DETROIT – The neighborhoods of Detroit are finally getting some much-needed attention, with a record $35 million boost to spur development and physical improvements, thanks to historic commitments from seven companies.
Seven companies contributed $5 million each to fund improvements to the neighborhoods and affordable housing. The companies are American Axle and Manufacturing, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chemical Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Flagstar Bank, Huntington Bank, and Penske Corporation.
It is the largest corporate donation to neighborhood development in the Detroit’s history, city officials said. It is expected to leverage another $70 million in private investment, for a total of $105 million in new neighborhood investmemt. Mayor Mike Duggan, several corporate CEOs, and city officials made the record-breaking announcement Monday morning at the Artist Village Detroit on the city’s northwest side.
“What this means is that we are going to have investments in vacant storefronts and to put in shops and restaurants in what used to be our neighborhood shopping corridors,” Duggan told the packed room. “We are going to take vacant apartment buildings and get them renovated and move families in them. We are going to take vacant lots and build new apartment buildings with affordable housing so that people can live in the neighborhood. We are going to upgrade the parks and streetscapes and that’s what we are going to do with this money.”
The money will go into the Strategic Neighborhood Fund for physical improvements across seven areas over the next five years, including Campau/Banglatown, East Warren/Cadieux, Grand River Northwest, Gratiot/Seven Mile, Jefferson Chalmers, Russell Woods/Nardin Park, and Warrendale/Cody-Rouge.
Specific rollout plans for the money and its distribution will be decided in January and February through community discussions.
“We’re starting to see development through the corridor of all these different areas,” Duggan added. “This is what the people of Detroit have been waiting for.”
The city of Detroit will drive these neighborhood developments based on the model of development in the first three Strategic Neighborhood Fund areas, Livernois/McNichols, Southwest/West Vernor and Islandview/Greater Villages, where improvements are already underway.
The coalition of partners came together over the last year, in an effort led by Mayor Duggan and Chairman of Chemical Financial Corporation Gary Torgow, as well as Huntington Bank CEO Steve Steinour, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan CEO Dan Loepp.
Torgow, Steinour, and Loepp all met with a number of other corporate leaders to share the city’s vision for neighborhoods and recruit the seven partners announced today.
“It is an honor to be involved in this vital commitment to the neighborhoods that make up our great city,” said Torgow. “The fine organizations in this coalition recognize the importance of stepping up and playing a part in the revitalization of these critical areas of the city. It is this kind of creative collaboration that brings about great opportunity and change.”
Each of the seven designated areas is made up of clusters of neighborhoods. The effort will bring development to more than 70 individual neighborhoods across Detroit, Duggan said. The Old Redford neighborhood where the announcement took place, is a part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund 2.0 program. That area has already seen neighborhood improvements and business investments over the years, including a Meijer, Sweet Potato Sensations, Artist Village Detroit, affordable and senior housing and other projects. Alicia George is the owner of Artist Village Detroit and is glad that more investment dollars are coming to areas outside of downtown and midtown.
“When you travel, you have to say you’re from Detroit because no one knows the names of our suburban areas,” said George. “The city of Detroit Is like the living room to the state of Michigan. When you have company and family come over, what’s the first room they come to? The living room. So, we want to make sure our living room is clean, we have our family photos up, we’re bragging about our awards, and letting our company have something to eat and drink.”
And while the announcement will not put an end to the “two Detroits” notion, Jimmy Settles, Detroit’s new group executive of neighborhoods lead, said the news was very important and that more help is needed; the $35 million is not a “cure all.”
“Over the last three months, I’ve been involved in a few meetings where people that live in Detroit are coming together with their money to do certain things,” said Settles. “It takes a collective and it’s going to take a long time.”
Residents can get involved in neighborhood planning by visiting detroitmi.gov/PDD or by contacting their district manager directly.
“I tell my residents all the time, don’t complain if you’re not in the room,” said Detroit City Councilman James Tate, who urged residents in his District 1 and all over the city to attend upcoming community meetings in their respective neighborhoods.