Jason Zogg, B.A.’07, M.R.P.’08

Revitalizing Detroit

By Carol Olechowski

Jason Zogg, B.A.’07, M.R.P.’08

Since the 1960s, Detroit has struggled with economic woes, population loss, surplus housing stock, curtailed municipal services and a host of other issues. But self-described “urban mechanic and futurist” Jason Zogg sees his adopted hometown as a place where “everyone matters,” and he’s eager to revitalize the city.

“A desire to do something I felt had a greater impact on the world” led the Delmar, N.Y., native to Michigan in 2012. One of 30 participants selected for the inaugural Challenge Detroit Fellowship, he worked four days a week for DTE Energy, a corporate sponsor of the program. Each Friday for a year, Zogg and the other Fellows met to address childhood obesity, food deserts and other challenges affecting the community. Many of the recommendations “have already been implemented in one form or another,” he says. 

Zogg, who enrolled at UAlbany as a Presidential Scholar, was drawn to urban planning “as soon as I took my first course with John Pipkin in 2003.” The class “changed my life. Suddenly, I was looking at the world in a completely different way,” says the former urban-planning/political science major, 
who minored in business. 

After three semesters of additional study, Zogg earned a master’s in regional planning with a focus on transportation. He relocated to Boston to work for consulting firm VHB Inc. There, he became a LEED AP [Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Accredited Professional] and added to his knowledge of electric-vehicle, airport, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Today, as urban planner & strategy analyst at DTE Energy, Zogg is involved with Energize Detroit, a company program seeking “to stabilize, improve and transform the 15-plus downtown blocks immediately surrounding the corporate headquarters. Thirty percent of the land is vacant, with very few residential, retail or entertainment venues.” 

Zogg notes: “The position draws on everything I learned at UAlbany. I frequently reference books I used all the way back in The American City with John Pipkin, Energy & Resources with John Delano, or Bike & Pedestrian Planning with Jeff Olson. UAlbany really set my foundation for a truly broad, holistic understanding of urban planning and the key challenges facing 21st-century cities. 

“The multidisciplinary nature of the profession gives us an extraordinary awareness of the complexities and interdependencies involved in creating truly livable places of lasting value that are loved,” he adds. “Urban planners create places that are vibrant, economically viable, environmentally responsible, healthy and safe.”