Call Detail
Public Art for the Cass Avenue Bridge, Detroit, Michigan - PROJECT DELAYED INDEFINITELY
Entry Deadline: 4/24/20
Application Closed
Work Sample Requirements
Images | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 10
Video | Minimum:Min. 0, Maximum:Max. 1
Total Samples | Minimum:Min. 6, Maximum:Max. 10
Call Type: Public Art
Eligibility: National
State: Michigan


Public Art for the Cass Avenue Bridge
is a project of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) administered by Regina M Flanagan, Art • Landscape • Design LLC and advisor Seitu Kenneth Jones through HNTB Corporation. The project draws upon MDOT’s previous experience commissioning public art by Detroit artist Hubert Massey to grace the Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge in Southwest Detroit.

The Cass Avenue bridge, part of the I-94 Modernization Project, is in Midtown, one of Detroit’s most dynamic and evolving districts. Midtown includes the Cass Corridor and Woodward Avenue, home to cultural and educational institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the College for Creative Studies, the C.H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Wayne State University. New Center north of I-94, a medical research and technology district, includes Tech Town and the Henry Ford Medical Center as well as Wayne State University facilities.

The I-94 Modernization Project includes 67 bridges, multiple interchanges including M-10 (Lodge) and I-75 (Chrysler) freeways. The freeway runs east-west and Cass Avenue crosses over it and connects downtown and the Midtown cultural and educational district to the south with the New Center research and technology district to the north. 

The I-94 Rehabilitation Project Corridor Design Guidelines (2010) govern design for the I-94 Modernization Project. Produced with extensive public involvement, they express the community’s hope that the freeway re-design reflects community identity and Detroit’s rich cultural heritage, signaling that Detroit has embarked upon a new era of optimism and rebuilding. The Design Guidelines recognize that public art has the unique potential to meet this goal by contributing to placemaking, elevating aesthetic quality and revealing history and culture.

According to the Design Guidelines, the Cass Avenue Bridge is designated a “Community Connector” bridge because it connects commercial and cultural corridors where civic/neighborhood zones are present adjacent to the bridge. Community Connector bridges may have more intensive landscaping and feature public art that highlights the community in order to soften the transition between the freeway and residential and commercial areas.

MDOT’s community engagement efforts also revealed that improving local connectivity and walkability were a priority of neighborhood residents and stakeholders and Complete Streets concepts are incorporated into the Cass Avenue bridge design. Complete Streets accommodate all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders within the roadway space.

$200,000 in funding from State of Michigan has been committed for artwork. The project must meet both Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state design guidelines. This budget must cover all the artist(s) fees, costs, and expenses associated with designing, fabricating and installing the artwork.

The Cass Avenue bridge construction drawings, including modifications to accommodate public art, are scheduled to be completed and submitted by the bridge designers in September 2020. Public artist(s) will be selected in mid-May to begin their design phase in mid-June culminating in a design proposal presented to decision-makers including the Public Art Committee (PAC) and MDOT before the end of July. Any changes to the construction plans must be completed during this time; artist(s) will coordinate with HNTB Detroit during the design phase. The bridge is scheduled to be advertised in October 2020 and awarded to a contractor in early November 2020.

The Cass Avenue Bridge is scheduled to be reconstructed in 2021 with demolition beginning in February or March of 2021. The artwork will be integrated with the bridge construction, with final installation to be completed by fall 2021.

Bridge Description
The Cass Avenue Bridge is an “advanced bridge” – designed and constructed before mainline corridor construction begins (see Site Details PDF).

The cross-section for the bridge has driving lanes for a two-way local street (Cass Avenue) and wide sidewalks and bike lanes. The design meets both stakeholder and community expectations and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department’s requirements to be pedestrian-friendly, provide a node of activity, and minimize the freeway’s interruption into the neighborhood.

In the near future, after the Cass Avenue Bridge is completed, the mainline below the bridge will be reconstructed.

