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2014 MCHAP

Bagley Street Pedestrian Bridge

inFORM Studio

Detroit, MI, USA

May 2010


Michael L. Guthrie, AIA, LEED AP/inFORM studio Kenneth R. Van Tine, AIA, LEED AP/inFORM studio Cory Lavigne, AIA, LEED AP/inFORM studio Gina Van Tine, AIA, LEED AP/inFORM studio


Nathaniel M. Stanton, SE, RA (Design Engineer)


Michigan Department of Transportation


James Haefner


The winning competition scheme, as part of this multi-million dollar highway interchange expansion, began in a web of conflicting political, social and financial agendas. Land acquisition rights, expenditure and budgetary concerns, traffic shifting, structural considerations and general posturing led to the development of numerous proposals and shifts in methodology to accommodate the changes. Throughout this process, the design remained true to the philosophy set forth in the original competition entry which identified and preserved the context of the project while remaining sensitive to the adjacent community. The final design proposed a more comprehensive scheme, including an at-grade landing at both the East and West aprons and approximately 41,000 sq.ft. of public plaza, which blended into the landscape and reconstructed the existing void as programmed, occupiable, plaza space. The bridge would act as a mediator to the adjacent city and community landmarks which speak to the notion of place at various scales. Each of these landmarks; The Ambassador Bridge; Michigan Central Station; Ste. Anne de Detroit and the Detroit skyline; has its own symbolic significance to the nation, state, city and community. The morphology of the Bagley Street Pedestrian Bridge responds to the each alignment through a series of apertures, juxtapositions and orientations during the processional experience over the bridge. The recognition of these landmarks as part of the journey reinforces the intent beyond simple proximity and adjacency.


As a significant community in Southwest Detroit, Mexicantown, has a unique location and history, having attracted immigrant Mexican families to the area since the early 1920's. The community is adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge which connects the U.S. to Canada as the largest border crossing in North America. Bagley Street, is defined by a restaurant district, retail, youth center and a variety of cultural enterprises. Additional landmarks present in the area include Ste. Anne de Detroit Church; the Michigan Central Station; and the city of Detroit skyline. The cohesiveness of the community was interrupted in the late 1960's by the introduction of I-96 & I-75 interstate highways, which bifurcated the community to ease congestion from the Ambassador Bridge. Subsequent community out-migration, due to General Services Administration expansions, have furthered blight and decline in the region. In 1998 a competition, sponsored by the Ambassador|Gateway Steering Committee, was commissioned to design a new pedestrian bridge to establish a re-connection along Bagley Street and serve as a signature gateway into the U.S. from Canada. The competition was part of an Environmental Impact Study submitted to the Federal Highway Administration in order to mitigate the damages caused to the community by the original highway developments and to be a part of a much larger infrastructure improvement known as the Ambassador|Gateway Project. The principal purpose of the project, as set forth by the steering committee, is to improve access to/from the vehicular bridge linking Detroit, MI to Windsor, ON, through highway expansion and interchange improvements.


The Bagley Pedestrian Bridge Project is a significant element of the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, initiated to address long-term congestion issues and provide direct access improvements to the Ambassador Bridge via the adjacent freeways. The Bagley Pedestrian Bridge, recognized as mitigation for impacts caused by the construction of I-75 and I-96 in 1970, signified positive changes to come for the Mexicantown community linking the east and west sides of the neighborhood after 40 years of separation. As Bagley Street is one of the main links between East and West Mexicantown, support for a pedestrian bridge spanning I-75 at this location was embraced by the community. The completed Bagley Pedestrian Bridge is a “signature” bridge for its stunning introduction to Detroit as motorists depart the Ambassador Bridge and proceed on to U.S. freeways. It is the first cable-stayed bridge in Michigan, spanning 420 feet and supported by 15 tension cables radiating from a 150-foot concrete pylon, and incorporates extensive landscaping and context-sensitive-design elements. The safety and aesthetic effect of the Bagley Pedestrian Bridge has impacting benefits to the local neighborhood. The reconnection affords residents and visitors a safe crossing between two severed districts and provides accessibility to local businesses throughout the southwest Detroit community. The pedestrian bridge plaza also showcases public art, inspired and influenced by the local community.

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