DETROIT — Wayne State University and U-Haul recently partnered to take on a comprehensive sustainability study, the focus of which is to determine the impact U-Haul Company’s adaptive reuse initiatives have on the New Center community.
Last November, Wayne State students received a tour of the U-Haul New Center facility to get a fresh perspective on sustainable practices. Rayman Mohamed, an urban studies and planning department professor, felt that his class would benefit from a hands-on experience.
Mohamed wanted students to see how a building conversion could be used to bring abandon structures like the former NBC building at 899 W. Baltimore St. in Detroit back to life.
This study involves researching how the sustainability project has led to economic and social growth in the community as well as mobility development in southeast Michigan.
Outside of the study, Mohamed’s students have focused on how adaptive reuse initiatives can contribute to energy efficiency and public safety.
“The U-Haul center is emblematic of the resurgence of Detroit. It represents how companies can reuse buildings and infrastructure to contribute to the revitalization of communities,” Mohamed said.
The study gives the students experience with research development and a deeper understanding of effective sustainability practices. It has offered them a chance to see how communities can grow and come together through large-scale initiatives such as adaptive reuse, which can remove unwanted blight, provide jobs and encourage other businesses to consider opening locations in that community.
By partnering with U-Haul, Wayne State students are matching real-world examples with what they are being taught in the classroom. The study also teaches students that sustainable practices like adaptive reuse are beneficial for the environment and future generations.
Wayne University plans on continuing this study through 2017.
The U-Haul New Center location was once a facility for the National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco. It was abandoned for a period before it became part of the U-Haul building conversion project.
Building conversions allow U-Haul to preserve natural resources due to the fact there is no need for new construction. U-Haul adaptive reuse locations are able to meet the needs of the community while staying environmentally friendly.
In 2013, U-Haul completed the conversion process. The once-abandoned building soon became a new location for moving and self-storage services.
“We believe this is a win-win situation,” said Dr. Allan Yang, U-Haul chief sustainability scientist. The goal of the sustainability project goes beyond environment responsibility; it aims to improve the economic and social status of Greater Detroit.
Prior to becoming a U-Haul location, the NBC building was deteriorating badly, evidenced by broken windows, no surrounding streetlights and a very limited number of businesses still operating in the area. Many people avoided New Center due to a high crime and theft rate.
Since the U-Haul building conversion, there have been signs of numerous positive effects. Traffic in the area has increased, less crime is occurring in the community and new businesses have opened near the U-Haul store. Moving and self-storage services are also readily available to the community.
“This is a regional impact, not just a city impact,” Yang said. The New Center neighborhood has improved and developed as well as mobility in the southeast region of Michigan.
U-Haul will continue to focus on ways to not only better the environment, but better communities along the way.
Visit uhaul.com to learn more about our sustainability practices. You can read more about the U-Haul and Wayne University partnership at myuhaulstory.com.