The next time community residents and guests of Detroit visit Midtown Cultural Center sites, they can expect access to free outdoor public Wi-Fi.
In collaboration with Midtown Detroit Inc., the nonprofit leading planning efforts for the city’s cultural district, Wayne State University's Computing and Information Technology (C&IT) and Ann Arbor-based design firm rootoftwo LLC are working to extend the university's Wi-Fi system to public Wi-Fi for the Cultural Center. The first installation took place at the Detroit Historical Museum this past spring.
“Wayne State University is supporting this project by dedicating expertise, engineering and support resources to expand the network,” said Rob Thompson, interim chief information officer and associate vice president for Computing and Information Technology. “Wayne State’s C&IT division works continually to provide equitable access to technology and services that enable our students, faculty, staff and community to be successful.”
Additionally, Thompson said, the campus community will have expanded, secure and seamless access to services through their university Wi-Fi credentials while traveling between the Cultural Center sites and campus.
One of the first outdoor spaces C&IT coordinated to bring online is the Detroit Historical Museum, through an expansion of the university’s existing infrastructure at the adjacent 5425 Woodward property. In late May, the museum held an outdoor celebration of techno music in Detroit that used the public Wi-Fi system.
The public Wi-Fi effort is part of the larger Cultural Center Planning Initiative, funded largely through The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. Wi-Fi is expected to be available throughout the cultural district, which is bounded by Brush Street to the east, Kirby to the north, Cass Avenue to the west and Warren Avenue to the south.
Wayne State has extensive fiber and network infrastructure throughout the Midtown area that intersects with campus, Thompson said, including partnership agreements with Merit Network Inc., a nonprofit statewide provider to educational and nonprofit organizations. The C&IT team responsible for design, installation and support of the new system includes Chuck Zuber, Tim Muir, Juan Richardson and Laura Hendrick.
“It's a unique opportunity that we've been able to work with the university, since Wayne State has its own fiber network to be able to do this,” said Midtown Detroit Inc. Executive Director Susan Mosey. “A big part of the fundamental purpose of trying to do this whole collaborative planning activity is to work with each of the institutions under a shared platform so that we can really leverage the benefits for everyone in the Cultural Center.”
Next on the installation list will be the College for Creative Studies, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Michigan Science Center. “Eventually, it will incorporate all the remaining institutions, but these were the first four we focused on,” said Mosey. “By the end of the year, barring any setbacks beyond our control, they should all be up and running.”
With help from a small fund set up by Midtown Detroit, Mosey said another associated project will allow participating Cultural Center institutions to apply for funding to encourage digital programming outside and take advantage of the Wi-Fi system to offer more outdoor public activities.
An upcoming display to showcase the district’s new connectivity will be the stunning outdoor art and light installations of DLECTRICITY, which last awed audiences in 2017. The event, which takes place Sept. 24 and 25, is inspired by other international festivals known for bringing the best of contemporary light and technology-based arts to the streets of major cities all over the world.
“DLECTRICITY will serve as an opportunity for testing ideas from the Cultural Center Planning Initiative‘s digital and mobility strategies and showcase the district’s new Wi-Fi system,” Thompson said. “I am always excited to support new ways for Wayne State to engage and collaborate with our community and our regional partners. This project aligns with our mission, and we are very excited to be a part of making it a reality.”