Deirdre Greene Groves on Placemaking- Entrepreneurs and Community Development

Deirdre discussing Detroit

Deirdre Greene Groves is the Executive Director of an exciting new project called Challenge Detroit. The project, along with her work at the Collaborative Group, is focused on recreating Detroit as an entrepreneurial capital. Check out her thoughts on placemaking and why she believes so passionately in Detroit’s future.

Q1. What is the greatest promise of placemaking for American cities?

I believe placemaking goes beyond designing street patterns and distributing commercial and residential uses, but rather placemaking is a practice of community development.  The promise of placemaking lies in creating a sense of community through our built, civic, business, and entrepreneurial environments.  The Collaborative Group brings together entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial thinkers together to spur economic growth in our region through a focus on community and entrepreneurial development; Challenge Detroit is our first initiative.

Deirdre leading a discussion at the Collaborative Group

Challenge Detroit is about attracting and retaining innovative thinkers and doers to counter the brain drain and make a difference in Detroit’s revitalization efforts… to MAKE this PLACE better than the way we found it.  The program is anchored by four pillars – live, work, play, and give – and will select 30 of tomorrow’s leaders to:

·         LIVE in downtown Detroit, supported by a $500/month housing stipend;

·         WORK for one of the top companies in the region, supported by a $30,000 salary;

·         PLAY in the city through organized social and cultural experiences; and

·         GIVE in monthly team challenges, in partnership with area non-profits, designed to positively impact the city and region.

But, Challenge Detroit is more than a year-long program and it’s more than 30 people.  To me, Challenge Detroit is ALL about coming together as a community to have a greater impact and do more than we could alone.  By joining forces, we can spread a positive message about Detroit’s opportunities to a wider audience.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing visits the Collaborative Group

The promise of Challenge Detroit is about MAKING this PLACE, Detroit, a community that is welcoming to all, focused on a brighter future, and community-minded.  Placemaking is all about living in and embracing a city’s culture, working and delving head-first into the business of a community, playing in a city by experiencing it 365-days per year, and giving ones intellectual capital to contribute to bettering that place.

Q2. Is placemaking a tool for large and small cities alike, or does the practice lend itself to communities of all sizes?

Placemaking happens in all communities, regardless of size.  I see placemaking happen in the small town I grew up in and the big city at the heart of our state.  In my hometown, placemaking revolves around integrating equestrian-friendly goals into the community’s master plan making that place unique and helping to curb traditional suburban sprawl.  In Detroit’s big-city atmosphere, placemaking means a full circle approach of economic impact, mix of uses in the built environment, and planning for a successful and vibrant community that works together.

Q3. Is there one place that you hold up as a standard for effective placemaking? Perhaps something you have witnessed or worked on? Could be a region, city, neighborhood, block, etc.

Last week I had the chance to visit my old college stomping grounds in Ann Arbor.  I was reminded of what an incredible gem the city is; such vitality and so much life on the streets.  This city has transformed itself into a mecca of divine food, homegrown shops, arts and culture, diverse businesses, urban residential, green public space, and so much more… The ideal subject for effective placemaking.   My hope is that through programs like Challenge Detroit, Detroit, too can become a standard for placemaking.

You can follow Deirdre and the Collaborative Group on Twitter @CollabGroup and on Facebook.