Planning Director Maurice Cox, champion of Detroit’s neighborhood revitalization, stepping down in September

  • Cox oversaw planning citywide that laid groundwork for physical improvements in neighborhoods
  • Cox rebuilt Detroit’s Planning Department from scratch, attracting top national talent to the City and put infrastructure in place allowing work to continue as planned

Detroit’s Planning Director Maurice Cox has informed Mayor Mike Duggan that he will step down in September. Cox is departing after five years of service to the City of Detroit, and plans to announce his next role at a later date.

Cox, who helped lead the city’s revitalization through innovative urban planning strategies and championed redevelopment in Detroit’s neighborhoods, was hired by Mayor Duggan in 2015 from Tulane University and was tasked with rebuilding the city’s planning department from scratch. Cox immediately got to work attracting world-renowned urban planners, designers and architects, growing the department from just six employees to a team of 36 planners. Today, there are planning studies across the city that have built a road map for the redevelopment of Detroit’s neighborhoods.

“Since joining the administration, we’ve come a long way in building the trust of residents through community engagement and smart planning based on that engagement,” said Cox. “The infrastructure is in place and the work will go forward to ensure the quality of life for the residents of Detroit continues to improve.”

The planning studies, supported by the City’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund, have been unique to Detroit, mapping out short-term, fully-funded and actionable changes that make physical improvements to the neighborhoods. In some neighborhoods, like Fitzgerald, planning has already yielded results, like a new 2.5 acre park built where abandoned houses and vacant land once stood, and dozens of home rehabs underway. In other neighborhoods, like Jefferson Chalmers, plans are moving into the implementation phase, and residents are starting to see new development and other changes, all guided by the Planning Department framework.

In addition to the planning studies that touch more than 70 neighborhoods across the city, key highlights from Cox include:

  • The promotion of Design Excellence in Detroit, which led to the city’s designation as a UNESCO City of Design, the only North American city to receive the designation
  • The launch of the East Riverfront Framework Plan, which laid out a path forward to redevelop Detroit’s international riverfront and ensure it remains accessible to residents.
  • Working on teams that attracted world-class talent to Detroit projects, like Sir David Adjaye and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to design Wilson Centennial Park on the West Riverfront and Paris-based firm Agence Ter to redesign Detroit’s Cultural Center
  • Advocating for more open public space throughout the city, including the development of new public parks and greenways like Ella Fitzgerald Park in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, the Esplanade along the Woodward downtown, the Joe Louis Greenway, and other greenways on the city’s east side that will connect more neighborhoods to Detroit’s Riverfront, adding amenities long since desired by residents.
  • Laying the groundwork for the city’s $130 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which is designed to support and implement the strategies developed with residents through the planning process.
  • Leading the facilitation of the city’s Community Benefits Ordinance, one of the only ordinances in the country that guarantees residents the chance to negotiate benefits with developers of large-scale projects in the city.

“Through planning and thoughtful, physical improvements in neighborhoods across the city, Maurice has led the way in improving the walkability and quality of life in our communities,” said Mayor Duggan. “He has laid a strong foundation for the City’s revitalization. Cities across the country look to Detroit when it comes to urban planning, and we have Maurice to thank for that.” 

As more planning studies are completed in new neighborhoods, the Planning Department will begin to focus more on implementation of these innovative strategies, working across city departments to bring the suggested changes and physical improvements into the neighborhoods. With the infrastructure and strong talent put in place by Cox, the work to rebuild neighborhoods will continue as planned.

“As the executive in charge of the planning department, I will be taking an active role in the department’s operations and will lead the transition. As part of this process, I will be working with our partners on City Council to fill the role permanently,” said Arthur Jemison, Chief of Services and Infrastructure.

An acting planning director will be announced closer to Cox’s departure. Additionally, Katy Trudeau, currently executive director of implementation for the Mayor’s Services and Infrastructure team, will become Deputy Director of Planning, replacing Janet Attarian, who departed the City earlier this year.