Comerica style light fixtures unique to the City of Detroit and the fence design were preferred by the community and Midtown stakeholders, along with the aesthetics of the piers and retaining walls. The fence design, featuring finials inspired by Comerica light fixture details, is constructed of plate steel and channel material, and includes one-inch powder-coated black wire mesh.


Land approaching the bridge. The southwest corner presents potential for placemaking and public art (see Site Details PDF.) This space is adjacent to Wayne State University’s parking ramp and a mix of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It is bounded on the freeway side by a 20-foot long wall extension that retains a slope down to the mainline behind it. The flat area available for placemaking is an irregular shape measuring approximately 20-feet by 50-feet by 170-feet by 90-feet (see Site Details PDF). Artists have the opportunity to affect the entire space, integrating the design into the bridge approach elements and influencing landscaping.

Considerations include maintaining safe sight-lines and setbacks at the parking ramp driveway. Placemaking involving artwork must comply with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) law and maintenance must be reasonable.

Opportunities on the bridge. Planter boxes will function as crash barriers and protect pedestrians. The boxes were originally intended to have lighting that has been eliminated due to sufficient planned lighting on the bridge. The existing plans and weight calculations for the bridge include footings for a total of five pairs of lights, installed every fifty feet. These footings could provide attachment points for public art. (See Site Details PDF.)

The planter boxes are six-feet wide and 24-inches tall outside dimension, and 4-foot 4-inches wide by 23 3/4-inches tall for the interior dimension. They run the 195-foot length of the bridge on either side of the driving lanes and bound the 9-foot-wide pedestrian sidewalk. Planters have a landscaping plan with plantings intended to be maintained by the City of Detroit. The planters are designed to be removed if necessary.

Barrier or parapet and the cast-in-place concrete surface of the planter boxes present the potential for up to two-inch deep incised relief if it does not compromise structural integrity of the planters that must function as a crash barrier.

Considerations include not adding weight to the bridge because the vertical weight/dead load is a specific concern. Artwork must attend to wind loads. Fine, intricate details on concrete should be avoided because of potential salt erosion and damage. Maintenance must be reasonable.

Community Forums
After the Artist(s) selection, MDOT, the administrator, PAC and project team will host two Community Forums during the project. Artist(s) will help us devise the forum format most suitable to their working process. Forum #1 will kick-off the design phase and provide an opportunity for artist(s) to interact with the community and gain inspiration. We anticipate a highly interactive first forum event occurring in the district during the summer. Later, in the fall artist(s) will present their proposed design to the community during Forum #2 after it has been reviewed and approved by the PAC and MDOT.

Project Goals

  • Artwork should invite and encourage pedestrian movement across the bridge.
  • Design should activate the space and draw people to it, creating a memorable destination.
  • Artists are open to gaining inspiration through innovative community engagement.

Evaluation Criteria


  • Quality and ideas shown in past work.
  • Evidence of completing projects of similar scope and complexity, or progressively greater scale.
  • Past work constructed of materials durable in the outdoors.
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with government agencies, design and construction professions, and community groups in the creation of a project.
  • Examples of gaining inspiration through structuring and conducting community engagement.


  • Familiarity with the city of Detroit, its people and culture.
  • Potential to involve students and youth in the process especially during the summer design phase.
  • Experience creating public art for a transportation project.

Artist(s) will be selected by an eight-person Public Art Committee (PAC) who will make recommendations to MDOT. The PAC has representatives from MDOT, Detroit Institute of Arts, the College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University Art Department, Midtown Detroit Inc., and Detroit Collaborative Design Center, along with community residents.

Anticipated Schedule
Mar 18, 2020   Open Call issued through Call for Entry (CaFÉ).

MARCH 30, 2020  PROJECT DELAYED INDEFINITELY due to coronavarus and State of Michigan moratorium on discretional spending.

Application Requirements

Eligibility Criteria