Eastern Market Pavilion, downtown Detroit.
Eastern Market Pavilion Eastern Market Pavilion, downtown Detroit. © Michael D-L Jordan/dlp

Stories in Michigan

Eastern Market Partnership

A model for urban revitalization.

For more than 100 years, it has been a familiar sight in Detroit’s iconic Eastern Market district: the massive red brick market shed teeming on Saturday mornings with customers and local vendors, farm fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and baked goods. Often spoken of as one of the oldest open-air public markets in the country, Detroit’s Eastern Market is a diverse, storied and thriving social and cultural environment.

TNC has partnered with Eastern Market Corporation to help it become a thriving natural environment as well. 

JASON WHALEN | Fauna Creative
JASON WHALEN | Fauna Creative © © Fauna Creative

The Eastern Market district sits right in the middle of the recent economic resurgence of Detroit’s downtown and midtown and is among a few select, but critical, areas that are under pressure to expand and redevelop.

However, as a unique blend of open-air market, industrial food-processing businesses and residential housing, the Eastern Market district presents unique challenges to redevelopment. Not to mention, the market core is one of the most impervious areas of the city, consisting mostly of parking lots and paved roads. 

A Model for Urban Revitalization

Like many aging cities in North America, Detroit's infrastructure is in need of extensive upgrades to combat the surface flooding and combined sewer overflows that have become increasingly more common as heavy rain events become more frequent. However, traditional "gray" infrastructure is extremely costly; for a city whose limited dollars must cover a multitude of critical needs, an alternative solution must be found.

We believe green stormwater infrastructure—the installation of plants, trees and permeable surfaces to help capture and slow stormwater runoff—may be that alternative solution. Less costly than traditional stormwater infrastructure, engineered natural infrastructure reduces the burden on cities' sewer systems, reduces street and basement flooding, and ultimately reduces the amount of pollutants entering our waterways. Further, it provides habitat for wildlife and green spaces for recreation and beautifies neighborhoods.

That's why in 2016, TNC partnered with the Eastern Market Corporation to bring green stormwater infrastructure to the greater Eastern Market district as a part of the corporation's expansion and redevelopment plan. The green stormwater infrastructure component has come to be known as the Centralized Stormwater Management Feature Masterplan.

The masterplan thinks big and creatively about green stormwater infrastructure, with an eye toward the preservation of the iconic Eastern Market community. Replacing disparate individual green stormwater installations with large, neighborhood-scale centralized facilities that utilize bioretention ponds, rain gardens and trees, the masterplan calls for beautiful, publicly accessible natural spaces for urban residents while also managing stormwater across the district.

The masterplan represents a unified vision for redevelopment, providing guidelines for the intentional integration of natural spaces into urban settings. 

We know access to nature makes for stronger, healthier and more resilient communities.

Detroit Program Director

Nature Driving Design

Our driving questions related to the  masterplan are these: What happens if we put nature at the beginning of the redevelopment process for the greater Eastern Market district, rather than the end? What if nature could be the solution to our infrastructure challenges, to the problem of managing stormwater, rather than an afterthought? And, what if the redevelopment process itself, led by nature, could bring a tightly-knit community even closer together, rather than tear them apart?

The Eastern Market revitalization is being guided by green stormwater infrastructure in a way that the design and redevelopment of other Detroit neighborhoods currently is not. Nature is driving the Eastern Market design in a way that not only solves problems with stormwater, but that preserves the authentic and diverse fabric of the unique Eastern Market district.

In the place of a more traditional development paradigm, where parcel-by-parcel green stormwater features are installed by individuals as the need arises, the centralized stormwater management feature masterplan provides a shared vision for how natural infrastructure will be integrated into the district prior to its installation. This ensures that the Eastern Market district continues to thrive as it always has, while also ensuring that nature can thrive, too.

Creating Public Access to Nature

TNC is committed to maintaining the wholeness and well-being of our communities while also generating robust conservation solutions that are innovative, impactful and sustainable.

The design of the centralized stormwater management feature facilities will provide an open, welcoming environment for homeowners, businesses and visitors who thrive in the diverse and entrepreneurial Eastern Market district. It will literally be a gathering place almost as significant as the Saturday market that has made this district so justly well-known in the region.

To this end, TNC has been active in engaging the community throughout the entire design and planning process, taking their questions, concerns and needs into account.

With the centralized stormwater management feature masterplan, TNC is pioneering a vision for nature-driven redevelopment not just for the Eastern Market district, but potentially throughout the city of Detroit.

Part of what’s so unique about this plan is that it details large-scale, publicly accessible green stormwater infrastructure projects as a fundamental element of redevelopment. It is not a masterplan for a single developer, or a single project, but a plan that engages multiple developers and extends beyond any single project.

This means that TNC is committed to making the redevelopment of Eastern Market public.

The masterplan looks beyond stormwater management needs to integrate additional community benefits, ensuring everyone has access to the beautiful greenspace it creates. That’s important because we know access to nature makes for stronger, healthier and more resilient communities. It makes people’s lives better