As professional training facilities continue to move back into urban areas, it is critical for planners and architects to consider the urban context outside the venue just as much as the venue features themselves. In order for the facilities we build in urban areas to benefit their neighborhoods, we must consider how these venues relate to their surroundings: the existing buildings, the street network and the people.
With the return of the Detroit Pistons from the suburbs to downtown Detroit in 2017, designing the team’s new training facility and team headquarters became an opportunity to re-energize the franchise’s relationship with the city and the community that bears its name.
a new era for sports venues in urban areas
NBA teams have progressed from training in high school gyms, darkened arenas and walled-off single-use facilities to their current form: multi-purpose “performance centers.”
The shift to performance centers has spurred obvious direct benefits, as these facilities merge and enhance the environment for both athletic performance and business operations. But what about the indirect benefits?
Performance centers in urban locations also provide opportunities for community and corporate partnerships, local relationship building, and transformative investment in neighborhoods.
Today, ROSSETTI is breaking new ground by not only designing a state-of-the-art facility for the Pistons, but by designing a facility that embraces and contributes to the surrounding urban environment. The new Henry Ford Health Detroit Pistons Performance Center, now under construction in the New Center area of Detroit, is located 3 miles from Downtown and just a few blocks away from the iconic Fisher Building. The Pistons’ leadership and ROSSETTI recognized that, if planned correctly, the facility could make a positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood and become a meaningful contributor to Detroit’s resurgence.
THE SITE IN CONTEXT
The planning process for the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center carefully considered the existing urban context surrounding the site including street and building patterns as well as the needs of residents and employees in the area. The resulting context-sensitive design incorporates over 25,000 square feet of active street-level retail and service space.
Providing leasable space for local businesses in a professional training facility has never been done before, but makes sense for communities. Luring retail into a neighborhood without an anchor is typically a challenge. The Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center will act as that cornerstone by carefully immersing their franchise into the community and attracting meaningful retail, services, and street life to New Center. Currently, the immediate neighborhood has limited services and amenities serving a daytime population of 30,000 employees and growing. Even with 15 additional amenities in the development pipeline, this still amounts to less than half of the amenities available in thriving urban neighborhoods like Midtown, Detroit. Furthermore, approximately 460 new residential units are planned in the neighborhood within the next five years, intensifying the need for more neighborhood services and amenities. The Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center will provide five new neighborhood amenities, significantly expanding the offerings in New Center for both the employee population and existing and future residents.
A COMMUNITY ASSET FOR NEW CENTER
The benefits of the Performance Center go well beyond sports and the players. The multi-purpose facility will house the Detroit Pistons Performance Center as well as the team’s corporate offices, a Henry Ford Health System sports medicine clinic, a Plum Market grocery store and café, and at least two additional retail tenants.
Ensuring the building was accessible and desirable to the local community was a key principle in ROSSETTI’s design process as part of the larger vision to create an asset for the neighborhood. The Performance Center is designed as a walkable destination and leverages its close proximity (a five-minute walk) to the new Q-Line Streetcar route which connects New Center to the rest of Detroit’s Greater Downtown. The building design features active street-level frontage along the primary walking streets with numerous storefronts and an outdoor dining patio for the café. Street trees, bike racks, and places to sit line the sidewalks to provide streetscape amenities and promote walkability in an area that will be visited daily by thousands of employees and residents.
The Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center improves the overall relationship between professional sports and cities and simultaneously reshapes the outlook for a neighborhood. The complete building, program, and streetscape arrangement ties the fragmented, auto-oriented area of New Center together in a walkable, urban built environment with a community-oriented character. The Performance Center, therefore, obtains a unique identity – contemporary and distinct from the single-use sports venues of the past.