Meet the Team

CHAD ROCHKIND

Founder, Principal
 

1. What makes Detroit unique?

This moment in Detroit is unique because we have the opportunity to try new models for how cities develop. No city has reached such heights and fallen to such depths with such speed. We are left with a shell of a city, but this presents interesting solutions in terms of land-use , community engagement, and our civic infrastructure.

2. If you could pick one thing, what would you change about Detroit?

We lack public life. We need more social interaction to occur on streets and sidewalks and public parks. Right now, we are too car-centric, too institution-centric, and we are losing sight of the fact that it is the space between buildings that gives a city its pulse.

3. What is the best part about working for HSS.

This is the company of my dreams. I wake up every morning excited to go to work. I really feel that we are breaking new ground with our approach to urban change, and its exciting to feel at the forefront. Hopefully these models will be replicable in other cities in the future.

4. What's one piece of advice on how citizens can impact their urban environment.

Have a bias towards action. All of the official systems are designed to prevent change. They are the defenders of the status quo, no matter how broken it is. Put possibilities into the world, and the world will respond.

 

JESSICA MEYER

Director of Engagement

Jessica Meyer moved to Detroit from Chicago in 2011 to serve in the City Year Detroit AmeriCorps program and she never left.  Aside from spending her time transforming cities by putting people first, she is also a graduate of Build Institute, board member for Detroit SOUP, founder of The Pack, and writer for Model D media.

1. What makes Detroit unique?

Detroit's small town feel in a global city is what makes it so unique for me. It's a huge reason why I wanted to stay over moving back to Chicago. It makes it easier to see the impact of your work every day, which is essential when working in a city with so much need and decades of work ahead of it.

2. If you could pick one thing, what would you change about Detroit?

I wish we could have more of a balance between focusing on interesting new avenues like entrepreneurship, innovation, and public space activation while also addressing the huge gaps in education, poverty, water access and transportation.

3. What is the best part about working for HSS?

We have a lot of passion and energy but not in a naive way. We focus a lot on self-education and understanding the facts. At the same time our work's foundation is community engagement and making sure we aren't doing something that the we may think is awesome but the community doesn't want. We are all about balance: big picture strategic plans, temporary activation and insights, and community engagement and involvement.

4. What's one piece of advice on how citizens can impact their urban environment?

There's so many ways! I'm a big fan of block clubs. I think it's a really powerful way to take ownership of your space in your neighborhood. Big things happen when a few passionate people get together.

KENNY ANDEJESKI

Community Connector / Associate | Volunteer Manager for Open Streets Detroit

Born and raised in suburban Chicago, Kenny moved to Detroit to be a Challenge Detroit fellow in 2014. Since completing the fellowship, he has dedicated himself to exploring the intersection of economic development, entrepreneurship and education in redeveloping urban spaces. In his free time, he captains city-wide basketball and ultimate frisbee teams, and travels - he's hoping to see all 50 states and 6 continents by age 30; he's hit 33 and 3 by 26.

1. What makes Detroit unique?

Detroit has taught me a lot about love and relationships. Before moving here almost two years ago, I could not have imagined caring so much about a place that constantly frustrates me. From the five-lane one-way street that cuts through my quiet residential neighborhood to the neighborhoods that are isolated from resources, education and economic opportunity due to mobility barriers that exist there, Detroit has no shortage of flaws and imperfections.

That being said, I love this place because there is immense opportunity to peel back the layers of failed policy and planning to create a just and equitable future for everyone who chooses to call this place home.

2. If you could change one thing, what would you change about Detroit?

Too often we allow ourselves to get caught up in generalized tropes and narratives about the challenges and opportunities in Detroit. Depending on who you ask, it could be the only place where you would raise a family or the last place you would raise a family, The Murder Capital of the US or The Comeback City.

Regardless of the lens you choose to adopt, we need to openly address and examine Detroit's complexity. Shift conversations from Downtown and the Neighborhoods to focus on safe, walkable, livable and equitable communities throughout the city. Infuse black and white dialogues with Hispanic, Arabic, Chaldean, Polish, Hmong, Korean, Jewish and all other represented perspectives. Investment and development are vital, but let's discuss gentrification and community benefits agreements with every one of those decisions.

Detroit has the unrivaled opportunity to pioneer sustainable and equitable post-industrial redevelopment. We just need to do so in a painstakingly intentional way.

3. What is the best part about working for HSS?

The people. The people I get to work alongside. The people that inspire the work that we do. The people that our work benefits. 

4. What is one piece of advice on how citizens can impact their urban environment?

Before you work to change an urban environment, start by learning from and embedding yourself in the community that exists there. There is nothing more dangerous than prescribing solutions for problems that you don't understand and aren't personally affected by.

 

SHAMIL KHEDGIKAR

Design and Geospatial Analysis intern

I am a graduate student at the Department  of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. My fields of interest are economic development, urban modelling and geospatial analysis.

1. What makes Detroit unique?

I think the unique aspect of Detroit as a city is the changing landscape of neighborhoods. Through public art, walkable streets and tactical urbanism initiatives, the urban fabric of the city is continuously enhanced.

2. If you could change one thing, what would you change about Detroit?

I would change the public transit system in Detroit because I felt over the course of the last 10 weeks that it is very difficult to go around Detroit if one doesn't have a car.

3. What is the best part about working for HSS?

I think the best part about working for HSS was that I was given a high degree of freedom and flexibility in the work environment. Chad, Jessica and team really encouraged me to be driven by my fields of interest and then give input into creating the Place Plan.

4. What is one piece of advice on how citizens can impact their urban environment?

I would encourage citizens to look beyond their smaller communities. Everyone should be sensitive to the issues faced by all the communities in Corktown. This allows for the city to grow in a much faster manner through collaboration between different citizens of a city.
 

BARBARA JACOBSON

Lead Public Space Activator

Barbara is a Boston-based active transportation planner & year-round bicyclist. She works on equitable & engaging place-based projects that are designed at the human scale.

1. What makes Detroit unique? 

Detroit is poised to become the most sustainable city in the United States. By focusing on small scale manufacturing, urban agriculture, transit-oriented development, and sustainable complete streets transportation infrastructure projects, it will not only improve the livability of the city but also create jobs for people living here. 

2. If you could pick one thing, what would you change about Detroit?

The width of the roads, pavement quality and the number of one-way pairs. 

3. What is the best part about working for HSS?

I really enjoy the team and the opportunity to design, create and implement thoughtful, place-based projects. 

4. What’s one piece of advice on how citizens can impact their urban environment?

Try a new form of transportation a couple of times a week, you'll see and experience new things. Try taking the bus to work, a bike ride to the grocery store or a walk to a local bar or restaurant.