Crowdfunding Campaign Launched for The American Riad project in Detroit

Monday, May 21, 2018

$50,000 goal to win matching grant through MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative

LANSING, Mich. – A vacant parcel in Detroit’s North End will be transformed into a vibrant outdoor courtyard to facilitate cross-cultural programming and learning through a new crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Ghana ThinkTank, and Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation announced today. The campaign is being offered through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by June 30, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details and to donate, please visit:

“The American Riad project combines global architecture and collaboration into public spaces in a unique way,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Katharine Czarnecki. “We are pleased to provide resources for and serve as a partner in this innovative effort under the Public Spaces Community Places program.”

This campaign will bring architect Marwa Al Sabouni from Syria to work with local residents to create a detailed architectural design for the courtyard. The space will connect Detroit and Islamic culture by creating a public park under a 20-foot high canopy that will include edible gardens, sculptural furniture, a brick oven, rainwater catchment, and a water filtration system for an outdoor community kitchen.

The American Riad brings together visionary artists from the Arab world, who have come up with creative solutions for their own communities, to work with North End Detroiters to rebuild theirs. The project will begin a training program in digital fabrication and metal working for Detroit youth, employ students of the program to build the American Riad, and organize cultural programming and other skill shares at the Riad.

"We are thrilled for MEDC’s support through the Public Spaces Community Places program. The American Riad approach of collaboration between artists in Syria and Morocco and the U.S. is so important right now,” said John Ewing, co-founder and managing member of Ghana ThinkTank. “Not only does the project build alliances across many cultural divides, but it also presents a visionary approach to housing justice, creating beautiful public parks and living space without displacing current residents - helping to address the crisis from gentrification that so many cities are facing."

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity, in which local residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at

“Creating spaces that are welcoming to people of diverse backgrounds and cultures is key to great placemaking,” said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. “The American Riad accomplishes that in a truly unique, artistic, shared culture way.”

The Public Spaces Community Places initiative started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan. As of May 14, 2018, MEDC has provided $4,912,666 in matching grants. Since the launch of the program, 163 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with $5.8 million raised from 29,863 individual donors.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.