LTU students find their ‘place’ in Southfield

LTU students find their ‘place’ in Southfield

From the Southfield Sun
By Jennie Miller

Architecture students at Lawrence Technological University have teamed up with developer Hassan Jawad and the city of Southfield to potentially create a destination spot for their peers.

Through the Third Place Design Competition, the first of its kind at the university, students receive $2,000 in prize money and might have the chance to see their concepts used in the design and construction of a new business.

“The concept of a ‘third place’ is that the first place is your home, the second place is work or school, and the third place is a place you can hang out and be yourself in a public space,” said Mike Knoff, 22, a senior from Midland who is majoring in architecture at Lawrence Tech. “Like the bar in ‘Cheers’ or the coffee shop in ‘Friends.’ They wanted to develop a place for LTU students off campus. They wanted it to be an LTU student competition, so the students would be invested into the project.”

Jawad felt strongly that the city and the university should team up.

“We were looking to get Lawrence Tech students more involved with the city,” Jawad said. “Southfield — the city — and Lawrence Tech both started out as commuter cities and commuter schools. As time has progressed, that has now changed. We’re attempting to keep people here after 5 p.m., and Lawrence Tech has now realized that they can’t be a commuter campus either, and are trying to provide their students with the full campus life experience. They now are involved, and there’s a good chance that this could go on and this vision could become a reality.

“The Lawrence Tech students are looking for a place to call their own, and that doesn’t exist. The objective here is to create a place they can call their own.”

The students were tasked with creating a vision for the space once occupied by Ink Stop in the City Centre Plaza, south of the Southfield Municipal Complex and just north of 10 Mile Road. The plaza was constructed five years ago and currently houses Café Kabob, Thai Express, Jimmy Johns and Just Baked.

The site is about half a mile away from LTU’s campus.

“You just have to cross the highway and then you’re there. It’s within walking distance and easily within biking distance,” Knoff said.

Erik Slagter, a senior majoring in architecture, won for best atmosphere as well as best logo and branding. Abby Schroeder and Gena Briolat, both seniors with dual majors in architecture and interior architecture, won best overall design. Mike Knoff and Dbee Hewitt, both seniors majoring in architecture, won for best menu.

Most of the design group submitted ideas that involved multiple uses of the facility — for example a coffee shop during the day and a bar at night.

“The criteria was to try to make it as available — 24 hours — as you can,” Knoff said.

The university is looking at the possibility of moving forward and presenting a business plan to run the facility, once constructed.

“There were 12 different groups that submitted entries for the competition, and there are going to be bits and pieces used from multiple projects,” Knoff said. “It’s going to be a fusion of all the different ideas. The winners were the most outstanding in that one category, but they’re going to take ideas from all the groups and use them towards the actual construction of the building.”

“I was blown away by the presentations,” Jawad said. “The one person who truly won it, Erik, he provided us a virtual tour of what this establishment would look like, he gave us a virtual bird’s-eye view from the sky, zoomed down to the front doors, opened the doors and took us inside, here are the pool tables, into the bathrooms. It was incredible. I was really impressed by the talent.”

The facility is hoped to be a prime gathering place for students, faculty, alumni and members of the community.

“It’s extremely great, the fact that the city of Southfield and the Southfield City Centre are trying to collaborate with Lawrence Tech,” Knoff said. “Being at LTU for four years, I haven’t really felt much of a connection to the community at all. For them to actually involve the school and involve the students of the school into the development of the City Centre into what the students want it to be, it’s awesome. It’s a shame I’m going to be graduating soon and I won’t be able to enjoy the results of this, but it’s definitely great that I get to be a part of the start of it.”

For more information about Lawrence Tech, visit www.ltu.edu.