Residential, commercial project planned for historic Woodbridge neighborhood
Detroit — Planning is underway for the redevelopment of two major sites in Detroit’s historic Woodbridge neighborhood.
Co-developers and nonprofits Woodbridge Neighborhood Development and Cinnaire announced this week that they’ve selected Columbus-based MKSK for planning services for the redevelopment of buildings and new residential and commercial projects, and green space in the neighborhood.
The project will include creating a design and development guideline for the vacant Hancock School, a nearly 18,000-square-foot former Detroit Public Schools building at 1780 W. Hancock Street and 1.5 acres of land. The former middle school building has been vacant since the early 2000s.
Part of the plan includes seven acres just southwest of the former school along Rosa Parks Boulevard.
“There’s so much going on that we get to seek out the projects we’re really interested in, like neighborhood revitalization or urban infill projects,” said Andrew Knight, principal of MKSK. “Kind of reclaiming the great landscape of Detroit, the city of Detroit. For us, Woodbridge had a lot of those qualities in terms of whether it’s environmental or social equality. There’s a lot of great history within Woodbridge. Of course, it’s location as well ... a lot of things aligned to make this project a really exciting opportunity.”
The developers and MKSK will hold the first public meeting Thursday with the Woodbridge Citizens Council meeting.
“We’re aiming for community-serving purposes, giving people in the neighborhood a say in what happens with those spaces,” said Angie Gaabo, executive director of the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development.
Woodbridge is a historic neighborhood amid the developing Corktown, New Center and Midtown areas and has a diverse population, including students and longtime residents.
Gaabo said the organization's goal is to prioritize community concerns.
"That could mean the inclusion of affordable housing, ensuring access to community spaces and the physical redevelopment of the buildings and land that meshes with and complements the existing fabric of the neighborhood," she said. "Other than that, we don't want to be too prescriptive about where this process goes."
Planning will wrap up in January, Gaabo said.
Woodbridge Neighborhood Development was awarded a $150,000 grant through the Kresge Innovative Projects last spring to fund a community-oriented planning process for the building and land.
MKSK is a collective of 100 landscape architects, urban designers and planners with a network of seven metropolitan studios in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina. Detroit-based Quinn Evans Architects will assist MKSK in architectural guidelines. Laingsburg, Michigan-based LandUseUSA will help with market and real estate consulting.
"Right now, we’re just trying to gather as much information as possible from all different perspectives from those people who may be interested in developing or moving there, from people who live there, people who have grown up there,” Knight said. “That’s kind of where we are in this stage, so we certainly want to develop a strategy and a plan that’s sustainable from multiple perspectives, economically, environmentally and socially, culturally … I think if we can strike a balance between a lot of those, it will really set a great trajectory based upon the pretty strong foundation that Woodbridge already has.”