In 1999, former Detroit mayor Dennis W. Archer aimed to make Campus Martius Park the best public space in the world. Since then, the former eyesore has become the heart of the city's downtown redevelopment initiative, serving as a recreational and entertainment venue and attracting more than 2 million visitors year-round.
Despite a rich history as a former militia drill ground and Detroit's "Point of Origin" in the city's coordinate system, Campus Martius Park became known as "pigeon plaza" because it was useless to anyone but the birds.
Since its renovation in 2004, the park has catalyzed $700 million in surrounding development including cafes, retail shops, an ice-skating rink, and a 1-million-square-foot Compuware World Headquarters. Now the park is known as "Detroit's Official Gathering Place."
For this, the park recently received the Urban Land Institute's (ULI) Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award. "It reflects a creative, innovative approach to transforming an eyesore into a jewel. Campus Martius Park is a magnet for investment. That's the definition of a successful urban open space," says Burden, founder of the award.
Run by the Detroit 300 Conservancy in a public-private partnership with the city, the park was designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates LLC, David R. Gebhardt, Illuminating Concepts, Quinn/Evans Architects, Tucker Young Jackson Tull Inc., WET Design, and Wexler Studio. Detroit 300's successor company funded construction as part of a legacy gift to the city.
Detroit 300 Conservancy received a $10,000 cash prize, a commemorative statuette, and was recognized in an awards ceremony at ULI's Spring Council Forum.