Ann Arbor’s historic Kerrytown District was notorious for frequent flooding due to its location within the Allen Creek Floodway, a tributary to the Huron River. The City of Ann Arbor capitalized on an opportunity solve a flood problem and promote development within the community by purchasing two abandoned homes. With the help of FEMA Flood Mitigation grant funds, the homes were razed in 2013. Later that year the city turned to ECT to design and engineer a bioinfiltration system (aka rain garden) to reduce flooding.
Public art was a significant part of the project, which was a collaboration between ECT and Boulder, Colorado, artist Joshua Wiener. The powder-coated steel fish serve as a “cue to care” – a purposeful visual landmark to help the public understand that something important is happening at a project site. This design tool used by landscape architects purposefully demonstrates that people are actively caring for the landscape.
To construct the rain garden, the basements of the demolished homes were backfilled with compost, topsoil, and a sandy soil mix, which allow flood waters to infiltrate. An installation of tall native plants suggests the fish swimming through river vegetation.
The Riverscape Rain Garden demonstrates the principal that green infrastructure projects can be a win-win for the community – protecting natural assets while improving public spaces. Additionally, these projects can inspire community redevelopment around the project as well as private sector investments.