Bringing Retail Back Downtown: Detroit

15 years after the opening of Campus Martius Park, the results of clustering complementing development within a compact setting are beginning to pay dividends. Now home to more than 6,500 residents and a cohesive retail implementation strategy, Downtown Detroit is becoming a retail and dining hot spot.

The common belief that having 10,000 downtown residents opens the door to a healthy retail environment is a major revitalization misdiagnosis when the importance of population density isn’t taken into context.

Campus Martius Park

Modern Cities and the Jaxson have long supported what we call the Clustering of Complementing uses within a Compact setting (CCC) as a key downtown redevelopment tool. CCC is a subliminal key to successful urban revitalization that works by locating people, activities (like special events or outdoor dining), and uses (like restaurant or bars) together in close pedestrian scale proximity, allowing them to feed off one another, which in turn stimulates more market rate growth, activity and economic opportunity. Located in the heart of Downtown Detroit, Campus Martius Park is an excellent example of how CCC can activate urban street life.

Campus Martius Park

Dedicated on November 19, 2004, Campus Martius Park is a re-established park in the center of downtown Detroit. It is constructed on the site of the original part that was completed in 1805, serving as the “point of origin” of the city’s coordinate street system. That original park was lost in the early 20th century as surrounding streets were reconfigured to accommodate automobile traffic. The new $20 million park includes two stages, sculptures, a restaurant, public spaces and a seasonal ice skating rink. At 1.2 acres, the park is smaller than its predecessor, as a full restoration of the original would have required the demolition of several adjacent buildings. Its skating rink is designed to resemble the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City. In addition, the award-winning park is activated with year-round programming, including a beach/bar, games free pick-up basketball and sand volleyball courts, attracting crowds that once avoided spending time in downtown. Three years after the opening of Campus Martius Park, an adjacent street was transformed into 3/4 acre park called Cadillac Square to increase the scale of events and progamming possibilities taking place in the vicinity.

Baltimore-based Under Armour opened a 17,200-square-foot store on the corner of Woodward Avenue and State Street in spring 2017.

“This is about a lifestyle and how people are living,” said Susie McCabe, Under Armour’s senior vice president of global retail. You’ve got 11 million people that visit Detroit annually. Detroit, from a city perspective, has so many connections to the Under Armour brand from a grit perspective, from an up-and-comer perspective.”

Since the announcement, construction and opening of Campus Martius Park, several development projects have taken place within the park’s 1/4-mile pedestrian shed. Considering Detroit’s downtown area is roughly one square mile, this means the majority of the central business district’s development projects over the last 15 years have taken place within a three to four block walk of active Campus Martius Park. Now home to 6,500 downtown residents and armed with a retail strategy of re-energizing downtown’s historic retail corridor, Woodward Avenue, Downtown Detroit has become a place with less than 10,000 residents where retail and vibrant street life is beginning to flourish.

Here is a look at Campus Martius Park, Cadillac Square Park and the development and street scene within a five minute walk radius of this popular public destination.

Campus Martius Park


Originally lost as Woodward Avenue was reconfigured to accommodate cars, Campus Martius Park is a 1.2-acre space that was re-established in 2004. The epicenter of Downtown Detroit’s renaissance, the park was the first-ever winner of the prestigious, international Urban Land Institute Urban Open Space Award.








Cadillac Square Park


Located on the site of a former bus transfer station, Cadillac Square Park was re-established as a park in summer 2007. Once the site of the Detroit Central Market, Cadillac Square is a re-established park that lies immediately to the east of Campus Martius Park. Cadillac Square is home to the relocated Bagley Memorial Fountain, the seasonal pop-up Detroit Sports Zone, Food Trucks that rally daily in the square during the week, and a variety of seating to enjoy amidst beautiful perennial gardens.*