Tell us about living in Detroit. What neighborhood do you live in and what makes your neighborhood unique?  

I live in Woodbridge right near WSU and Midtown.  As someone with both historic preservation and an architecture background, this is a great location to be in.  There are so many amazing historic brick homes, artwork and murals in this area.  The neighborhood is very welcoming and everyone takes care of each other.  It has been a great place to live also because of its close proximity to work as well as the other amenities the Midtown has to offer.  If I don’t want to venture far there is also Woodbridge Pub and PieSci a few blocks away!

What have you learned from Challenge Detroit so far?

I have learned so much from this experience but the thing that has stuck out in my mind the most is that there is no dream too small.  I grew up in Northern WI and had a dream of moving to Detroit but never truly thought it could come to fruition.  In the six short months of being here, I have met so many incredible people who have overcome countless obstacles pursuing their dreams.  Seeing the work that these people do for their community and hearing their stories have inspired me to continue to pursue my own dreams no matter how big they may seem.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

My host company is Quinn Evans Architects (QEA) and I work as a staff designer.  They have been working in the city of Detroit for the past 30 years and have been intimately involved in planning, housing, preservation and commercial development.  I have been working on adaptive reuse residential projects which incorporate both design as well as historic preservation.  At QEA, I also have been involved in the giving back committee and we have been working on community events including creating Christmas crafts for kids and doing a space programming re-design for a local non-profit.

We also asked Quinn Evans to tell us more about Lauren’s work and the value she has added to the organization.

Since joining Quinn Evans Architects in September, Lauren has shown great commitment and passion for preserving some of Detroit’s most iconic treasures, including the Old Wayne County Building and Detroit Masonic Temple. Her devotion to community outreach has also made a visible impact both within and outside of the office; from participating in Herman Miller’s annual “We Care” event in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to assisting the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation and volunteer coaching for Detroit’s youth, Lauren has been a valuable team player and leader in the office when it comes to giving back to the community. – Richard Hess, Senior Associate

What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?

I hope to help grow my career as an Architect while gaining valuable experience working on the adaptive reuse of Detroit’s historic buildings.  QEA is a great place to learn from and I hope to work on a wide variety of projects including more education and civic buildings.  This is a pivotal time to be learning and working in Detroit and I want to be part of the development and planning process.  I feel that there are so many passionate and dedicated people working in this city and I’m excited to be part of that impact.

What are you most looking forward to for the second half of your year as a Fellow?  

I am excited to work on the impact project at the end of the year.  I think that this is a great time to engage with the different non-profits in Metro Detroit and become connected with other organizations.  While the warmer weather means that outdoor hockey will soon be ending, I am also excited to continue volunteering and working with Clark Park Coalition as we transition to soccer and the summer activities.  I’m mostly looking forward to continuing to grow and connect with everyone in Challenge Detroit and explore all that my new home has to offer!

What do you envision for Detroit 10 years from now?

I once told a friend that I would be happy even if during my entire life I only save one building – because that is one more than before.  I have a lot of dreams for Detroit 10 years from now – a larger transit system with light rail to the airport, more occupancy of its existing housing stock and 20 min walking neighborhoods.  As someone new to Detroit I have a limited view but I know that this is a city of loyal and dedicated citizens who make Detroit great and will continue to do so.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is considering applying to Challenge Detroit’s next cohort? 

As someone who was coming from out of state, I would say just be yourself and tell your story even if it isn’t directly related to Detroit.  I found that the more I learned about Detroit the more similarities I found from the other places I had lived in.  Everyone’s story is important whether you have lived here your entire life or are completely new to the city.

To learn even more about Lauren’s adventures in Detroit this year check out her spotlight video below!