In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
What Cities Can Learn from Detroit’s Green Garage
Along some of the cozy cobblestone roads of Detroit, in an area with old brick homes and universities, you’ll find a business incubator on 4444 Second Avenue.
[marker address=”4444 2nd Ave Detroit, MI 48201″]Detroit’s Green Garage[/marker]
Detroit’s Green Garage is located a pocket of preserved homes that isn’t too far away from patches of the city’s well-known urban blight. The building is remarkable. It was built in 1922 as a Model T automobile showroom. It was renovated a little over two years ago into a green business incubator.
Like most co-working spaces, the building comes with private and shared desk space, conference rooms, a kitchen, bathroom and shower areas, as well as a few separate rooms for businesses attached to the Green Garage. It’s unique from the way it’s built out, made almost entirely out of re-purposed materials from the city.
Sneak Peak at the Green Garage
- Built to be over 11,000 square feet
- Home to more than twenty businesses
- Memberships start as low as $50 a month
- Built with triple-glazed windows, a white roof, and extra thick insulation that cuts down energy costs
- Made almost entirely of re-used and re-purposed materials
- Urban farm on Green Garage rooftop
- Learn more about the Green Garage
- Check out more photos from Curbed Detroit
Tom and Peggy Brenan started the incubator to help small businesses learn how to create a trip-bottom-line business model, and to also build a green culture in the city. They aim for what they call “slow growth” that will better create lasting jobs in the city, the couple told the New York Times. Tom Brennan used to work at global consulting firm Accenture, and encourages the startups inside Detroit’s Green Garage to turn to the communities they serve for resources.
So far many of their businesses have grown in their fully leased space, and the atmosphere and community of the Green Garage is one to admire as a hub for green co-working and innovation. Co-working spaces and green communities can take not from the following factors of Detroit’s Green Garage.
Be a Part of the City’s Story
The businesses that take part in this co-working space know they’re a part of the city’s story. Inhabiting what was an abandoned structure is one part of it, but the greater part is knowing that there’s a need to work together to help the city. Businesses collaborate and always point each other to resources in Detroit. With the recent announcement of bankruptcy, these businesses aren’t shying away, they’re sticking together to build businesses in Detroit.
Focus on Community Building
This co-working space only allows for companies that fit one of two categories: green innovation, or community focused businesses. Notable companies and groups inside the Green Garage include the local crowdfuding site Patronicity, the entrepreneurial food group Detroit Food Labs, and De-tread a tire recycling company. Establishing these boundaries ensures that the co-working space itself is a community of like-minded individuals working together. The space is also very affordable for startups, starting at just $50 a month.
Slow Growth Has its Place
Another factor that really distinguishes Detroit’s Green Garage is their aim for slower, more organic growth. Tom and Peggy Brennan enforce a slower growth, offering one on one consultation to help grow a business in a certain direction, rather than push businesses through a setup a legal entity, business plan, and get going type of cookie cutter processes.
Open Your Doors to the Community
Each Friday the Green Garage welcomes visitors far and wide to visit their co-working space for what they call Community Lunches. The lunches started back when the space was first being built out, and it was a way to welcome the community inside and share the Green Garage’s story. Now it’s serves as a way to show the building to colleges, professionals, and other groups that frequently drop by, and also provide networking for the local businesses.
Encourage Local Resources
Many of the startups inside the Green Garage are encouraged to use local resources to help them grow, whether it’s collaborating with another startup for services needed, or local investing through programs like Kiva Detroit, a crowdfunding site that raises money locally up to $5,000 without interest. It’s another great example of investing, growing, and building a local economy from the ground up.
As a digital media startup myself, I worked inside the Green Garage this past year. The group of businesses really focus on working together. This type of social work fosters a community feel and interdependence that can help businesses thrive together.
Tom and Peggy aren’t going to stop with just one space. The couple is already working on a second space that will serve as a community hostel for visitors to Detroit. The building is in early stages but will likely benefit from similar green building strategies.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
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