QEA is partnering with Challenge Detroit to host 2018 fellow Claire Antrassian as she lives and works in Detroit to make a positive impact in the community. Below, she shares her experience with Challenge #1 for the Eastside Community Network’s efforts to support community economic development along the Mack Avenue Commercial Corridor.

Challenge Detroit is a professional development fellowship that invites emerging leaders with diverse backgrounds to live, work, play, and serve the greater Detroit area for one year. Throughout our program year, we fellows will contribute intellectually and through hands-on initiatives to make an incremental impact in the community.  
To complement our different backgrounds, we are hosted by a variety of local companies, such as Quinn Evans Architects, Ford Motor Company, Detroit Land Bank Authority, Michigan Opera Theatre, Goodwill, and Clark Hill, to name just a few. Fellows work at our host companies Monday through Thursday; on Fridays, we work on an assortment of Challenges through a design process of empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, testing, reflecting, and “yes-and-ing” with other Challenge fellows and project partners. Each Challenge takes a total of six weeks, comprising a kick-off, four working weeks, and a presentation/ handing over of our final deliverables to our project partners. 

Challenge Detroit, Challenge #1 Landscaping & Corridor Maintenance Team: Joy Wang, Stantec; Tina Saad, DTE Energy; Claire Antrassian, Quinn Evans Architects; Parker Jean, Mosher Dolan.

Our partner for the first Challenge project was the Eastside Community Network (ECN) - formerly Warren/Conner Development Coalition. ECN has been spearheading community development on Detroit's east side for over 30 years. They work with residents and partners to drive lasting, positive change in the neighborhoods they serve. ECN’s mission is to develop people, places, and plans for sustainable neighborhood growth on Detroit's east side. Their mission serves a vision of the east side as a community of choice where residents can live, work, play, and thrive. 
ECN asked the fellows to imagine how we can support community economic development along the Mack Avenue Commercial Corridor. To tackle this overarching question, our Challenge Detroit cohort was split up into groups, each dealing with a different design question. These questions ranged in focus from business engagement to marketing strategies, webpage design to public art, and research to maintenance. My team specifically focused on the landscape and corridor maintenance along Mack Avenue. As a group, we tackled a more specific question of how we might structure a model for maintenance and landscaping along the Mack Commercial Corridor for public areas that would work with the Mack Avenue Business Association and business/property owners. 

Challenge Detroit, Challenge #1 Presentation at Mack Market. November 16, 2018.

Instead of focusing on a long-term vision for Mack Avenue, our team decided to focus on the short-term. We asked ourselves what we could do tomorrow to get people to slow down as they are speeding either home or to work; turn their gaze from where they are heading and say, “I could open a business here,” or “I could stop and stay here for a while”; and to ultimately be a catalyst for long-term and more permanent investment along Mack Avenue. 
Our final deliverable was a short-term program called MABA Match that ECN could implement along Mack Avenue with the help of the Mack Avenue Business Association (MABA). MABA Match is a landscaping and maintenance incentive program that aims to create a more beautiful Mack Avenue.  
The goal is to have a safe, walkable, and active business corridor that attracts individuals to shop, play, and live along Mack Avenue. Through MABA Match, business and property owners can purchase a design recommendation for their façade, streetscape, or lot. When a design is purchased, a reciprocal design will be matched by MABA Match and placed in an inactive space along Mack Avenue to further beautify the corridor. Business and property owner participation in the program could lead to higher profits, more foot traffic, and increased safety. Incentives such as well-placed vegetation, lighting, and benches can help move Mack Avenue towards a brighter, safer future. 

MABA Match Program Concept.

ECN will be sharing this program with MABA at their gathering next month. If the program receives support from MABA, ECN is going to look for grants and sponsors to help make the matching funds possible. 
Thank you to everyone who was able to come out to see our presentation! 
Our second Challenge will be in partnership with both the Michigan Opera Theater and The Hannan Center. I will be partnered with the Michigan Opera Theater, and am looking forward to seeing where the next six weeks take my team. Stay tuned!