Livability Solutions

Place-Based Economic Development in Detroit's North Side

July 2013


Vanguard Community Development Corporation


The Power of 10



The North End Central neighborhood is home to 31,603 residents in central Detroit. The neighborhood's population has declined by more than one-third since 2000. The Vanguard Community Development Corporation was created in 1994 for the purpose of stabilizing the North End and (eventually) turning it into a neighborhood of choice.

The development of the M-1 Streetcar line, with 3 stations proposed for the North End, presented a historic redevelopment opportunity to the neighborhood and Vanguard. Vanguard sought assistance from Livability Solutions to ensure that new development would benefit current residents and local businesses, preserve the neighborhood's history and character, and enhance public spaces.

Vanguard, in collaboration with Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Project for Public Spaces), articulated the following objectives for the technical assistance:

1. Helping the North End envision a more vibrant public realm and destinations by leveraging development and linking the neighborhood to broader city- and district-wide revitalization plans, including the streetcar.

2. Identifying public space opportunities, such as creating authentic North End destinations and upgrading the overall pedestrian environment.

3. Identifying specific site improvements that will enhance selected North End destinations, and can serve as pilot projects for using Placemaking.

4. Influencing downtown/midtown stakeholders to change their perception of the North End neighborhood so that it becomes part of their plans and investments.

5. Influencing the decision about the location of the terminus of the LRT so that it positively contributes to the neighborhood and its attractiveness as a place to live.


PPS led two days of workshops to help the Vanguard Community Development Corporation and its partners envision and strategize on the creation of a more vibrant North End. The first day focused on identifying public space opportunities in the neighborhood. Attendees were briefed on the concept of Placemaking and introduced to the Power of 10 approach. Following that Vanguard staff led participants on a walking tour of the neighborhood. Stops on the tour included storefronts that Vanguard planned to use for pop-up holiday retail and a site being developed as a collaborative arts centers. After the walking tour, participants identified and discussed existing and potential destinations in the North End, as well as ways to enhance the physical and programmatic connections between them.

The second day focused on evaluating the potential of three sites in the North End for short-term improvements. Attendees were briefed on performance measures for public spaces and introduced to Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper, which is an approach that uses short-term improvements to leverage long-term change. After the presentation participants split into four groups and evaluated four sites using PPS' place evaluation tool, the Place Game. Participants used the tool at each site to evaluate its current condition and brainstorm possible improvements. After the site visits and additional brainstorming, each group reported their findings to the larger group, followed by a general discussion of the findings.

After the workshop PPS created a conceptual plan for one of the evaluated sites. Vanguard used the conceptual plan to demonstrate the site's potential to prospective investors.


The workshops have spurred new enthusiasm in the North End for Vanguard's Placemaking efforts. Vanguard has received several new offers of assistance and collaboration following the workshop and is pursuing these new partnerships.