Design Review


What is Design Review?

Design Review is a pre-development review required by the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department (PDD) for projects that involve public land sales or public incentives or are in special zoning or historic districts. Design Review is part of the City's normal entitlements process and begins early in the process prior to any community outreach or approvals (special land uses, variances, land transfers, tax abatements).

Design Review Applicability

How long does it take?

A typical Design Review process includes 3 meetings with PDD. Some projects may receive approval in fewer than 3 meetings, while others may require additional meetings prior to permitting to ensure compliance with PDD’s Guiding Principles. Once we receive the required materials for each meeting, PDD review takes about one week.

Design Review Process - April 2022

How do I start?

We highly recommend that initial Design Review meetings be held in conjunction with the Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environment Department (BSEED) as part of Preliminary Plan Review (PPR).  PPR is an optional, free service administered through BSEED. During the PPR, you will meet with all City departments and outside agencies that will need to issue approvals so you can understand all applicable requirements for the project.  

Following the PPR meeting, PDD staff will review projects for compliance with the PDD Guiding Principles and provide our feedback on the project’s compliance with those principles.

Click here to schedule a Preliminary Plan Review and kick off your Design Review process with PDD.


What is Needed to Complete a Design Review?

PDD requests the following information in 11x17” electronic format (PDFs preferred) for Design Review:

  • Site Location Map
  • Existing Site Aerial
  • Conceptual Site Plan, Landscape Plan, and Floor and Roof Plans: Including parking and site access.
  • Zoning Analysis: On site plan, identify/list zoning district and parking, setback, building height requirements. (Use the zoning portal found on BSEED’s webpage: BSEED Zoning staff will also review with you during PPR).
  • Conceptual Exterior Elevations: Showing material scope, pattern, and transitions (with images of proposed design within the context of the adjacent buildings, if any, and the neighborhood).
  • Conceptual Building Section: Through the building showing the street, parking, and rear alley.
  • Conceptual 3D Massing Views (At least one): Showing the proposed development and surrounding context
  • Conceptual 3D Rendered View (At least one): Showing the desired end result or design intent of the development Conceptual Exterior Material Palette with sample images illustrating finish and desired texture.


helpful hints - lightbulb
We highly recommend you have as much of the requested information above ready when submitting it for your initial Design Review/PPR meeting. We expect to see each of the items at Meeting #2.
PDD’s comments may change as we get more information or if the project undergoes changes between Design Review meetings.

How Does PDD Review Projects?

The City of Detroit is committed to advancing equity, sustainability, resilience, and healthy living for those who live, work and play within and around project areas. Proposals for development should follow basic urban design principles and established neighborhood development strategies as described by the PDD Guiding Principles below. During Design Review, the Planning and Development Department will evaluate all new residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects against these principles and provide feedback on each. Industrial projects are subject to PDD's Industrial Design Guidelines. The Industrial Design Guidelines include Guiding Principles more specific to industrial projects as well as additional design guidelines that illustrate how PDD will evaluate industrial projects in greater detail (Click here to view the Industrial Design Guidelines)

PDD Design Review Guiding Principles - April 2022

City Policy Relating to PDD Review

Sec. 50-3-201.

Concept Plan Review may be required of projects which involve acquisition of City-owned land and/or public funds. Submittal for concept plan review shall be to the Planning and Development Department prior to the permit approval process.

SEC. 14-12-4

The City of Detroit Community Benefits Ordinance requires developers of Tier 2 projects to meet with the Planning & Development Department to review development projects prior to approval of land transfer and/or tax abatement agreements.