Ox Creek is an urban stream that flows through the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. It originates in agricultural lands east of the city and drains an area of 16.5 square miles. The lower portion of the watershed is heavily influenced by urbanization and storm water runoff. Over the years the creek has degraded and now appears on Michigan’s §303(d) list because it is not meeting the “other indigenous aquatic life and wildlife” designated use; indicated by poor macroinvertebrate community ratings. Sedimentation, siltation, total suspended solids (TSS), and flow alterations are causes of the impairment. Further, several legacy contaminated manufacturing sites lie along the creek. The city now wishes to transform this neglected waterway into a residential, recreational and commercial centerpiece that links important sections of the community. To begin this process, a vision was needed.
UM was engaged to provide conceptual planning, preliminary design, and visualization of a proposal that synthesizes and establishes a broad and collective vision for the revitalization of Ox Creek. The shared vision is intended to guide subsequent efforts toward implementation of various components of a larger framework including but not necessarily limited to the restoration and improvements to Hall Park, a public, non-motorized trail along Ox Creek, other points of public access and overlooks from neighboring communities, new critical points of non-motorized crossings that reconnect the communities on either side of the creek as well as the exploration of possible sites for new development along a revitalized and restored Ox Creek.
The scope of work includes three inter-related tasks:
(1) Synthesize existing documentation and the collection of on-going and previous proposals, environmental assessments, regulatory constraints and best practices for restoration and remediation of conditions that are negatively impacting the ecological health of the creek. This information will be collected and represented as a comprehensive overview of the history, current challenges and ongoing efforts and propositions for the creek. This collected information will serve as a basis for understanding the history of the creek as well as the limitations and possibilities for the future. Part of this effort will generate visualizations of a broad overview of some of the major potential design elements in relationship to existing conditions in order to visualize new possible futures for the creek and surrounding sites and serve as catalyst for community input.
(2) Assist in the organization of community engagement to foster a shared and collective vision of the future of the Creek as the foundation of design effort to synthesize community desires and interests. We will work with local officials, as well as the possibility of engaging the EPA’s Technical Assistance to Brownfield (TAD) as a possible partner in leading the community engagement efforts. This portion will be refined as the process for community engagement is better defined between TAD, City officials and the UM research team.
(3) The UM team will lead the design documentation, and visualization of the conceptual framework for the various elements of the proposal. This will include preliminary constructability of measures to mitigate flooding and stream containment, as well as the feasibility of various elements of the collective vision as defined through the community engagement.
Design production will include the integration of research efforts with the aesthetic, material, and ecological definition of the major elements of the shared vision. The scope of work includes architectural, landscape, and infrastructural elements that may be integrated as proposed Low Impact Development strategies. These will be developed utilizing three-dimensional, digital modeling and will include the production of two-dimensional digital cad drawings and renderings, which will be shared both during development and at project completion with the city. The team will provide information to assist with the integration of that vision into the city's Master Plan Update process.
City of Benton Harbor
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Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Craig Borum, FAIA, is a professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Professor Borum teaches design and coordinates the required construction courses for both the graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
Borum is also the founding principal of PLY+ architecture, urbanism, design, in partnership with associate professor Jen Maigret. In 2021, PLY+ was one of eight firms awarded the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices, as well as an honorable mention in the Architect’s Newspaper’s Best in Practice Award.
In 2018, Professor Borum was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows. Across his career, his work has been recognized with a Progressive Architecture Award, and a Research & Design Award both from Architect Magazine. He has been the principal designer on nine projects which have won AIA Michigan Design Awards across the building and interior design categories. Additionally, his designs have also won an American Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum, and a Wood Design Award from Wood Design and Building Magazine, and an Award of Excellence in Masonry Design from the Masonry institute of Michigan and AIA Michigan. He is a recipient of the Young Architects Prize from the Architectural League of New York, and in 2007 he was included in Wallpaper Magazine’s list of “101 of the world’s most interesting new architects.” His design for the Mies van der Rohe Plaza in Detroit won first prize in Urban Design in the 15th Quito Biennale of Architecture, as well as prizes in numerous national and international competitions. His work has also been featured in major publications in the US, Canada, Korea, Germany, Spain, and Ecuador. It has also been included in over 20 exhibits ranging from venues across the U.S. to international venues (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Tokyo, Buenos Aries, Frankfort, and Quito).
Mr. Borum is from Portsmouth, Virginia and received his architectural training from the University of Virginia.