Mobile Design Box Retrofit: Addressing Urban Vacancy through Entrepreneurial Infrastructure

School of Architecture & Urban Planning / Architectural Studies


Our team received a University of Wisconsin system applied research grant to investigate the reuse of vacant storefront on Milwaukee’s Mitchell Street. The goal is to explore how innovative reuse of physical infrastructure can encourage economic and social growth in underserved communities in Milwaukee and beyond. Through a partnership with community stakeholders we will design and fabricate a series of mobile, interchangeable and durable furniture for empty storefronts.

The project expands on the established Mobile Design Box project that revitalizes empty store fronts in underserved neighborhoods of Milwaukee through popup art-galleries. The current project explores 1) how to engage local communities to co-create such spaces, and 2) how to craft a mobile furniture system that can quickly erect to activate vacant storefronts. The flexibility of a mobile system of furniture that can be moved from one location to another will respond to diverse programming needs such as farmers markets, art galleries, makers spaces, co-work sites, and community centers. By including community voices in the design process through interviews, survey and workshops, we hope to address local needs and generate knowledge to be later disseminated.

Tasks and Responsibilities

The student, under faculty guidance, will engage with local startup entrepreneurs and community members in the Mitchell neighborhood to discuss social and entrepreneurial needs. This research will be conducted through community workshops and interviews (online in case of social distancing), and paper surveys with community stakeholders.

Desired Qualifications