Crain’s Detroit Business: Open Streets events to turn major Detroit roads into car-free zones

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Major sections of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway in Detroit will be closed to vehicle traffic on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to experience the city's streets and discover local businesses.

At a news conference on a sunny and warm Tuesday morning at Clark Park in southwest Detroit — which is along the event's route — the Downtown Detroit Partnership and city officials emphasized that weather would be key to the success of Detroit's first Open Streets program.

Open Streets Detroit will cover 3.7 miles beginning at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit, running past Roosevelt Park in Corktown and Clark Park, and ending at Boyer Playfield at Livernois Avenue and Vernor Highway. Both days the streets will be closed noon-5 p.m. for activities including youth soccer and dance workshops, performances and exercise classes.

"We understand the significance of this as we step into an expanded view of alternative mobility," said Eric Larson, CEO of the DDP. "The DDP is very focused on the infrastructure planning that will allow for these different types of mobility to take place throughout the city …"

He said the event also serves to highlight local businesses, with more than 75 community partners interested in engaging along the route. One of these businesses is Astro Coffee, located along Michigan Avenue in Corktown.

"(Michigan) Avenue has presented a lot of challenges over the years — it's very wide and there's been a lot of efforts to make it more walkable and safer," said Dai Hughes, owner of Astro Coffee. "It's very important in this rapidly changing city that we consider public space, inclusiveness and tolerance as we move into the future and the leadership that goes with that."

Janet Attarian, deputy director of the city's planning and development department, said she hopes to make Open Streets an annual event, at the very least. She said the first two events will be a test as to how to close streets and not cause significant confusion.

Attarian said the city has more plans in the works for ways to connect its neighborhoods to downtown and get people participating in healthy activities in the city. She said there will be two more pop-up events late in the fall and next spring that are similar to the short-term "pop-up" bike lanes on Livernois Avenue.

Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share, is leading the Open Streets Detroit effort. Detroit Bike Share, the city's first public bike share system, is scheduled to begin operating in the spring.

The launch of Open Streets Detroit is part of an international movement called Open Street initiatives. More than 200 cities have ongoing Open Street programs, most modeled after the weekly program in Bogota, Colombia, that opens more than 70 miles of city streets to pedestrians. That program got its start in the 1970s.

"Open Streets has been successful in many other cities across the world," said Faye Nelson, vice president of DTE Energy Co. and president of the DTE Energy Foundation. "It will connect and showcase our neighborhoods, support local businesses, draw visitors from near and far and engage family and friends."

Opens Streets Detroit is supported by the DTE Energy Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among other groups.

The cost of the event and the number of people expected to attend were not disclosed.

The Detroit News: Two major Detroit streets go car-free on two Sundays

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A 3.7-mile stretch of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway — from Campus Martius to Corktown and Mexicantown — will be a pedestrian-and-bike-only zone for two Sundays in coming weeks. It’s a test to see if Detroit is ready to turn major streets into temporary car-free zones on a regular basis.

The city’s first Open Streets Detroit, presented by theDTE Energy Foundation, will make the two major thoroughfares car-free from noon to 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2. Dia Hughes, owner of Astro Coffee in Corktown’s Michigan Avenue, is among those who have high hopes for the idea.

“In a car culture, the serendipity is lost” of walking around and discovering a neighborhood, he said. “That feeling we can walk down a street and find new shops in your neighborhood,” Hughes said at a Tuesday press conference at Clark Park on Vernor.

More than 75 programming partners have signed up for events along the thoroughfares. Events include:

  • Live bands and DJs
  • Street hockey and soccer clinics led by Detroit City FC
  • Art fairs and solar-powered pottery studio
  • Cycling events, including obstacle courses and scavenger hunts
  • Children’s activities, such as games and sidewalk chalk art

Michigan Avenue is the heart of Corktown’s dense scene of restaurants and bars. Vernor is the main business corridor for the Mexicantown community. The area’s restaurants and bars are being encouraged to open and possibly set up sidewalk booths. There will be no outside vendors or beer tents.

“This is all about promoting the communities and business in the neighborhood in a healthy way,’ said Lisa Nuszkowski, who works with the nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership, the current driver of Open Streets Detroit. The downtown partnership is a coalition of corporate, civic and philanthropic groups.

If the 100-plus cities around the world already participating in the Open Streets program are any guide, many Detroit residents and businesses will embrace the car-less streets to walk, jog and bike in the middle of road.

While some business owners have expressed concerned they may lose money by shutting down the street to vehicles, economic surveys taken by other cities shows most local businesses have a slight increase in sales, according to 880 Cities, a Toronto group that is a consultant to the Detroit program.

If the initial Open Streets Detroit are viewed as a success by the community, organizers hope to find other Detroit neighborhoods willing to do the same. “We would love for it to become a permanent thing,” Nuszkowski said.

