Detroit to install free outdoor wifi in Cultural Center with $500K Knight Foundation grant

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DETROIT – The Knight Foundation has awarded Detroit’s Cultural Center Planning Initiative a $500K grant to help implement a digital strategy that includes free, outdoor public wifi.

Detroit’s Cultural Center, a designated area in Midtown that includes many of the museums along Woodward Avenue, Wayne State University, College for Creative Studies and University of Michigan buildings and the Detroit Public Library, is hoping to use the grant to create more welcoming spaces and to connect partner institutions.

“Not only will this grant support the installation of free, public Wi-Fi in the district, it will also support collaboration, risk-taking, and experimentation within Detroit’s Cultural Center for place-based, digital transformation,” stated Sue Mosey, Executive Director of Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI), who has been leading the CCPI over the last 18 months.

In a partnership with Wayne State University’s Computing and Information Technology Department (WSU C&IT) and rootoftwo, free outdoor wireless will be offered in Detroit’s Cultural Center—an area that includes CCPI stakeholder institutions:  The Carr Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Public Library, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan Science Center, The Scarab Club, University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

CCPI map. (Midtown Detroit)

The wireless system will be an extension of WSU’s existing campus system and will help attract visitors to the district and encourage more outdoor programming, while providing accessible and reliable public Wi-Fi for audiences throughout the outdoor spaces of the district. Additional funding to support this system was provided by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

Since the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency, Midtown Detroit, Inc. and the 12 stakeholder institutions worked together on their collective re-opening this past July with guidance from NSF International. The district developed shared protocols while helping institutions deliver their core missions. “The COVID-19 crisis has created a moment of opportunity for digital transformation,” stated Mosey.

“As we try to reimagine ourselves digitally, we are also trying to reimagine the Cultural Center physically to create more welcoming spaces designed for outdoor programming and that further connect our institutions. It is MDI’s hope that the digital and the physical can complement each other and be deemed equally important. We are well aware that we are in difficult economic times. Our CCPI strategy is one that is meant to span over the next 10-15 years and is designed to be implemented in phases as funds become available and as institutional will is emboldened.”

The grant from the Knight Foundation will support:

  • Digital Infrastructure
      • Extend WSU wireless system to the Cultural Center.
      • Develop pop-up video screens tied to institutional programming to consider the future placement of permanent screens for the district.
  • Digital Capacity
      • Develop a series of workshops for stakeholder institutions focused on the creation of new digital experiences that will be accompanied by small grants to test ideas.
  • Digital Visitor Experiences
      • Develop a new brand and website for the Cultural Center that reinforces it as a significant destination, online and offline.
      • Showcase the value of these technology enhancements at the Dlectricity festival in 2021.

About the Cultural Center Planning Initiative (CCPI)

The Cultural Center Planning Initiative (CCPI) is a bold reimagining of the City of Detroit’s 83-acre anchor cultural district. Unifying landscape, architecture and technology, the CCPI design draws upon the strengths of Detroit’s cultural institutions to create a signature public destination. By developing a more sustainable physical environment and coordinating programmatic opportunities, we will be able to serve a much broader set of residents, artists and visitors.

The Cultural Center Planning Initiative (CCPI) design team, Agence Ter-Akoaki LLC, is an international collaborative of designers led jointly by Paris, France-based Agence Ter and Detroit-based Akoaki. Their project, Detroit Square, highlights the importance of shared cultural infrastructure for Detroit’s Cultural Center. rootoftwo is leading the masterplan for the creative/civic technology aspects of the initiative as part of the larger design team. A distinguished jury of national and local practitioners selected the design team in 2018 through an international competition that attracted 44 submissions from 10 countries and 22 cities.

In spring 2021 the design team will complete the conceptual design for Detroit Square – the culmination of CCPI’s initial 18-month planning phase. CCPI is guided by a steering committee comprised of cultural district leaders, and project management support is provided by Midtown Detroit, Inc. Visit culturalcenterplanninginitiative.com for more info.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.