Lead Urban Designer
The I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project will guide a transformational project that proposes to reconnect the city of Detroit from the physical and emotional division created decades ago in the name of “urban renewal”. This project is led by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) in partnership with the City of Detroit. Beginning the framework process is the culmination of five years of planning, engagement, and conceptualization for raising the freeway to road grade and turning it into a boulevard. The framework effort will take us to an expected boulevard construction start in 2025 and finish in 2027.
While the project will be able to study the limits (envelope) of potential development on the developable parcels resulting from the boulevard design, it cannot address the disposition of land as part of the framework. The land is currently owned by the federal government as part of the interstate highway system. The State of Michigan and City of Detroit will work with the federal government to determine the guidelines governing the transfer of land.
The project proposes three elements of study, design, and research. The first is understanding the URBAN DESIGN profile of the project area, or how this area is developed to reconnect Downtown Detroit and the Riverfront to the surrounding neighborhoods. Next, comes developing the final BOULEVARD DESIGN, which will enhance the urban experience based on City of Detroit design standards. Finally, the framework will determine how DIVERSITY, EQUITY, and INCLUSION can be used to create opportunities for Detroiters, taking the history of the land into consideration. The City of Detroit wants all voices to be heard, not only about past experiences in Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, but also ideas on how to move the city forward.
I-375 is no longer needed, and the aging infrastructure requires costly maintenance. The interchange with I-75 and the connection to Gratiot and Eastern Market will be upgraded to maintain speed on I-75 and remove the bridges, which are outdated. Current and estimated future traffic volumes will be accounted for in the new design. The way downtown connects to neighborhoods – both east and west, as well as north and south – will be improved, and some elements of the former street grid will be redesigned back into the road network, where possible. Both pedestrians and vehicles will be taken into consideration in the new design. This new infrastructure will enhance access to future development and other placemaking opportunities on the redesigned road.
The project process will create space for necessary conversations about the past and the exchange of ideas about future opportunities. Community engagement will be crucial to the effort being a success.
The project will help us identify opportunities for engagement with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion that connects the city, honors its past and creates a future built on the needs and wants of those who call Detroit home.
Advocates say constructing highways through Black neighborhoo