Meeting of the Minds

We were invited to submit ideas for revitalizing a neighborhood in Midtown Detroit.


Midtown Detroit Inc.

Project Team:

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore, Rebecca Beyer Winik, Alberto Gonzalez Ruiz

In collaboration with:

Thumb, Design 99

Thanks to the efforts of Midtown Detroit, Inc. in facilitating the many start-up businesses, homesteaders, and community gardeners who have transformed Midtown into one of Detroit’s hottest neighborhoods, Midtown is faring better than most neighborhoods in Detroit in this regard, but there is still important planning and urban design work to be done. In TechTown, especially, quality public space is in short supply, too much land is taken up by fenced-in surface parking lots, and Midtown’s buildings too often lack the porous quality so important to innovations.

Midtown Detroit Inc. has outlined an anchor-based approach to address this problem, but in TechTown, anchors tend to function as islands. People drive to work, park in a private parking lot, work in a private office, eat lunch in a private cafeteria, and then go home. Everything happens in the office, in the island: in some ways, TechTown’s anchors might as well be in office parks in the suburbs!

This island dynamic is bad for innovation. There are a lot of theories about what makes a place innovative, but one thing is certain: isolation is not one of them. 

In this project for TechTown, we proposed a series of public improvements to get people out and about in the public realm.