Orleans Landing

Detroit, Michigan

In a sector of Detroit with diverse assets— waterfront land, brick industrial buildings, greenways, and historic streets—but little economic activity, the Orleans Landing project creates top-of-the-line urbanism.

“Orleans Landing will reactivate a major piece of Detroit’s riverfront and create a new, vibrant community there,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “This investment is further proof that, increasingly, people are wanting to live in Detroit and be a part of its ongoing revitalization.”

Orleans Landing Detroit development
Orleans Landing project overview. Source: Urban Design Associates.

Orleans Landing is a remediated brownfield site on the left bank of the East Riverfront District, just east of Renaissance Center and adjacent to the unique 1.15- mile-long Dequindre Cut Greenway. The project is close to downtown, Belle Isle, the Lafayette Park neighborhood, and Windsor, Ontario.

Buildings are placed at the perimeter of blocks to define public space and take their cues from historic industrial architecture of the area. All units face streets or greenways, and apartment windows are operable. Many units have modest balconies and operable French doors to allow residents to participate in the street scene.

Orleans Landing Detroit building design
One of multiple building designs for Orleans Landing. Source: Urban Design Associates.

Three building types are used in Orleans Landing—lofts, townhouses, and walkups—but further variety was not possible given the budget, so the team mixed these types in different ways to create unique streetscapes throughout at minimal cost. The designers also modified a corridor building to create a new loft type designed to wrap blocks, integrate ground floor retail, and meet zoning requirements for parking.

The 3- and 4-story loft buildings reflect the industrial heritage of the site. Of the 278 units, 20 percent are affordable. The estimated completion of the $62 million project is 2016. Adjacent blocks are dominated by parking lots, vacant sites, and underutilized buildings. New initiatives, such as the recent conversion of the historic Globe Building into an Outdoor Adventure Center, signal the city’s future. The East Riverfront Park, built and maintained by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, acts as a front porch to the Detroit River.

Top photo: Orleans Landing at ground level with a vibrant street-life. Source: Urban Design Associates.

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