An elite New York City architect says he’s been commissioned by a private philanthropist to help create a blocks-long affordable housing development in North Corktown.
The project appears to be in the concept stage; at this point, architect Alexander Gorlin is the only one providing details. And the details are enticing: 54 acres of unidentified land; rows of townhouses and single-family homes with a modern design; an unnamed patron, and possibly the involvement of Grammy Award-winning musician Pharrell Williams, whom Gorlin said he was “teaming up” with on the project last year.
“We have been commissioned by a private philanthropist to apply modernist design principles to stabilize the 54-acre district,” Gorlin’s website says about the North Corktown proposal.
The philanthropist isn’t identified, nor is the specific land. Gorlin’s website has a picture of an empty patch of North Corktown with no address given, along with a Google map of Nagel Park and Burton International School on 2001 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
There are renderings of what appear to be at least two blocks of new housing along with two blocks of newly planted trees. Gorlin’s website describes the renderings as “our master plan” that “promotes affordable home ownership and emphasizes community interaction.” A master plan is the framework for future developments.
Gorlin’s office didn’t respond to email and telephone requests for comment on Friday.
City officials already have told members of the North Corktown neighborhood group that its exploring three or four potential major development projects for the neighborhood on city-owned land.
“We’ve been told the city would first issue a request for proposal to designers for a master plan,” said Paul Emery, president of the North Corktown Neighborhood Association.
The city, mainly through its Detroit Land Bank Authority, owns an estimated 473 properties in the 353 acres of North Corktown, according to Loveland Technologies, a Detroit firm that tracks and identifies land ownership. The neighborhood is just northwest of downtown Detroit bordered by Interstate 96, Interstate 75, the Lodge Freeway and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, said Friday “we likely wouldn’t comment at this time” on the proposal.
Some North Corktown residents saw plans from Gorlin last year, which involved a big swath of empty city-owned properties west of the Burton International, which is part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
Last year, North Corktown residents also were told that Williams may be an investor. Gorlin’s recent website post didn’t provide any update on Williams’ involvement. Williams is a singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and fashion designer. In addition to his multiple Grammy Awards, he is a growing entrepreneur. One of his ventures involves helping build a $35 million after-school center in his hometown, Virginia Beach. Williams’ publicist did not respond to email requests Friday.
Gorlin, founder of Alexander Gorlin Architects, has been named one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Architects since 2000. His work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Biennale and the Chicago Athenaeum, as well as published in the New York Times, Architectural Record and Interior Design.
Gorlin first mentioned the Detroit proposal in the December edition of Architectural Digest magazine. Here is what Gorlin said about his 2016 projects: “Teaming with musician Pharrell Williams on prefab housing in Detroit.”
The term “prefab” is short for prefabricated housing, a broad term referring to any home that has sections of the structure built in a factory and then assembled on site.