Wayne State University

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Activating Campus to Improve Community

December 1, 2016

There is a growing recognition that place matters in creating healthy, prosperous communities where people want to live, work, play and learn. Placemaking is an approach to help communities create inspiring and engaging public places, often through relatively quick and inexpensive interventions.

Placemaking is a core component of Wayne State University’s effort to create a more 24-7 campus and build connections within the campus community and with our Midtown neighbors. Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development (OED) leads several collaborative Placemaking Initiatives, including convening a Placemaking Steering Committee, an advisory board comprised of representatives from more than 20 colleges and departments and community organizations. Previous projects include the 2015 and 2016 Walk [Wayne State] campaigns designed to encourage people to explore nearby destinations; partnering with the DIA Inside|Out program to place reproductions of the DIA’s collection at sites across campus; and placing flexible public seating throughout campus to offer people a place to relax, study and socialize.

Creative and practical streetscape improvements helped re-image Warren’s long-term design as a safe, active and vibrant corridor.

This fall, OED partnered with numerous campus departments and the City of Detroit to showcase innovative design ideas to transform Warren Avenue. Through creative and practical streetscape improvements—such as painted bike lanes, pedestrian bump-outs and shortened crosswalks—and food trucks and flexible seating, Wayne State re-imagined Warren’s long-term design as a safe and vibrant space. Prototypes and ideas generated during Walkable Warren will inform Wayne State’s forthcoming new master plan. The demonstration was also intended to inform future streetscape changes included in the City of Detroit’s federally funded plan for safety improvements along a five-mile stretch of Warren and the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Walk Woodbridge initiative.

The majority of Wayne State’s Placemaking Initiatives have occurred in the fall and spring when campus is naturally more dynamic. OED is currently exploring initiatives to make campus more engaging in the winter months when people are less likely to spend time outside. Planned initiatives include installing holiday lights on campus and coordinating a pop-up marketplace. Installing holiday lights on campus is a simple idea, one other cities and universities have implemented to both lift spirits and increase public safety. OED is currently crowdfunding to purchase and install LED holiday lights. The lights will be installed in early December and shine through the end of January, lighting up campus for Wayne State students, employees, residents, businesses and visitors.

OED is also partnering with Wayne State’s James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, TechTown and the Center for Community Based Enterprise on a holiday marketplace and wreath sale, which will feature 50 local businesses and Wayne State-affiliated artists. The inaugural Winter Art and Retail Market (WARM) will take place in the park at Woodward and Warren during the 44th annual Noel Night on Saturday, December 3rd. More than 70 institutions, including a dozen Wayne State schools, colleges and departments, will open their doors to the public free of charge during this Cultural Center-wide holiday open house, which regularly draws tens of thousands of visitors to Wayne State’s neighborhood.


Division of Government and Community Affairs
4092 Faculty Administration Building, 656 W. Kirby • Detroit, MI 48202
Tel: (313) 577-5284