Creating Sustainable Neighborhood Design for Legacy Cities: A New Framework for Sustainability Assessment (2012)

Client Organization: 
Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP)
Project Location : 
Detroit, MI
Summary of Project Idea: 

This project will:

  • propose and map pragmatic and systematic alternative scenarios for using both vacant land and occupied property on the Lower Eastside to manage stormwater across the entire 15.5 square mile study area,
  • analyze the hydrologic performance, as well as associated ecosystem services including cultural value of the alternatives, and
  • design and illustrate its application for a range of occupied and vacant property types with different landcovers.

Working with LEAP professional staff and community members, the team will develop an analytical approach for developing a typology of mapping stormwater management strategies that complements the evolving Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) grassroots framework for the redevelopment of the city and integrates the Future Directions recommendations of the Lower Eastside Action Plan. Additionally, the team will develop and apply an analytical approach for mapping the stormwater typology and modeling its hydrologic performance, and design a range of stormwater management types for implementation in selected study sites throughout the LEAP study area. The overall goal of stormwater management will be to reduce the LEAP area's contribution to CSOs while enhancing other ecosystem services and, especially, contributing to property values and neighborhood landscape quality in a way that builds upon social capital within the LEAP area.

This project culminates extensive past collaboration with LEAP in its successful grassroots efforts to engage local people in a process to transform vacant land and property into uses that improve the quality of life in their own neighborhood.   It will also draw upon rich results from the Graham Institute funded collaborative SNRE and Urban Planning research on social capital and cues to care in the most vacant neighborhoods of Detroit to inform design. It will also draw on completed stormwater management projects retrofitting early and mid 20th century neighborhoods in Chicago and Mpls-St. Paul  as well as other national and international precedents.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

Past course work related to stormwater management, hydrologic modeling, GIS, site planning, conservation behavior, or landscape perception will be useful.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Environmental Policy and Planning
Environmental Informatics
Environmental Justice
Landscape Architecture
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

The  breadth and quality of this project will be make it possible for it to be appropriate for presentation at national and international scientific meetings or design and planning professional meetings, as well as at EPA-sponsored seminars and workshops.  Students will learn and practice fundamental skills for synthesizing and applying scientific knowledge with practice in design and planning practice, as well as with local knowledge and values. They will work with the client organization's well-established network of grassroots community organizations and block groups on the Lower Eastside of Detroit.

Funding Sources: 

Working with LEAP, this project will be considered for potential funding by the Erb Foundation. There is also potential for EPA funding.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 
  • A description of a stormwater management typology in relation to the CDAD framework
  • A mapped analysis demonstrating alternative scenarios for locating the types in the LEAP study area
  • An analysis of the hydrological performance as well as measures of other ecosystem services embodied in the alternative scenarios
  • Designs and illustrations of applications of the typologies to small study sites with different land uses and landcovers.
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Joan Nassauer
Contact Phone: 
Contact e-mail: 
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Carolin Bergelin, MLA
  • Ayehlet Cooper, MLA
  • Daniel Power, MLA
  • Fan Huang, MLA
  • Marcus Jones, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Julia Raskin, MS Environmental Justice
  • Desirae Hoffman, MS Environmental Informatics
Project Status: 
Past Project