DETROIT — Rock Ventures, joined by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Thursday shared a placemaking and retail plan for Detroit’s urban core with more than 400 business, community and civic leaders and key stakeholders.

The plan is part of the Opportunity Detroit initiative to encourage people to live, work, play and invest in Detroit. It’s the effort of more than seven months of research and engagement with public and private stakeholders and input from four urban consulting firms: New York City-based Project for Public Spaces, Shook Kelly, Gibbs Planning Group and Terremark Partners.

“Downtown Detroit’s geographic location and particularly the half mile from the Detroit River to Grand Circus Park is the most concentrated diversity of urban assets and placemaking opportunities anywhere in the world,” said Fred Kent, Founder of Project for Public Spaces. “From the riverfront, gaming, gourmet dining, sports, culture and entertainment to new retail, Detroit has a winning combination of attractions to reclaim its rightful place as a great American city on the international stage.”

The plan is centered on creating six distinct and unique destinations that draw people to the region, give them an experience that will make them want to return frequently and where they will want to spend more time. Woodward Avenue becomes a major boulevard connecting these great destinations.

It also ties together Rock Ventures’ recent purchases — 22 buildings with 3 million square feet of commercial real estate. Rock has spent nearly $1 billion buying downtown Detroit buildings since 2010.

“We know what works from our successes promoting places such as the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District,” said DEGC president and CEO George W. Jackson Jr. “You start with a well-designed public space, encourage organized activities there, and thoughtfully redevelop key buildings around that space to create a neighborhood with an authentic and memorable identity. This is a great time to replicate that success in several other downtown places, and we are pleased that we have the public-private collaborations to do it.”

Rock ventures also announced it had signed master lease agreements with the Schostak Brothers and Farbman Group to manage more than 60,000 square feet of first floor retail space along the Woodward Corridor in downtown Detroit. The
properties include 12 storefronts along the 1200 and 1400 blocks of Woodward Avenue.

The search is now under way for new retail tenants for the space.

Rock Ventures also announced that Bedrock Real Estate Services is finalizing plans to bring the popular grocer Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market and Catering to the Rock Ventures-owned First National Building, near Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.

Papa Joe’s would occupy approximately 15,000 square feet of first floor space adjacent to the Roasting Plant in the building. While meeting the growing demand for a downtown grocer, the new market is also expected to create 80 new jobs.

In addition to everything available at Papa Joe’s suburban locations, the downtown location will also include delivery and table service for gourmet pizza, pasta, Thai food, sushi as well as a full liquor license.

Finally, Rock Ventures announced that Opportunity Detroit is hosting a free, open call for architects, designers, planners, artists, and community members to present ideas for innovative, creative, and inspired designs the former Hudson’s department store site.

“We want participants to use their imaginations and submit visionary proposals with inspiring ideas that could play an important role in the redevelopment of not only the Hudson’s site, but all of downtown Detroit,” said Reed Kroloff, Director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum and competition advisor.

According to Kroloff, the competition is seeking proposals that:
* Demonstrate original architecture and design concepts
* Present an innovative vision for the site
* Incorporate space for significant retail activity at ground level
* Provide a creative response to the site’s urban context — particularly as a signature project in downtown Detroit

“Much as Hudson’s served as an icon for downtown Detroit in its day, we envision that this competition will generate the ideas and excitement that will bring new energy to Woodward Avenue,” said Matt Cullen, president and CEO, Rock Ventures.

Registration to participate in the competition ends Tuesday, April 30 at Design submissions are due no later than 5 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, May 31. Winners will be announced on June 12. Entrants are asked to create compelling visions for a new, urban development on the vacant 92,421 square-foot Hudson’s site, surrounded by Woodward, Gratiot, Grand River and Library in downtown Detroit.

The “Redesigning Detroit” competition will award $15,000 for first prize, $5,000 for second prize and $2,500 for third prize and will culminate with a ceremony in the city and a special exhibition. All questions and communication regarding the competition should be sent via email to

The ideas competition will judged by the following experts:
* Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP is the founding partner of Deborah Berke Partners in New York City and is Professor of Architectural Design at Yale University and the first Berkeley-Rupp Visiting Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.
* Maurice Cox is the Associate Dean for Community Engagement at the Tulane University School of Architecture and Director of the Tulane City Center, a multi-disciplinary community-based design practice in New Orleans.
* Ned Cramer is editor-in-chief of Architect, Architectural Lighting, and the Architect Product Spec Guide published by Hanley Wood, a Washington, D.C.-based business media company.
* Toni L. Griffin is the Professor of Architecture and the inaugural Director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York.
* Rip Rapson is president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a private foundation based in metropolitan Detroit, where he initiated a multi-year transition to expand and recalibrate Kresge’s grantmaking through seven strategically focused programs.

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