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Detroit

Creating a Public Square for Detroiters

Bloomberg Associates worked with the City of Detroit to conceive a 20,000-square-foot civic space known as Spirit Plaza, designed for all residents to engage in civic life.

 

This will be another key piece in making a more vibrant, walkable, diverse downtown. By simplifying the downtown grid and consolidating traffic flow, we are creating a more inviting street and safer pedestrian crossings. We expect this will reset expectations for what is possible on neighborhood streets across the city.

Maurice Cox, Former Detroit Planning Director

Relevant Expertise

Improve Public Space and Neighborhoods

  • Public Plaza Development and Design

Transform Streets and Mobility

  • Walkable Streets

Challenge

Since the dedication of the the Spirit of Detroit statue in 1958, the Woodward block in the heart of Detroit’s downtown has been a natural meeting place for Detroiters to celebrate victories and come together in unity. However, in more recent years, traffic flow through the area has prevented the space from being used safely as a gathering place for residents. The City of Detroit solicited the help of Bloomberg Associates to design a plan to give Spirit Plaza back to Detroiters.

Bloomberg Approach

Approach

Bloomberg Associates and the City worked to redesign Spirit Plaza as a lively, pedestrian-only space that could host large groups of people, by closing off the two streets that run through the square to vehicular traffic. To make the plan a reality, the teams worked together to secure funding from partners as well as from bond measures. Located directly in front of City Hall, Spirit Plaza symbolizes the Mayor’s commitment to making Detroit a healthy, pedestrian-friendly place. It is envisioned to serve as Detroit’s “civic square” – the city’s first-ever public space designed for all residents to gather, engage in and learn about local initiatives, as well as enjoy culinary and cultural attractions that highlight Detroit’s many voices and unique identity.

Impact

The 20,000-square-foot plaza opened in its pilot phase in 2017 and quickly became a thriving center for activity downtown. Thousands of Detroiters enjoyed a rotating schedule of lunchtime food truck service and live performances that featured talented youth and established artists representing the cultural diversity found in Detroit’s neighborhoods. In its opening year, weekend visitation to the area increased by 68 percent. In 2019, the City Council voted to make Spirit Plaza permanent and the newly reconstructed plaza opened to Detroiters that fall.

Metrics

68% increased total weekend visitors, Summer 2017

$800K in bond funding for reconstruction of Spirit Plaza

40+ artists and vendors showcased in Spirit Plaza, Summer 2019