Campus Martius: The Catalyst for the Transformation of Downtown Detroit

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Social Life Project – In 2004, Detroit’s Campus Martius Park changed the trajectory of the future of downtown.  Nearly twenty years later, we see remarkable results practically everywhere.

There’s a reason we love telling the remarkable story of Campus Martius. In its journey from a traffic-surrounded monument to a genuinely enjoyable space, Campus Martius is living proof of the importance of prioritizing people and social life as the foundation for a “new” Detroit.  We’re excited to share some new images from the Detroit Downtown Partnership (DDP) here that demonstrate the intense social energy and interaction that is now an everyday occurrence in the park.

For over 40 years, we have been honored to work with Bob Gregory, Founding President of Campus Martius Park and now Senior Consultant, Strategy and Public Spaces at the DDP, who has been central to the success of Campus Martius and the rest of the downtown.  As he told a reporter recently, “Every day, I can see thousands of people enjoying, using, and interacting in Campus Martius. The transformative success in social and economic development is priceless.”

That transformative success has not stopped with Campus Martius but has been replicated in other downtown spaces. The Downtown Detroit Partnership now operates six downtown parks and public spaces. Over the past 20 years and following DDP’s lead, private and civic leaders, businesses, foundations, organizations, and just plain folk have collectively latched onto placemaking principles, transformed dozens of existing downtown public spaces, and created a few new ones. These investments in the life and vitality of public spaces have paid back royally with over $4 billion in real estate development, tens of thousands of new jobs, millions of annual visitors from the city and beyond, and the return of retail and restaurants to scores of once vacant spaces.  

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