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Public Spaces Become Vibrant Places in Detroit Through “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” Approach

Thursday Nov 21, 2013 - Comments: 0

Detroit has some big-scale challenges, and many big-scale strategies for revitalization are underway. But a smaller-scale approach is also achieving impact in Detroit. Residents, businesses, philanthropists, planners, community developers and private investors are all seizing opportunities to reshape and revitalize the city with a direct focus on public spaces.


The design approach is simple: take action that is “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper.” Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) is a development strategy promoted by the Project for Public Spaces that is low risk and low cost, capitalizing on the creative energy of the community to efficiently generate new uses and revenue for places in transition. These LQC actions are remaking the city place by place, through smaller, doable projects.


LQC projects typically take incremental steps in implementation, use low-cost experiments to test or illuminate bigger possibilities, and tap into local talents (e.g., citizens, entrepreneurs, developers, and city staff). These smaller-scale projects are usually implemented in public places, including streets, squares, waterfronts, and even parking lots. LQC projects are examples of a larger field called placemaking — creating safe, meaningful places for residents to meet and interact.


In Detroit, spaces are being transformed in a variety of ways. Last summer a local park, Campus Martius, was converted into a sandy beach complete with lounge chairs. Artists are beautifying spaces and art programs are attracting people to areas that have long been neglected. Movable tables and chairs are making room for social interactions. Waterfront areas are hosting kayaking excursions. Concerts are drawing visitors from near and far. The Alley Project (TAP), located in Southwest Detroit, uses a variety of arts programs to bring Detroit residents together to meet and interact in a repurposed alley splashed brightly with street art.


Placemaking concepts like LQC are a great way to build economies and, just as importantly, relationships between residents and local stakeholders. Cities in need of economic growth must find ways also to build social capital. Community gardens, urban markets, meeting spaces, places for trainings and events — all of these are crucial.


By changing the way we think about development to include small-scale, incremental changes, an immediate impact can be made on local economies, transportation, architecture and the ways that destinations are created. This builds and sustains momentum for citizen engagement.

LQC Placemaking Benefits

  • Generates swift and obvious impact
  • Allows people to quickly see what works and what doesn’t
  • Develops local leadership
  • Provides rapid and notable results that can easily fit into larger comprehensive plans
  • Gets people communicating and creates social links
  • Involves DIY plans that are affordable and doable
  • Brings people together for a common goal


For more on the Lighter, Quicker Cheaper approach in Detroit, read the blog “Detroiters Work: The Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Regeneration of a Great American City.


Project for Public Spaces (PPS) in a nonprofit organization focused on planning, design and education that helps people build stronger communities through their public spaces. 

For more on the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper development approach, click here



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