relatively new but the administration is “open to learning more.”

“The City’s policy has been investing our resources into quality housing that will stand the test of time and provide quality affordable housing for decades to come,” Schneider said in a statement “Homes printed using 3D technology may very well prove to be more durable than the materials used today, but we don’t know the full picture yet, as this is still a new technology and industry. That said, it is something that we are certainly open to learning more about and would consider if 3D-printed homes are indeed a worthy investment of housing dollars.”

‘Build what people want’
A University of Michigan study last fall estimated families in nearly 38,000 Detroit households lived in inadequate housing with major issues including exposed wires or electrical problems, broken furnaces or heating problems, or lack of hot or running water.

Woodman said the 3D technology can’t be used for repairs on the city’s existing wood-built homes – apart from a new concrete front stoop – but 3D shouldn’t be discounted because of it.

“The fact that it can’t do much toward rehabbing other old houses, I sort of say ‘so what.’ Somebody has got to focus on scattered site infill,” he said. “Nobody does it because it’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s necessary to create walkable, 15-minute neighborhoods.”

The land bank has control of the majority of the city’s vacant parcels. It has an inventory of more than 76,000 properties and most – close to 63,000 – are vacant lots.

“If we have land as an asset, it’s only an asset if you build on it,” Woodman said. “Let’s build what people want.”

Young said his intention is to start small and would begin with pinpointing equipment costs. Work also must be done, he said, to determine what material would be used, its longevity and where the houses would go, although he noted areas throughout Detroit are primed for it.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t have an opinion on building materials so there’s been no federal guidance on the matter that Detroit officials are aware of.

“I felt this could be an opportunity if done right,” said Young, but he stressed “I’m not saying we will solve all of the city’s housing problems with this technology. It’s not going to be a panacea and silver bullet.”

‘Can we adopt it?’
In recent years, groups in Detroit have experimented with the trends of tiny homes and shipping container homes and buildings. Woodman said he doesn’t see 3D-printed housing as a fad.

“We’ve got precedent to draw on. We’re not inventing this method,” he said. “We’re tweaking it out for our purposes.”

The first full 3D printed home in the country was unveiled at Austin’s South by Southwest conference in 2018. The 650-square-foot concrete home was printed onsite, and cost approximately $10,000 to build, according to the LPD report.

Since then, a 3D project has been underway in southern Mexico to bring 50 homes to a poverty-stricken neighborhood that is prone to earthquakes and flooding.

Habitat for Humanity has partnered on several 3D-printed home projects, including one built last fall in Williamsburg, Virginia. Habitat Detroit and other Habitat affiliates are quietly conducting a similar analysis, said Stephanie Osterland, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Detroit.

“Right now, we’re heavily into the feasibility stage. What is the cost effectiveness of doing it? Do homebuyers want this type of construction? How hard is it to do and how quickly can we adopt it?,” she said. “It’s worth the time and the diligence to evaluate whether or not it can be a solution.”

Citizen Robotics initially targeted Detroit’s Woodbridge community for the 3D home pilot, but changed course due to costs associated with preparing the site owned by Woodbridge Neighborhood Development.

In recent years, Woodbridge has conducted workshops, community meetings and surveys to develop guidelines for infill housing in the 2,383-household neighborhood and to provide guidance for future developers.

Christine Holmes, the community improvement organization’s director of policy and property development, said residents are interested in single-family housing as well as preserving the historic character of the housing stock.

The 3D project, which would have constructed a small, single-story home, was welcomed by neighbors, particularly for the benefit of longtimers who might need to downsize, she said.

“This would be a way to make something that is more accessible to a senior or somebody who might have mobility problems,” said Holmes, noting the group remains open to the technology.

“A smaller footprint in general in housing is becoming more desirable,” she said. “It provides options for people. The fact that it would be 3D-printed doesn’t change that option.”

The conventional cost to build an average sized three-bedroom house is between $250,000 to $320,000. Building the same home with 3D printing technology would cost from 20% to 40% less – or between $140,000 to $240,000, the LPD analysis notes.

“The biggest roadblock, arguably, is government regulations regarding what can or cannot be allowed as a means of construction,” LPD’s report reads. “Government regulations and construction permits vary wildly across the globe. But one thing they all have in common is the reluctance of public bodies to allow cutting-edge technology to be used by the general population at such an early stage.”

