thoerig19_175In a city more often characterized by hardship than success, Campus Martius Park in Detroit has received national recognition as the first winner of the ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award, which recognizes an outstanding example of a public open space that has catalyzed the transformation of the surrounding community.

Known as “Detroit’s official gathering place,” the 2.5-acre (1-ha) vibrant central square, created from a desolate downtown parcel, has become the heart of the city’s downtown redevelopment initiative. With extensive landscaping, movable seating, and an ice skating rink, Campus Martius Park, designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates LLC in Muncie, Indiana, provides a much needed recreational respite and an entertainment venue that is credited with breathing new life into the area. Attracting more than 2 million visitors year round, it has catalyzed an estimated $700 million of adjacent development, including street-level cafés, retail shops, and the new 1 million-square-foot (93,000-sq-m) Compuware World Headquarters.

A $10,000 cash prize is being awarded to the Detroit 300 Conservancy, which developed the park as a legacy gift to the city. Campus Martius Park was chosen from among six finalists selected from 88 entries representing urban areas throughout the United States. The finalists, with the project’s champion listed in parentheses, were:

  • Bremen Street Park, Boston (Brown, Richardson & Rowe Inc./Massport); 
  • Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina (City of Greenville);
  • Herald and Greeley Square Parks, New York City (34th Street Partnership);
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle (Seattle Art Museum); and 
  • Schenley Plaza, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy).

Creation of the ULI Amanda Burden Open Space Award immediately followed the announcement last October that Burden had been selected winner of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize, awarded annually by ULI in recognition of a person whose career demonstrates a commitment to the highest standards of responsible development. The Nichols Prize includes a $100,000 honorarium, which, at Burden’s suggestion, ULI devoted to an annual competition honoring transformative and exciting public open spaces.