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GREEN SPACE: National consultants converge to design a 'leaner, greener' Detroit

Over the Halloween weekend, sustainability experts from around the country joined with local architects, planners and other interested parties in Midtown Detroit for an SDAT, or Sustainable Design Assessment Team, charette.

A sobering aspect of each and every discussion was the understanding that Detroit will continue to shrink -- down to about 500,000 or 600,000 residents by 2025. So what to do with an extra 88 square miles of land?

First, let's look at the core 50 square miles of livable space. It would be developed as a series of densely populated urban villages, each with housing, recreation, entertainment and work opportunities, each linked to each other and the downtown, or urban core.

From this base, SDAT worked at making policy and design recommendations in five areas, all of which fed into one another as well as the urban villages concept: community development, transportation and transit, open space, economic development and local food systems and community gardens.

Some points of note: many ideas centered on one of the city's greatest assets, the Detroit River -- for example, "blueways" were discussed as a mode of transportation; the importance of incorporating wind turbines into Detroit's energy system was stressed; Eastern Market was lauded as "the best farmers market in the country" by Edwin Marty, the executive director of Jones Valley Urban Farm in Alabama; reduction of energy costs for individuals was stressed as a method of creating wealth; and local food production within each urban village node was recommended.

A serious lack of jobs was examined -- and a strategy was developed for the creation of 75,000 over 10 years by leveraging new green industries as well as existing employment leaders like health care.

Next step: implementation. Local SDAT leaders will begin working with organizations and institutions to move its strategies forward. Funding from Kresge Foundation has been secured to undergo this process.

A tall task with a promising start.

For more info about SDAT, check out Zachary and Associate's website or contact Zachary at 313-831-6100 or WARM Training Center at 313-894-1030.

Source: Diane VanBuren Jones, WARM
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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