Detroit is seeking out local makers to compete for grant funds to revamp empty commercial spaces in the city's neighborhood corridors. 

The city's Planning and Development Department in partnership with the Detroit Collaborative Design Center is soliciting submissions for its Design Center in a Box competition.

Launched in May, the competition is seeking submissions through June 24 to transform vacant commercial storefronts into community gathering spaces for city residents to discuss ongoing planning and design efforts in their neighborhoods.

The design challenge is funded by the Knight Foundation through a $205,000 grant from the Knight Cities Challenge. 

“The Design Center in a Box competition will rehabilitate and activate vacant storefronts in Detroit in a way that engages our neighborhoods,” Maurice Cox, director of the Planning and Development Department, said in a news release. “These storefronts will become community gathering spaces for residents to engage in the planning and design of their neighborhoods.”

The competition is open to teams of designers, artists and architects born, raised or educated in Michigan, or with a previously held academic position in the state. The team must also be able to execute its vision from design to installation, officials said.

"Design Center in a Box uniquely connects emerging designers with community residents through designing and constructing inspiring spaces for all to use," said Dan Pitera, executive director for the Detroit Collaborative Design Center. 

Applicants are asked to submit ideas for a typical Detroit storefront in mind. They must submit a three-page team project summary and a design concept board with layout of visual and written materials.

Competitors will be judged by a panel of local and national architects and designers. 

Finalists will be selected by June 28 to move forward to the second stage, where they will work with the city's planning department and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to select two storefronts for Design Center in a Box installation. 

During the second stage, contestants will be judged on constructability, timeline, and budget. The teams will present their final designs at an event in Detroit on Aug. 1.

Two winning teams will receive a $40,000 stipend for detailing, fabrication and installation of their design in a confirmed site location.

The teams will then be given access to a construction manager hired by the competition administrators to coordinate site access and facilitate interaction with the site property owner, as needed.

How to apply

Find more information at and download the competition brief. All applications must be submitted by email to by 11:59pm EST on June 24.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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