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
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.
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.
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.