Detroit Free Press: Open Streets Detroit aims for fun, new uses for roads

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On two consecutive Sundays, stretches of roads from downtown Detroit to the southwest will close — not for construction, but for the inaugural Open Streets Detroit project that organizers hope will connect neighborhoods, provide fun and recreation and get people to think about how the city uses its road system.

Open Streets will feature activities along nearly four miles of roads between Campus Martius Park downtown through southwest Detroit. Organizers said Tuesday that activities will include bands and DJs, art activities and displays, bicycling, yoga, dance workshops, children's activities, dog-training classes, street hockey, and soccer clinics led by the Detroit City Football Club.

The event, noon-5 p.m. Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, will transform sections of two major Detroit streets — Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway — into car-free safe places for the public to ride bikes, run, shop and play, with an emphasis on bringing together neighborhoods and showcasing local businesses, from restaurants, bars and coffee shops to retailers.

"Open Streets Detroit is part of an international  movement to re-imagine our public spaces by temporarily closing our streets to car traffic and opening them up for people to participate in healthy physical activities and building a community," said Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share and a lead organizer of the event.

Nuszkowski said the goal is to make Open Streets a regular event along streets in neighborhoods across the city.

So far, organizers have lined up 75 partners who will provide the recreation and entertainment options for free to the public. But no outside food or beverage vendors will be on hand, in a move to encourage visitors to patronize the restaurants and stores along the route. The event will run along Michigan, through Roosevelt Park in Corktown, and continue through southwest Detroit past Clark Park and ending at Boyer Playfield at Vernor and Livernois.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership said the event is funded chiefly by the DTE Energy Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from the city and community organizations.

In addition to the activities, "we're going to have lots of opportunities for people to duck in to merchants in a way you can't do when traffic is speeding by on these roads," DDP CEO Eric Larson said. "It is also I think very important to understand the significance of this as we step towards a really much more expanded view of alternative mobility."

The event comes as Detroit awaits the completion of the QLINE, the city's first street rail in decades, and as the region prepares for a vote on the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan's proposal for greatly enhanced public transportation, highlighted by bus rapid transit connecting downtown to the suburbs along routes including Michigan, Woodward and Gratiot.

Dai Hughes, owner of Astro Coffee on Michigan Avenue, said the road presents challenges to redevelopment of the Corktown area because it's so wide and not as safe to walk as downtown streets.

"There's been a lot of effort to make it more walkable and safer, and Open Streets presents an incredible opportunity to do so, and to showcase what something like that might look like, an example for the city to see in real time," Hughes said. "It's really important in this rapidly changing city that we consider public space."

Nuszkowski said the event will provide plenty of fun, but also time for people to think about the use of roads, a significant public space in cities like Detroit.

"Detroit was built to accommodate a city of 2 million people, and we now have less than half of that," she said. "Our infrastructure was built to support the same. So are there ways we can re-imagine that space to share it with everyone?"

She added: "This isn't about cars against people against bikes. It's about how do we accommodate not only cars, but public transportation and cyclists and create safe areas for people to walk. I think we can accomplish that in Detroit."

Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or mhelms@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthelms.

Curbed Detroit: Open Streets are coming to Detroit

A couple months ago, we told you about the idea phase of Open Streets in Detroit, and now in just a few short weeks, we’ll see it become a reality.

On Sunday, September 25 and Sunday, October 2 from 12-5, Michigan Avenue and West Vernor Highway will be closed to motor vehicles from Campus Martius all the way to Livernois for Open Streets. Participants are free to walk, jog, dance, bike, roller blade, skateboard, and move about without the use of a car for this celebration.

FYI, there is a Tigers game September 25 at that time, but the Lions are away both Sundays.

Activities will be centered around Campus Martius, Roosevelt Park, and Clark Park, but there will be activities throughout the four-mile stretch. Some of the activities will include:

  • Dance workshops
  • Yoga
  • Cycling events like obstacle courses and scavenger hunts
  • Sidewalk chalk art, lawn games, and literary programs for kids
  • Bands, DJs
  • Zumba, Thai Chi
  • Dog training
  • Street hockey, soccer (including a clinic led by Detroit City FC)
  • Art events like a solar powered pottery studio, weaving workshops, and art fairs

The launch of Open Streets Detroit joins an international movement of Open Streets initiatives. More than 200 cities worldwide have established on-going Open Streets initiatives. Here in Detroit, organizers and partners are hoping participants will support local businesses along the way and be open to the idea of more walkable, healthy neighborhoods.

For more information and a list of those partnering and participating, check the Open Streets Detroit site.

DBusiness: Programming Partners, Activity Hubs Announced for Open Streets Detroit Event

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The Downtown Detroit Partnership announced today a complete list of programming partners as well as activity hubs for its upcoming event, Open Streets Detroit. Presented by the DTE Energy Foundation, the event will transform Michigan Avenue and West Vernor Highway in southwest Detroit into a car-free, family-friendly zone where people can bike, run, and shop. 

