Follow any big development project in the city of Detroit and you're likely to find SHG Incorporated, formerly known as Smith, Hinchman & Grylls. SHG Inc. is Michigan's oldest architecture firm (since 1853) and the largest (270 employees in the city, 600 worldwide). In the 1920s the firm designed downtown landmarks including the Penobscot and Guardian buildings. Today it specializes in big complex works like the just-completed Veterans Hospital in the Detroit Medical Center and the new Tiger Stadium, which it's designing for Mike Ilitch.
But SHG's real passport to power is the expertise it offers as a planning consultant. SHG staffers bright, energetic and backed by a deep-pocketed corporate staff and technical resources seek ways to make themselves useful to those in power. They did the staff work for Mayor Archer's Land Use Task Force. They advise the Greater Downtown Partnership on planning issues. They're behind a drive to create a Detroit Design Review Committee, a body that would pass judgment on the design worthiness of all big new projects.
In short, SHG provides the technical know how that undergirds most large development decisions in Detroit. In an age when knowledge is the calling card of power, SHG has made itself an indispensable adviser.