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Research Through Planning Symposium

March 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

Research Through Planning Symposium

Through the continued generosity of University of Michigan alumni Alan and Cynthia Berkshire, the college awarded six Research through Planning grants this year. We invite you to join us for presentations from the selected faculty on their research. Lunch will follow in room 1227. Please click here to RSVP

Project Grant Recipients:

Herman Keifer Health Complex in Detroit
Harley Etienne, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning

The Herman Keifer Health Complex in Central Detroit is currently poised for a large-scale redevelopment effort. The site is surrounded by several dozen blocks of fallow land and two large abandoned schools that if redeveloped in conjunction with the Herman Kiefer Complex could inspire catalytic development. In the Fall 2015 term, my UP/SW 655 – Neighborhood Planning course completed a demographic analysis of the communities surrounding the community, interviews with area leaders and key institutional stakeholders at the request of Maurice Cox, City of Detroit Planning Director, Development for the City of Detroit. Students also completed case study profiles of comparable developments in several other cities. At our final presentation to Mr. Cox, he requested that students elaborate on their work and present it in two separate reports. The first report would be a more detailed resource to guide the city’s and developer’s aspirations for the project. The second report would be a more accessible document that could be distributed more widely with community stakeholders. The Research Through Planning grant will allow me to hire two students to respond to Mr. Cox’s feedback, and create a professional report that can be used and disseminated widely.

Informal/Irregular/Illegal: The Production of Urban Land in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area
Maria Arquero de Alarcon, Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning 
McLain Clutter, Associate Professor of Architecture
Nishant Mittal, Research Assistant, MUD ’16

This research broadens understanding of Latin American informal development by visualizing the unique spatial, social, and political structures enabling irregular settlements at the periphery of Mexico City. Central to our research is the assertion that irregular settlements are in no way informal. Rather, they are the product of precise and illicit strategies of territorial control and urban development by non-governmental “social organizations” that have emerged to fulfill the needs of Mexico’s working poor, in the absence of adequate governmental assistance. Focusing on Chimalhuacan, a municipality to east of the Federal District of Mexico City, our research details the formalization of the irregular city, capturing the emergence of enclaves of shared ownership, and their transformation into neighborhoods with land tenure and public services. The research tracks initiatives sponsored by Antorcha Campesina, an organization involved in the provision of housing and social services to informal dwellers, with strong political ties to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, which currently governs the City, State and Country. By documenting the emergence of settlements in Chimalhuacan over time, this research builds a resource for drafting preventative policies and future urban design strategies.

Land Cover Mapping of Addis Ababa
Larissa Larsen, Associate Professor of Urban Planning 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, is believed to be one of the fastest growing cities in Africa with an estimated population of 4.8 million. Water management is one of the city’s largest problems.  Water pollution (due to minimal wastewater treatment and erosion) plus seasonal flooding challenge the viability of development in many parts of the city and threaten residents’ health. Effective watershed planning requires accurate land cover data. The last land cover mapping project was conducted in 2011 and predates extensive urban development.  This proposal requests support so two University of Michigan graduate students can travel to Addis Ababa with me in the summer of 2016 and participate in the initiation of this collaborative mapping project (with faculty and students at Addis Ababa University and City planning staff). During our visit, we will be establish research protocols to coordinate efforts between the universities and we will collect a number of  ‘ground-truthing’ points to ensure the accurate categorization of different land covers. In addition to highlighting areas of land cover change, this mapping work will permit the identification high risk flooding areas for land use restrictions and suggest where green infrastructure projects for stormwater attenuation would be most effective.

Planning History through a Gender Lens: Documenting the Scholarship and Careers of Feminist Planners
Scott Campbell, Associate Professor of Urban Planning 
Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning
Bri Gauger (Field Researcher / Collaborator)

This project seeks to expand and revise modern planning history by documenting interactions between the planning discipline and feminism.  The rich history of feminism — from the Suffrage era to post-WWII activist movements to the present — is largely absent from planning’s intellectual history.  We focus on the recent past, asking what gave rise to the lively engagement of planning with feminist thought and activism during the 1970s and 80s.  We present findings from eighteen interviews with planning scholars who began their careers during this period, including some of the first women to obtain PhDs and faculty positions in the field.  Supplemented by archival and published materials, these oral history narratives form the cornerstone for a history of modern feminist planning thought that will trace the evolution of the field to its contemporary focus on diversity, race, and sexuality.


The following projects received grants, but due to scheduling conflicts will not be presented at the March 10 event:

Making It: Creative Incubators, Urban Regeneration, and the Gig Economy
Anya Sirota, Assistant Professor of Architecture

The concepts of creative economy, cultural industries and creative occupations have evolved significantly over the last two decades. In the early stages, considerable credence had been ascribed to creativity as a paradigmatic self-help model capable of economic regeneration, urban renewal and community building. As the socio-economic environment remained turbulent, however, policy makers, planners and cultural critics, growing increasingly self-aware of issues around gentrification, race relations, and inequity, have nurtured an evolving skepticism of the “creative city” model and its promise of tangible prosperity. In light of these developments and the shifting nature of creative work in cities,the proposal seeks to critically investigate the role of creative incubators in urban regeneration by: (1) examining the material and symbolic impact of creative incubators on the built environment, (2) comparatively assessing the catalytic potential of the typology within a broad range of urban scenarios, and (3) compiling a catalog of best practices related to both instrumental and less entrepreneurial manifestations of the type within wider strategies of urban regeneration. In the process of assembling a comprehensive and systemic overview, the work intends to establish a set of criteria by which to measure the performanceand impact of creative incubators within the contemporary urban contexts.

Overflowing the Courts: Housing and Environmental Disputes in the Face of Aggravated Floods and Increased Land Values in the City of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Maria Arquero de Alarcon, Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning 
Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, Assistant Professor of Urban and Planning

What, if any, is the impact of surrounding land values on the public prosecutor’s choice to file evictions action against informal settlements in floodable areas? Scholarship on informal housing as an environmental problem along with critical scholarship on “slum ecology” is recent (Davis 2006; Rademacher 2009) and has been, in part, driven by the increased intensity and frequency of climate disasters. Scholars highlight that climate change mitigation and adaptation can be misused to displace the poor and disenfranchised in the Global North and South in order for real estate interests to profit from urban redevelopment (Satterthwaite et. al. 2009: 8). However, the allegedly appropriation and misuse of climate change discourses and plans to selectively displace low-income populations in floodable areas with potential market value has not been systematically investigated. Although jurisprudence on these lawsuits is extensively documented, there are no studies that link lawsuits to either land values, longevity of land occupation, zoning laws, or severity of environmental damage. Building on ongoing research and teaching initiatives, we plan to conduct this legal research for the São Paulo city areas identified as at high risk for flooding.


March 10, 2017
11:00 am
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