“The community's response to our call for programming is a reflection of the excitement and anticipation leading up to Open Streets Detroit's inaugural event,” says Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “With nearly 75 programming partners throughout the four-mile route, we are continuously working with the City of Detroit on a variety of activities that will get people moving and connect them to their neighbors.”

Activities offered at Open Streets will include dance workshops, Zumba, Tai Chi, yoga classes, dog-training classes, street hockey, and a solar-powered pottery studio. Children can partake in activities such as chalk art, lawn games, and literary programs.  

While the main event will take place on the event's route, there will also be activity hubs at downtown’s Campus Martius Park, Roosevelt Park in Corktown, and Clark Street in southwest Detroit. 

The inaugural event, which is open to all ages at no cost, will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

Along with the DTE Energy Foundation, other sponsors for the event include the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, City of Detroit, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and Henry Ford Health System. 

The nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership is dedicated to developing and enhancing downtown Detroit and its bordering neighborhoods by working together with business, philanthropic, and government partners to create a vibrant and fun area. 

Press Release: OPEN STREETS DETROIT ANNOUNCES PROGRAMMING PARTNERS AND ACTIVITY HUBS FOR INAUGURAL EVENT

Nearly 75 activity partners will fill the four-mile route, providing fun activities for the whole family to enjoy

September 13, 2016 (DETROIT) – The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) today announced the complete list of programming partners for Open Streets Detroit, presented by the DTE Energy Foundation. After receiving an overwhelming response for a call for programming applications, nearly 75 partners have been selected to provide free and fun activities for attendees to enjoy along the nearly four-mile route. From soccer to yoga, activities for dogs to dance workshops, there will be something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

“The community’s response to our call for programming is a reflection of the excitement and anticipation leading up to Open Streets Detroit’s inaugural event,” said Eric Larson, CEO, DDP. “With nearly 75 programming partners throughout the four-mile route, we are continuously working with the City of Detroit on a variety of activities that will get people moving and connect them to their neighbors.”

Open Streets Detroit will temporarily turn two major city streets into safe, open, car-free zones for local families and the community to run, bike, shop and play together for the first time in the city’s history. The inaugural event will take place along Michigan Avenue and West Vernor Highway from noon to 5 p.m. on two weekends this fall -- Sunday, Sept. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 2. The events are free and open to participants of all ages, and families are encouraged to attend.

“We envision that Open Streets Detroit will connect our local neighborhoods, residents and businesses, and draw visitors from near and far to experience the culture and vitality of these communities,” said Faye Nelson, vice president, DTE Energy, and board chair and president, DTE Energy Foundation. “We are proud to support this inaugural Detroit event and join the ranks of 200 other global cities that participate in the Open Streets movement.”

Programming highlights include:
•    Dance workshops
•    Cycling events, such as obstacle courses and scavenger hunts
•    Children’s activities, such as sidewalk chalk art, lawn games and literary programs
•    Live bands and DJs
•    Exercise classes such as yoga, Zumba, Thai Chi and others
•    Dog training classes
•    Sporting events, such as street hockey and soccer clinics, led by Detroit City FC
•    Art events, such as a solar powered pottery studio, weaving workshops and art fairs

This is just a small sample of the activities that will be available for families to enjoy throughout the route. All activities are free and open to all ages. While programming will take place throughout the route, Open Streets Detroit will also have three key activity hubs at Campus Martius Park in Downtown, Roosevelt Park in Corktown, and Clark Park in Southwest. 

In addition to major support from the DTE Energy Foundation, the 2016 Open Streets Detroit pilot is made possible through support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The collaborative effort also is supported by the City of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Detroit Future City, Detroit Greenways Coalition, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit-Wayne County Health Authority, DTE Energy, Henry Ford Health System, Jefferson East, Inc., and Wayne State University.

For more information on Open Streets Detroit, visit openstreetsdet.org, or follow Open Streets Detroit on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Downtown Detroit Partnership
Downtown Detroit Partnership strengthens and supports Downtown Detroit through strategic initiatives and programs. DDP convenes business, philanthropic and government partners to create a vibrant, resilient urban core for Detroit and the surrounding community. For more information, visit downtowndetroit.org. 

About the DTE Energy Foundation
The DTE Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of DTE Energy, continuing the legacy of community support and involvement of its electric and natural gas utilities, which serve 2.2 million electric customers in Southeast Michigan and 1.2 million natural gas customers in Michigan. In 2015, the DTE Energy Foundation provided $15 million in grant support to nonprofits throughout the company's service territories. As one of Michigan's leading corporate citizens, DTE Energy is a force for growth and prosperity in the 450 Michigan communities it serves in a variety of ways, including philanthropy, volunteerism and economic progress. http://www.dteenergy.com/foundation.


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