Emerging Public Realm

In Business Improvement Districts


Over the last two decades, public space renewal in downtown Detroit has undergone phases of experiments in response to emerging phenomena that put pressure on existing governance models. This includes most notably “metropolitanization,” referring to increasing geographical scales of interdependence in conjunction with the stalemate coming from partisan bickering and shrinking subsidies that negatively impact the provision of public services at local levels. New public space governance models based on partnerships have emerged in Detroit and elsewhere in response to the need to reimagine urban identities, which are critical in ensuring global competitiveness. The introduction of business improvement districts (BIDS) has been key in creating an armature for diversifying the principle urban actors and financing sources involved in public space renewal and creation. BIDs are therefore an interesting case study for investigating the potentials and limits of governance model shifts in the renewal of downtown public spaces.

The one-day free virtual symposium will will take place in Detroit, Michigan on March 25, 2022. The symposium will share knowledge and discuss best practices and innovative ideas for central public space governance, programming, and design within business improvement districts/zones/areas. Additionally, the symposium will help identify the historic influences which have shaped the current trend of public-private public realm development in the U.S. and elsewhere The virtual gathering will create a space for exploring:


How have new governance models of public space shifted the development process and shaped the design and programming of public space?

How are public space development decisions made regarding programming and design?

What are best practices cities and organizations should adopt to ensure the continued fair
and just availability of public space to all?

Symposium: March 25, 2022

Steering Committee
Tadd Heidgerken, RA
Associate Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Development

Tricia Meehan, PhD
Associate Professor, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Normandie

Virginia Stanard
Associate Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Development

Peer Review Committee
Jay Cephas, PhD
Assistant Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University School of Architecture

Conrad Kickert, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Buffalo

Barbara Knecht, RA
Principal, Strategies for Cities

Kenneth Kokroko, PLA
Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Arizona

Jerry Mitchell, PhD
Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, The City University of New York