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On Wednesday, June 7, Olympia Development of Michigan and Related Companies held the first design charrette session with representatives from the City of Detroit and members of the community to exchange ideas about programming Columbia Plaza, the pedestrian-only area in front of Comerica Park’s main entrance.

A charrette is wonderful community engagement event where stakeholders and decision makers work alongside experts to co-develop solutions. The interactive session lasted more than two hours and included community members from labor unions, veteran’s organizations, and block clubs along with representatives from multiple City of Detroit departments, providing valuable input. The sessions were facilitated by JIMA Studio and MKSK Studios in partnership with Olympia Development and Related.

JIMA Studio is a Detroit-based, woman-owned and Black-owned landscape architectural design and urban planning studio that collaborates with community groups, organizations and builders committed to culturally relevant placemaking and strategic implementation.

Founded in 1990, MKSK Studios is a Detroit collective of Planners, Urban Designers, and Landscape Architects who are passionate about the interaction between people and place. MKSK is an employee-owned practice with a network of twelve metropolitan studios.

“This is our first direct community engagement on a specific development focused on Columbia Plaza that allowed us to hear directly from the impacted community,” said Rian English-Barnhill, Vice President of Government and Community Affairs at Olympia Development. “We have had hundreds of engagements with Detroiters from all walks of life and that two-way communication will continue as our vision for an inclusive, purpose-driven development comes to life.”

The meeting was held at the University of Michigan Detroit Center. Residents heard draft proposals for activating the plaza which is being designed to build community and enhance social interaction. Attendees shared their thoughts on how the plaza can be purposeful, culturally relevant, and useful for Detroit residents and visitors.

Representatives from Olympia Development and Related presented their ten-building real estate development plan and JIMA and MKSK guided smaller breakout groups through highly interactive exercises to continue the conversation and generate ideas. Suggestions for programing at the plaza included: seasonal activation, quiet places, areas for children, a water feature, space for people to play chess and many others.

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