Page C1.2 . 04 February 2004                     
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  • Revival by Townhouse
  • Schoolhouse Modernism

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    Revival by Townhouse


    The emphasis on shared space extends throughout the development. Instead of dark and dangerous service alleys, back porches face protected, landscaped walkways. Safety is supported by each unit's parking garage, providing secured storage and direct access at all times of the day.

    The development grew out of a long-range plan that began in the mid 1990s when McIntosh Poris embarked on a collaborative effort with the local nonprofit Genesis Community Development Corporation. Both the neighborhood and its factories had been devastated by years of neglect and were threatened with demolition. The decision was to focus on preserving the neighborhood and strengthening the community through residential development.

    The initial master plan for the Genesis Villas townhouses brought the neighborhood to public attention, allowing the community to regain its original mixed-use designation and to save the Ford and Studebaker factories. With this preservation goal reached, the collaboration continued, bringing designers, residents, and public officials together to create the residential plan.

    In contrast to Detroit's previous redevelopment practices, McIntosh Poris chose to weave the new housing into the neighborhood rather than demolish the existing infrastructure and rebuild. "We were committed to maintaining the early industrial character of the neighborhood, bringing in the traditions of the Arts and Crafts without reverting to nostalgic replication," notes Doug McIntosh.

    This respect for the past is evidenced in the Genesis Villas design in many ways such as the preservation of the street grid and historic houses. The result is a patchwork of old and new.

    Another result relates to the larger urban context. "This project is more than simply housing," notes Michael Poris, AIA, one of the firm's principals, "It is a model for how urban neighborhoods can use their existing resources to strengthen their community."

    The project was built with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Phase two of Genesis Villas will add another 90 units of low-income housing. Phase three will include two blocks of mixed-use development to bring services and amenities to the neighborhood. In addition, the current owner of a one-time Studebaker factory hopes to convert that structure into loft spaces, and a nearby historic Ford factory may be developed into a museum.

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    ArchWeek Image

    Genesis Villas, a development in Detroit, Michigan, gives high priority to both security and affordability.
    Photo: Balthazar Korab

    ArchWeek Image

    Genesis Villas master plan.
    Image: McIntosh Poris Associates

    ArchWeek Image

    Genesis Villas typical floor plans.
    Image: McIntosh Poris Associates

    ArchWeek Image

    Inside the Genesis Villas townhouses, spatial drama is not lost in the cause of affordability.
    Photo: Balthazar Korab


    Click on thumbnail images
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