Can Suburbs Shaped By Cars Build Walkable Downtowns from Scratch?

City of Warren

Warren Civic Center, near the proposed site of the city’s new downtown.

The city of Warren is seeking a developer to build a brand new $125 million downtown area. Mayor Jim Fouts touted the plan in his recent state of the city address, as he has done a number of times in the past during the same speech.

Warren is the third largest city in the state. Right now, the city mostly consists of residential neighborhoods, strip malls, and industrial facilities.

But that’s not what Millenials and even many Baby Boomers are looking for now when it comes to finding a new place to live.

If young working people want walkable, bikeable, urban areas to call home, what does that mean for cities created by sprawl? Can inner-ring suburbs actually create downtown areas inorganically after decades of city planning — or lack thereof — that prioritizes cars over people?

How do we attract a younger population to move in?” That’s the question Warren city councilman Keith Sadowski says city planners are asking as the imagine a thriving community into the future.

We want to sort of change our identity,” he says.

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson is also joined by Mark Nickita, co-founder and president of Archive Design Studio in Detroit, and former Birmingham mayor and current city commissioner. Nickita also teaches urban design at Lawrence Tech.

Any city can increase their ability to accommodate the pedestrian at a higher level,” says Nickita. “And that’s, I think, the goal for every city, is to push making places better for people, no matter what your bones are.”

To hear more of the conversation on Detroit Today, click on the player above.

City of Warren

A rendering of what Warren’s new downtown area could look like.


Image credit: City of Warren

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.  

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