Wayne State University

Activating campus to improve community

There is a growing recognition that place matters in creating healthy, prosperous communities where people want to live, work, play and learn. Placemaking is an approach to help communities create inspiring and engaging public places, often through relatively quick and inexpensive interventions.


Walkable Warren ImagePlacemaking is a core component of Wayne State’s effort to create a more 24-7 campus and build connections within the campus community and with our Midtown neighbors. Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development (OED) leads several Placemaking Initiatives, including convening a Placemaking Steering Committee, an advisory board comprised of representatives from more than 20 colleges and departments and community organizations. Previous projects include the 2015 and 2016 Walk [Wayne State] campaigns designed to encourage people to explore nearby destinations; partnering with the DIA Inside|Out program to place reproductions of the DIA’s collection at sites across campus; and placing flexible public seating throughout campus to offer people a place to relax, study and socialize.


This fall, OED partnered with numerous campus departments and the City of Detroit to showcase innovative design ideas to transform Warren Avenue. Through creative and practical streetscape improvements—such as painted bike lanes, pedestrian bump-outs and shortened crosswalks—and food trucks and flexible seating, Wayne State re-imagined Warren’s long-term design as a safe and vibrant space. Prototypes and ideas generated during Walkable Warren will inform Wayne State’s forthcoming new master plan. The demonstration was also intended to inform future streetscape changes included in the City of Detroit’s federally funded plan for safety improvements along a five-mile stretch of Warren and the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Walk Woodbridge initiative.


Holiday Lights Image

The majority of Wayne State’s Placemaking Initiatives have occurred in the fall and spring when campus is naturally more dynamic. OED is currently exploring initiatives to make campus more engaging in the winter months when people are less likely to spend time outside. 2016 initiatives included crowdfunding to purchase and install holiday lights on campus. Installing holiday lights is a simple idea, one other cities and universities have implemented to lift spirits and increase public safety. Thanks to WSU Giving and 74 individual donors, OED raised $3,000 to purchase and install 700 LED holiday lights outside Old Main. The lights were installed in late Dec. and will shine through the end of Jan., lighting up campus for Wayne State students, employees, residents, businesses and visitors.


Interested in learning more about Wayne State’s Placemaking Initiatives? Stop by one of OED’s upcoming Placemaking Information Sessions. Information sessions are scheduled from 9 to 10 a.m. and 5:15-6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in room 289 of the Wayne State Student Center.