Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Detroit, A New Set of Challenges

By Drew Baldwin

This week I think I will take a little bit more time to talk about my thesis and where it is headed and what new challenges I am discovering that will affect my overall outcome. If you did not read any of my previous blog posts about my thesis and abstract, in short, I am proposing a master plan of green spaces in downtown Detroit around the area of Comerica Park, a more attractive area as well as a more tourist friendly area. In doing this master plan, though I am in the very early stages of thinking at this point, I plan on carrying these spaces from the south side of the Fisher highway, which runs just north of the stadium, to the north side as often times you find highways create really nice barriers separating parts of cities into districts if you will. This was one of the first major challenges I began to recognize, how to carry these new green spaces from a more populated, nicer part of Detroit, to its outskirts and what some may call run down and dangerous.
Another challenge of my thesis, is proposing a design that will be relatively low cost, both in the short and long term. One of the major reasons for this is Detroit’s economy is in bad shape these days and the city is actually having to close down 50 parks this year, either because they can’t maintain them or they’re too run down to even try and salvage. Finding a way to provide cheap plantings and finishes for the green spaces as well as reducing construction costs will be key. The use of recyclable materials will be something I really need to look into if I want to achieve this goal.
The biggest challenge, at least in my opinion, is social sustainability; being able to make these parks and green spaces attractive enough to get past the initial excitement of a new park and keeping the inhabitants interest in them so they keep wanting to come back and use the spaces. With the crime rate so high and the economy so low, this will pose a huge challenge because these parks could turn into dangerous places, if no measures are taken to provide safer areas, ones that tourists and city dwellers will want to spend time in. One way to possibly get people to want to use these spaces, is having them participate in both the building and upkeep of these various parks. One would be more likely to visit and use a space of they knew they had a hand in creating it as well as being able to see the result of their hard work. Another benefit of having the community participate in the building of these spaces is a reduction in construction costs as mentioned before.

Just talking to my committee over the past week has actually gotten me more interested in this thesis topic, for several reasons, but mostly how challenging it will be; but I chose Detroit for a reason and look forward to trying to formulate a cohesive design that addresses the challenges I’m finding and what challenges I still may come across.

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