Northwest Detroit encompasses a 7-square-mile area comprised of over 15 neighborhoods along the Rouge River.. In collaboration with Design Workshop, LOHA was enlisted by the City of Detroit to build upon the existing stability of strong neighborhoods such as Greater Sandhill and the Grandmont-Rosedale Communities, and to support other communities that are currently underserved. These programs include enhancements of public open space and streetscape, green storm water infrastructure, cultural preservation, economic revitalization, and land use strategies within a 20-minute walkable radius though program, mobility, and adjacencies. LOHA’s experience working with civic leaders, city planners, and community advocates throughout Detroit, resulted in an interdisciplinary team on the NW Detroit Neighborhood Design Plan. The goal of the collective study was to devise urban design strategies that would direct the efficient, results-driven implementation of key projects in areas that have received very little economic attention over the past several decades. The result is contextually driven solutions that are focused on the growth of the neighborhoods, specifically retention of existing families and residents combined with attracting new growth. The selected study sites along the key artery of Grand River Avenue are burgeoning cultural nodes, equipped with existing buildings and vacant land that have abundant potential. In each of the three key sites that were selected, artists were responsible for starting the renewal process by activating the area through their optimism. One example is the adaptive reuse of Holcomb Elementary School, which has played an important role as a place of learning in the community, including public classes that are open to local residents. This neighborhood is positioned along an "art loop," where we looked to strengthen public open spaces and pedestrian corridors. To strengthen the vibrancy of these historic neighborhoods, the team has generated architectural and cultural guidelines for the adaptive reuse of important historic structures and potential areas for economic, civic, and residential development. We aim to strengthen economic development along the retail corridors, support a diversity of housing options, and address current storm water and flooding issues. These guidelines will inform future City projects and private developments, bringing new energy and a sustainable path for long-term growth in Northwest Detroit, and improve overall quality of life for residents.
Lorcan O'Herlihy, FAIA, is the founder and principal of Lorcan O' Herlihy Architects [LOHA]. Since LOHA's 1994 inception, it has engaged the complexities of the urban landscape, embracing the role of architecture as a catalyst of change. Lorcan’s fascination with the structure of cities sparks an exploration of the interaction between public and private spaces and an emphasis on social and civic connectivity. Lorcan received an MA in Histories and Theories from the Architectural Association in London, with a dissertation on social connectivity and generative urban strategies. He has taught and lectured extensively, and is currently an Adjunct Professor at the USC. LOHA has built over 75 projects across three continents. Work ranges in typology from institutional buildings to bus shelters, and from large-scale developments to single-family homes. LOHA has been published in over 20 countries and recognized with over 100 awards, including the 2010 AIA Los Angeles Firm of the Year.