Design Core Announces 2021 Winners of Inaugural City of Design Challenge

Multidisciplinary Design Challenge Uses Inclusive Design  to Advance Community Tech in Detroit 

June 15, 2021, Detroit, MI - Design Core, the College for Creative Studies, and Connect313 are proud to announce the six winners of the 2021 City of Design Challenge. In its first year, the City of Design Challenge is a program that invites designers, residents, policymakers, and other community stakeholders to collaborate on projects that improve the quality of life for city residents. 

“We are incredibly proud of the range, quality, and diversity of projects selected by our jurors. Each team includes community leaders and creatives working together to address the digital divide in a way that is authentic to their own neighborhood. We can’t wait to see how these groups use this experience to engage more people in their design process, and how that strengthens their final concepts,” says Ellie Schneider, Director of Detroit City of Design at Design Core and lead organizer for the program. 

With funding, professional development, and a wide array of other resources, the 6 selected teams will conceptualize new ways to deliver public services, both physically and digitally, in Detroit’s community spaces in a more flexible, innovative, and resident-centered way. 

The 2021 Finalists include:

  • 18th Street Design-Build Green Tech Hub by Tanya Saldivar-Ali, Luis Ali, Sean Lewis, & Rachel Harb
    The goal of 18th Street Design-Build Tech Hub is to build and launch a community tech-lab and online design-build resource portal to strengthen Detroit’s Design-Build Ecosystem. The physical hub space will host in-person workshops, and the design-build resource portal will host educational content created during the hub development and beyond.
  • CRD Community Technology Hub by Amy Fanta, Sanquise Powell, Sandra Turner, George Preston, and Boratha Tan
    CRD’s vision is to create a collaborative space serving as a library, maker space, and outdoor green space near Chalmers & Seymour on Detroit’s East Side. The space will consist of books, tablets, and laptops that can be checked out, along with 3D printers, cameras, sewing machines, WiFi throughout, & volunteers teaching each application.
  • Underground Music Academy by Robert “Waajeed” O’Bryant, ill Weaver, and Sterling Toles
    The Underground Music Academy (UMA) is a Detroit-based community music hub, which aims to build the future leaders of electronic music through its distinctive educational curriculum and mentorship model, rooted in Detroit’s Black electronic music legacy.
  • Crosstown Connection by DaTrice Clark, Ian Klipa, and Jacob Saphier
    Crosstown Connection aims to service Detroit’s Morningside community and aid in closing the digital divide by providing resources for connectivity. The name Crosstown Connection honors the bus route that once ran the furthest distance across the city.
  • Detroit Wind and Water at the Freedom Freedom Growers Farm by Rukiya Colvin, Carlos Nielbock, Myrtle Thompson-Curtis, Paul Draus, and Christopher Pannier
    This project proposes an innovative integration of appropriate technology, including a wind-and-solar microgrid equipped with a WiFi server, in a unique community setting that brings together urban agriculture, placemaking, and civic education in response to community needs for improving food security, educating about green energy opportunities and enhancing environmental resilience.
  • Oakland Ave. Development by Patricia Dockery and Lendon Crosby
    Stafford House is building a mixed-use real estate development that will feature 10 apartments and five commercial spaces. One of which is a technology training school to support workforce development in Detroit.

Beginning this month, the selected teams will participate in a professional development program through August. The classes, consisting of seven 90-minute sessions, will be held in a blended learning format featuring guest speakers and panel discussions as well as individual and group work. As the participants contribute their unique creative skills to address the complex social challenges of our modern age, subjects broached will include cultural competence, social justice, systemic oppression, and power asymmetries.

“These projects exemplify the vision and values of Connect313 and demonstrate how Detroit can be a leader in closing the digital divide through community-driven efforts.” says Joshua Edmonds, Director of Digital Inclusion in the City of Detroit. “We are excited to see how these teams work with their community members to imagine new possibilities for community tech which can serve as a model for others here in Detroit and around the world.” 

Through their participation in the challenge, each team will receive a stipend to support their participation, professional development and access to demos, workshops, and academic research databases, as well as support developing creative assets that help tell their story through a partnership with CCS students and faculty and designers from Pophouse, a Detroit-based interior design firm. 

Following the completion of the program, the City of Design Challenge participants will be equipped with the tools to further refine their concepts through September and will present their final work to the seven jurors as well as the public on October 7th at an outdoor cinema-style event. Two to three teams will share $75,000 in additional grants to physically implement their projects in 2022.

This program would not have been possible without the generous support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Lear, Detroit Public Library Foundation and Pophouse. 

For more information on the City of Design Challenge, please visit

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As the first and only UNESCO City of Design in the United States, Detroit is proud of its rich and diverse design legacy and eager to highlight inclusive design as a powerful tool for creating equitable communities in Detroit and beyond. Inclusive design centers itself around people who are often left out of the design process in order to create places, products, and services that allow more people to fully participate in society.

A partnership between Design Core and College for Creative Studies, the City of Design Challenge is a program that invites designers, residents, policymakers and others to collaborate around ideas that make life better for more people in Detroit and cities everywhere. 

Design Core Detroit champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. It offers services to strengthen, grow and attract design businesses, increase market demand for design services, and tells Detroit’s design story locally and globally. Design Core is a department within the College for Creative Studies, which is a private, nonprofit art and design college in Detroit, MI. 

Design Core serves design-driven industries that specialize in design or utilize design as a central discipline of their business strategy. As the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, Design Core serves as the convener and backbone organization for the Detroit City of Design initiative.