Blog: Mark Nickita

Mark Nickita is the cofounder of the award-winning multi-disciplinary design firm Archive Design Studio. A resident of Birmingham, Mark was selected by Crain's Detroit as one of its 40 under 40 business leaders, is the winner of several architectural & urban design awards and sits on the Birmingham Planning Board. Mark will be writing about Metro Detroit's need for livable, workable, and walkable urban neighborhoods.

Post No. 1

Detroit is the oldest city in the American Midwest, dating from 1701. For centuries, the economic generator and focus of the State of Michigan has been Detroit. Ultimately the city is a sum of its parts and since its beginning, Woodward Avenue, which was once a trail then a road and now avenue has been integral to its success. Now, as we begin another century, and as the State and the Region are faced with redefining themselves for future prosperity, this important spine is a lifeblood to gain and retain the talented workforce that the State requires to survive and thrive.

From The Detroit River’s bank to Pontiac is approximately 25 miles. When you document the amount of live, work and play, 24-hour, 7-day a week activities that are within a 15 minute walk from that north/south spine, along its length, it is easy to understand the importance that Woodward Avenue can play into the future of our State. The primary section of this linear urban spine, the portion with most intense level of economic activity, takes place from Detroit to Birmingham, which is just over 15 miles. Collectively, this unique element, a 15-mile linear city, is an economic generator and has become an answer to the question of what is "cool" and prosperous in Metropolitan Detroit.

With an alarming numbers of young, talented, educated people in Michigan choosing to leave the State because "there is nothing for them here" and few people from this important demographic, choosing to come here from outside of the State, the leadership in Michigan needs to establish a new system and refocus efforts to curb our "Brain Drain." This talent loss needs to be immediately addressed. One way of achieving this is to provide expanded employment opportunities and to create an appropriate quality of life - these are the two main factors that this group seeks. Opportunity relates to job and economic growth and quality of life relates largely to the built environment.  

Many of the answers for what this young group is demanding already exists along Woodward Avenue. From universities to jobs, from employers in office towers to tree-lined residential streets, from world-class museums and cultural organizations to entertainments centers and historic downtowns, the opportunities and lifestyle is already established and should be touted and enhanced. Wherever possible, leaders in Lansing and the Woodward Avenue communities should direct resources to strengthen the already established assets that can be a place that this creative, young talented group will find worthy of buying into. We must do this, lest we grow old in a State without a new generation to take the keys.