Collision Works uses intentional space to bring people together and personal stories to build empathy, resulting in more resilient communities. Stories connect us, help us learn, and motivate; Personal stories are catalyst for personal and community growth.

Our home city, Detroit, is in great transition with a rapidly growing cultural bifurcation. On the one hand, our communities are stressed by poor education and city services, lack of work, economic marginalization, and increasingly hazardous neighborhood blight.

At the same time, billions of dollars have been invested in downtown business development, bringing retail, new types of employment, visitors from all over the world, and exciting opportunities, especially for young educated people. Since 2009 there has been a 59 percent increase in the number of college-educated residents under the age of 35. This is nearly 30 percent more than two-thirds of the nation’s 51 largest cities.

Unfortunately there is not enough interaction between these new developments and the existing residents; concepts like “natives vs. newcomers” and “downtown vs. the neighborhoods” have become all too common.

It is our belief that through place-making activities that build empathy we can leverage and include all Detroiters in learning from the other’s valuable experiences and co-creating a more resilient future.

Collision Works offers interactive, educational, and entertaining story-telling experiences for all levels of engagement for both the current residents of Detroit and the newcomers hoping to make Detroit their home. We see a valuable and symbiotic relationship between these two audiences. Local residents connect with external ideas and resources while also growing their local communities. Newcomers engage more meaningfully and quickly with the city and discover otherwise hidden and valuable assets they can incorporate into their work. Additionally, they will share positive narratives with friends and family when they travel, greatly improving Detroit’s image in the rest of the country and world.

It’s a mixed-use and sustainable non-profit community development project consisting of public event space, collaborative work areas, and a mentoring program. Phase two of the project adds in a mid-size creative hotel and retail attractive to those thinking about or already committed to living in the city. The hotel also serves as a profit center for the non-profit community engagement work.

The facility will be located in Eastern Market, one of Detroit’s top neighborhoods for living, working, and the arts. It is an established and natural gathering space for the diverse audience we want to attract. It’s one of the few places in our fragmented city where people of all stripes feel comfortable visiting— newcomers, natives, and tourists alike. The area hosts 2 million visitors a year to its weekly farmers’ market and boutique food stores. It will be artfully built from repurposed shipping containers – resourceful, durable, and sustainable— with our partners KOOP Architects and SG Blocks, industry experts in green container structures. It’s a valuable opportunity to bring new methods and new jobs to local designers and builders. It will also increase foot traffic in the area during the nighttime with additional retail, food service, and regular events, serving as a much-needed evening social anchor for the developing neighborhood.

There is currently a functioning prototype, “First Container,” which spent it’s first seven months in a highly visible location in Eastern Market just a few blocks from the actual project site, financed through the online platform The team raised $41,000 in just over two weeks, placing the project in the top 8% of all Kickstarter campaigns to date, demonstrating tremendous community support and enthusiasm. Between May and November of 2013, First Container attracted over 2000 visitors, hosted several storytelling events, partnered with the Detroit Public Library for a book-sharing program, and garnered tremendous media attention. The community response has been overwhelmingly positive, attracting additional partners and sponsors for the project. We are currently in planning for our second year of operations to begin in March.

We are ready to rock. We are ready to advance the greatness of all who live here and all who choose to visit us. And it will be full of art, alive with story, beaming community, and darn pretty.

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