C L A I R E   N E L S O N


Claire enjoys introducing people & sharing urban ideas more than anything.

With two decades of experience activating urban spaces and connecting city people, she's gotten quite good at being scrappy & resourceful with small projects that spark meaningful change.

In Detroit, Claire opened three spaces—Bureau of Urban LivingModel D HQ and Urban Consulate—to celebrate urban life and connect people who love the city.

She also co-founded Open City and Declare Detroit to promote civic engagement & a stronger local economy. Both groups are still active today with new leaders. 

For five years, Claire served as publisher of Urban Innovation Exchange and Model D, where she profiled hundreds of urban innovators in Detroit & across the country and organized a number of civic programs, including IdeaLab, On the Ground, The Next Big Thing, The Detroit Story and the Model D Speaker Series.

In her early Detroit days, Claire worked with Archive Design Studio and Pure Detroit, two pioneers of local design & culture. She designed many community branding & pro-city campaigns in the mid oughts, and served on advisory boards for initiatives including Hatch Detroit, Invest Detroit Urban Retail Loan Fund and D:hive (now Build Institute). 



Before moving to Detroit in 2002, Claire worked for Van Alen Institute and The Skyscraper Museum in New York City, and The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

At The Skyscraper Museum, she worked closely with founding director Carol Willis to grow her pop-up exhibitions in Wall Street bank lobbies into a permanent space in Lower Manhattan.

At Van Alen Institute, she helped coordinate the Creative Cities: Renewing New York conference just weeks after 9/11. She also contributed to design competitions, exhibitions, forums & publications to advocate for better design in the public realm.

A Chicagoland native, Claire studied Architecture & Urbanism at Smith College and Columbia University, where she graduated from The Shape of Two Cities Program: New York/Paris. In 2014, she was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome

Her work has been featured in the book For the Love of Cities, as well as The New York Times, USA Today, CityLab, Next City & more. She's been a guest speaker at TEDxDetroit, Meeting of the Minds, Creative Cities Summit, Knight Cities Summit, Mackinac Policy Conference, Detroit Policy Conference and Municipal Michigan League.

An urban mut, Claire has lived in Harlem, Brooklyn, Gramercy Park, Greenwich Village, Dupont Circle, the Latin Quarter, the French Quarter & the Cass Corridor. She loves them all. But she's partial to the people of Detroit.

She currently splits her time between Detroit & New Orleans. She's married to this guy.


TEDxDetroit (2014)

Change & The City (2016)

Michigan Municipal League (2015)