A place for people in the heart of the motor city

Detroit is not only known for cars, but also for the mass exodus of people from its downtown, and it’s still bleeding. However, a focus on creating a masterfully crafted public square in the very center of the City may start the healing.

With the help of a $20-25M grant raised by a civic organization formed to celebrate the city’s 300th anniversary in 2001, former Mayor Dennis Archer set a goal of creating the best public space in the world – City leaders, are you listening out there? $8 million came from the Detroit 300 Conservancy as a 300th birthday gift to the city, another $8 million collectively from Compuware and Ford, with the balance covered by the City of Detroit. Out of a massive, confusing, and dangerous intersection of auto-clogging arterials has risen the highly-acclaimed public square, Campus Martius, which has indeed become the lifeblood for festivities in the city, including 200 events in the summer (outdoor movies, concerts) and a hit ice skating rink in the winter.

It’s hard to argue with its economic impact either. Compuware moved its headquarters along with 4000 employees (that’s right, 4000) to a new building fronting the square. Notes Bob Gregory, who oversaw the square’s planning, “Compuware would not have come downtown without the park. They didn’t want just a building. They wanted a lively district, where their workers would have things to do.” City leaders, are you listening out there?

Know of any other such destinations? Would you want to work near such a place in your town?

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