Thriving neighbors seen as key to District Detroit's sustainability
The urban planning consultant for the Ilitch family's grand vision of a sprawling mixed-use rehabilitation of 50 blocks around the new Detroit Red Wings arena said people living in the district are the key to making it work. "What we want is a great walkable, personable neighborhood made of as many people living their lives as possible," said Richard Heapes, co-founder and managing partner of White Plains, N.Y.-based Street-Works. The company was hired by the Ilitches' Olympia Development of Michigan to be the lead urban planning designer of its The District Detroit plan of residential, retail, bars, restaurants, offices and green spaces around the $627 million arena, which is slated to open in 2017. Heapes stressed the importance of Wayne State University putting its new business school — thanks to a $40 million donation announced late last month by Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch — and how the location will affect WSU students. "By moving closer to downtown they can now engage directly, physically with businesses in terms of mentorships, internships," he said. "When you move to this neighborhood, you're now engaging with Detroit. It's a great way to keep kids in the city. There's more diversity of experiences and people." Having an academic institution in the district further bolsters its sustainability, he said. It also helps with the goal of avoiding the error that other sports venue projects elsewhere have made by promising that stadiums and convention centers are a cure-all.