Van Dyke Avenue Master Plan

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Looking north on Van Dyke Avenue, April 2020 (photo credit: Jenny Hamel)

Beginning in August 2020, the City of Sterling Heights and the Van Dyke Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority partnered with Design Workshop—a planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm—to create a master plan for the future of the Van Dyke Avenue corridor between 18-1/2 Mile Road to the south and M-59 to the north.

About the Master Plan Effort

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An early planning team drawing of the Van Dyke Avenue master plan site area identifying major components and potential opportunities.

This master planning effort will begin with an understanding of the conditions on the ground, include feedback from the Sterling Heights community and local stakeholders to identify goals, values, and priorities, and result in a conceptual redevelopment plan for the future of the corridor and its role in Sterling Heights and the larger region. The planning team’s initial explorations will involve comprehensive data analysis and mapping, an evaluation of the types and volumes of traffic on Van Dyke Avenue, and an economic and market analysis identifying opportunities for growth and strategic investment along the corridor. This analysis will form the basis for conceptual redevelopment alternatives, potential roadway reconfigurations, and recommendations for enhancements to the public realm. In addition to providing recommendations for public and private investment in the corridor, the final plan will address opportunities for placemaking and activation of the corridor, district branding and visual identity concepts, and implementation guidance to help bring the plan to life.

As we work to develop this plan, this webpage will be updated to include project information, updates, and opportunities for members of the Sterling Heights community to engage with the planning team. Given restrictions and public health advisories on public gatherings in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, public engagement for this planning effort will be conducted remotely online with a variety of broadly accessible and easy-to-use virtual tools.

Project Background 

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An Aerial photograph comparison shows the dramatic change in Van Dyke Avenue’s composition and context over the last 70 years. After the M-53 bypass opened in 1965, Van Dyke Avenue no longer served as a principal vehicular route to Detroit.

Van Dyke Avenue runs north-south through the City, initially designed as one of the main “spokes” that traveled all the way into downtown Detroit. With the construction of the M-53 bypass and the massive expansion of M-59 decades ago, the northernmost segment of Van Dkye Avenue (between 18-1/2 Mile Road and the City of Utica boundary) no longer serves as a key connector, which essentially left a 1.3-mile stretch of the once prominent roadway to struggle. However, City leaders see a great unrealized potential in this commercial corridor. This is due to the segment’s proximity to the Clinton River (soon to be a segment of the Iron Belle Trail) as well as the city of Utica’s downtown district, which now includes a regional baseball stadium. The City sees an opportunity to reimagine this corridor into a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented, pleasant place with a distinct identity. The objective is to create a place that feels organic, reflects the cultural diversity of the City, provides a modern interpretation of a “main street,” and creates a roadway that is livable while providing space for pedestrians and multiple modes of transportation instead of prioritizing only vehicular traffic.

The corridor is currently dominated by strip malls and auto-oriented uses like gas stations and repair shops. A Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) district was established in 2006 to increase the quality of developments and investment in this area of the City. Due to the Great Recession, the CIA initially struggled to generate tax revenue, and investment was limited. However, in the last several years, the CIA has started generating more significant revenue due to a number of new investments (including retail and industrial development), and the CIA itself has invested in façade improvements, developed a small gateway park at a former gas station/contaminated site, and re-branded the corridor as the “North Van Dyke River District.” The current zoning regulations, plans and policies call for an increased and branded aesthetic for developments but fall short of encouraging/requiring transformative development that is more prominently focused on pedestrian and other modes of transportation and creating vibrant space.

Community Engagement Calendar:

This effort will involve a variety of opportunities to engage with the planning team virtually. All necessary links and instructions will be provided here as the project advances.

  • Van Dyke Avenue Master Plan - Virtual Community Workshop #1 
    You can view video recordings of the first virtual community workshop here.
  • Virtual Community Workshop 2: Redevelopment & Placemaking (date and time TBD)

Van Dyke Avenue Master Plan Opportunity Mapping

Opportunity Mapping Instructions: 

  1. Click the link above to launch the Van Dyke Avenue Master Plan Opportunity Map. You can also find it here.
  2. Welcome: You will be presented with an introduction window that asks for your email. Please provide it if you want to be kept up to date with the project. Otherwise, feel free to continue as a guest. 
  3. Survey: Next, there is a quick survey. We’d like to understand more your experience of Van Dyke Avenue.  
  4. Opportunity Mapping:This virtual map is designed to replicate a typical mapping exercise planners and designers employ to tease out and record the preferences, priorities, and ideas of community members. Let’s start with an orientation of the map space. 
    • Site Area: The red outline in the center of the map represents our project study area. We’re primarily interested in your input within this boundary (though you can submit ideas outside of it). 
    • Map View: If you’ve used Google Maps, this map will be familiar to you. With Google Maps as the base, all the same functionality and data exists here. You can change from the default graphic map view to an aerial view with the button at the top left corner of the map. 
    • Zoom: You can zoom in and out with the plus and minus buttons below the map view buttons in the top left corner of the map. You can also zoom in and out by scrolling. 
    • Add Comments: As part of this exercise, we’d like to hear about your experiences with Van Dyke Avenue and your ideas for the future of the corridor. The blue bar at the top of the page contains the ten comment types you can add to the map. Click on “Add Comments” in the green bar beneath the blue bar at the top of the page to add your comments. Once you’ve placed your pin where you’d like it on the map, a box will pop up allowing you to add notes to your pin. Click submit to save the notes. 
    • Layer Control: If you’d like to see only one set of pins/comments at a time, click on the layers button in the top right corner of the map. Here you can select which of your own comments you’d like to see. You can also choose to see the comments already placed on the map by other community members. 
    • Help: In the green bar at the top of the page, you can click “Help” for a tutorial video or to contact a member of our team for support. 
  5. That’s it! Thanks for participating in Opportunity Mapping. Please feel free to share the link with your friends and family. We’re eager to hear the perspectives of as many community members as possible.

Additional Information:

For more information on this planning effort, contact City Planner Chris McLeod. To understand more about recent efforts and the larger context for this effort, please view the following links and documents.