Osterland said for Habitat, it’s critical to explore 3D and steel frame housing as construction costs remain high and climbed another 20% last year.

“That means for every four projects we do, that’s a whole other project we couldn’t do,” she said.

As costs go up, the more Habitat has to rely on philanthropic partners to cover gaps caused by property appraisal disparities. The demand is great for single-family homes and Habitat gets about 125 online intake forms per month from those interested in home ownership, she said.

“We’re not even close to meeting that demand. There are people in need of safe and affordable housing like no other,” Osterland said. “Detroit is accepting of innovation. Whether it catches on and if it makes sense to do at a mass scale, that’s still to be determined.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  

AUCH Construction Earns National Safety Excellence Award

March 30, 2022 – Grapevine, TX – AUCH Construction, Pontiac, has been awarded 2nd place in the 2022 Construction Safety Excellence Award (CSEA) program sponsored by Willis Towers Watson. The honor was granted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) at their annual convention. AUCH’s written submission of their safety program was selected in the construction manager category among entries from across the nation. Finalists gave an oral presentation before a panel of independent judges for final placement.

AUCH’s presentation highlighted its long-standing tradition of carrying on its founder’s philosophy of a family-based organization that focuses on each person, and shares best safety practices across company lines. The award was made possible through the company’s commitment to live its core values and with AUCH’s field leaders’ dedication to ensure the safety of all project partners.

AUCH was founded in 1908 and is located in Pontiac. For 114 years the company has provided planning, preconstruction, and construction phase services in southeast Michigan in educational, healthcare, municipal, and commercial sectors. AUCH’s focus has always been on client satisfaction and safety. In the last 10 years, their commitment to corporate safety culture was also recognized with awards at the AGC National Convention in 2013, 2016, and 2019.

The purpose of the AGC-CSEA is to acknowledge construction companies who excel at safety performance. Each candidate’s commitment to safety and occupational health management and risk control is carefully examined. Unlike other safety award programs that limit the criteria to statistical data, the CSEA selection process is considerably more comprehensive. Each application is reviewed for evidence of company management commitment, active employee participation, safety training, work site hazard identification and control, and safety program innovation.

For more information on AUCH Construction, visit www.auchconstruction.com.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  

Riverfront extension will connect to Michigan Central, residential neighborhoods

Hani Barghouthi | The Detroit News

Detroit — Officials broke ground Wednesday on a nearly mile-long extension of the Detroit Riverfront to connect it to residential neighborhoods and Michigan Central.

The $8 million Southwest Greenway will connect the riverfront and planned Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park with the rail station and neighborhoods throughout southwest Detroit, Mexicantown and Corktown, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy announced in a press release.

“The Southwest Greenway will make it easy and fun for people living and working on the west side of Detroit to get to the Detroit Riverfront,” said Matt Cullen, chairman of the nonprofit, adding that the greenway would offer a similar experience for park-goers to the Dequindre Cut.

Spanning from Bagley to Jefferson Avenue, the greenway will improve community access to public spaces in the city and is expected to be completed in the fall, according to the conservancy.

It will be “a key part” of the Joe Louis Greenway, a 27.5-mile greenway in Detroit, both of which are a part of 160 miles of greenways in southeast Michigan.

“I am excited to see that we have been intentional as a city of departments to include our neighborhoods in all of our outreach and all of our engagement when it comes to quality park space and quality opportunities in this city,” said Antoine Bryant, director of the Planning & Development Department for the City of Detroit, at the ceremony for the groundbreaking.

Michigan Central announced Wednesday a $5 million commitment for the greenway, which will be completed in partnership with the City of Detroit, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Walters Family Foundation.

“Not only is it going to be this wonderful, walkable, safe, beautiful amenity for the neighborhoods, but it is that connector,” said Mary Culler, chair of Michigan Central. “It actually has that opportunity to be a destination place to think about the future of mobility.”

It will be critical for everyone to have access to the greenway, Culler added, including people who don’t have the ability to walk or ride a bike.

The Conservancy will break ground on the connected Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, a 22-acre endeavor on the West Riverfront, on May 10, with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation having committed $50 million toward the project in 2018.

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
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