Few cities have changed as dramatically as Detroit over the past few decades. With a loss of manufacturing jobs and a rapid decline in population, the city has struggled with urban blight, poverty, and even bankruptcy. Today, however, new preservation and redevelopment projects show promise for reversing the deterioration of Detroit’s downtown and bolstering potential for renewed economic growth. 
Detroit’s leaders face a daunting challenge in managing the city’s urban revitalization, but the challenge also presents an array of opportunities. Vacant blocks are a blank canvas. Abandoned buildings offer potential for a variety of new uses. The city’s unique history and architectural heritage, combined with the unprecedented affordability of local real estate, have proven to be appealing to young entrepreneurs, artists, and a new generation of business interests. The population has begun to increase in the city’s core, with new residents returning to a re-energized, safer, and diverse city center. 
Managing this change begins with a focus on Detroit’s historic districts and the preservation of the city’s visually rich urban fabric. Neighborhoods such as Indian Village, West Village, Boston-Edison, Palmer Park, and Woodbridge can serve as anchors to carefully planned revitalization. Concepts for density, walkability, and a balanced approach to redevelopment should be carefully weighed. Vacant buildings—many with interesting histories and deep community connections—should be assessed for new uses that optimize both historic appeal and economic value. 
As Quinn Evans Architects works with city planners and private developers to explore opportunities, several projects underscore the potential for Detroit’s revival. The redesign of the Garden Theater block in the city’s historic Midtown demonstrates creative infill and sensitive restoration. The award-winning project was highlighted by the transformation of the Garden Theater—originally built in the 1890s and long abandoned—into a contemporary events venue and restaurant. A new office/retail building connects the theater with another renovated historic building on the block, and a new parking deck is tucked discreetly behind the buildings. 
Along the prominent corner of Woodward and Willis Avenues, also in Midtown, Midtown Detroit, Inc., is about to open a new mixed-use building that will offer a contemporary interpretation of Detroit’s traditional commercial building vernacular. Set on what is today a vacant lot, the project will contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood, with office and retail space and a new green alley. 
Other QEA projects demonstrate creative placemaking and the repurposing of older buildings. In the Sugar Hills Art District, Midtown Detroit, Inc., is planning the transformation of a circa-1915 church—vacant for several years—into a performing arts venue and restaurant/bar. The historic Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center in the city’s Brush Park neighborhood, also vacant for many years, will be redeveloped as a restaurant, brewery, and community event space. The plans are enthusiastically supported by preservationists and neighborhood advocates who resisted earlier efforts to demolish the center where legendary boxer Joe Louis once trained. In the residential market, plans are underway to renovate Professional Plaza, a 12-story Mid-Century Modern tower along Woodward Avenue. The project will convert the vacant office building to a 72-unit residential complex with street-level retail. Recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building is now eligible for state and federal historic tax credits to support the redevelopment.