An Evening Stroll Down Bagley’s New Streetscape

I confess that I’m having fun with the Matterport. I went out a couple of nights this weekend to make this model of the new Bagley streetscape between I-75 and 24th St. in my neighborhood. The streetscape, an icon of Detroit’s Mexicantown neighborhood (yes, it’s really called that), was renovated last year to make it uniformly level, the idea being to improve walkability and aesthetics. While curbs tend to create a clear delineation between “street” and “sidewalk” the brick makes the space feel far more welcoming than did the asphalt. The parking areas are now brick, too, and there are new planted areas.

I’m currently trying to sell the Powers That Be on making a bunch of these models, perhaps in time for a physically-distanced Detroit Homecoming. Incidentally, I linked to the Yelp listings in the Mattertags. Notably, all of these places have pretty terribly reviews. But yet they’re always packed– with perhaps the most diverse showing of restaurant attendees outside of downtown. It’s funny how that happens. (Xochimilco was bumpin’, its parking lot filled. What a great use of space!).


I’ll get nerdy just briefly here. It is unclear why the city didn’t embrace actual pervious paving. The planted areas also don’t drain from the street, nor do they drain into what is called an area drain. Rather, area drains on the street itself filter major stormwater overflow. But it looks to me that the joints here are probably filled with polymerized sand and therefore NOT pervious at all. Water pools in many areas during a downpour. I cannot say the same for my newly-installed patio, which uses coarse, untreated sand in joints. For the uninitiated, polymerized sand cures to be relatively impervious. It is more durable, but drainage here seems to be key because the street is now entirely flat. Coarse sand is preferable for use in pervious installations– if gravel cannot be used, of course.

Still, I’ll take it over what once was. (The city’s stormwater team did not respond to multiple requests for comment).


Ever stuck in the mindset of my social innovation fellowship, Starting Bloc, which advises us to maximize the utility of chance encounters, I’ve also indirectly used Matterport to connect with a bunch of random people, including Alexander Vlachos, a.k.a. musician Greater Alexander. Vlachos, a Detroit transplant, has bought a house in what I’ll call Central Detroit. It’s not quite the West Side, nor New Center, nor in the vicinity of La Salle Gardens. The plan is to convert the building into an arts space and residence. The Greater Impact House is focused on creating art without the distractions of substance use. Vlachos, who met with me at the new Gathering coffee shop on East Grand, told me about his experiences with the music industry– and how he uses exploration of questions about trauma and substance abuse to inform his practice. This is something we could all probably think about a bit more. I’m really looking forward to checking out the space and seeing how Handbuilt Heavy Industries, Inc., might be able to help out.

In other news, I’m almost done with exams and have to get back to it, but expect some exciting announcements about upcoming projects and work soon.

Interested in having a Matterport model made? Submit an interest form here or e-mail nathaniel at hand built city dot org.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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