Renderings of a revitalized, mixed-income neighborhood in the Corktown area.
Photo courtesy of the City of Detroit
Big changes are coming to the historic Corktown area on the housing development front all thanks to a multimillion grant through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
To be exact, 500 affordable housing units are on its way through the city’s Corktown for Everyone vision, which is an integrated neighborhood for residents of mixed incomes.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Mike Duggan and others spoke about the project as part of the mayor’s pledge to stand against gentrification and residential displacement as neighborhoods grow.
The announcement also means that Clement Kern Gardens will be completely rebuilt from the ground up and all existing residents will be given a chance to stay without having to pay higher rents for their new, higher-quality housing units. Construction on the first new development is slated to start this year.
“A project of this size can bring an incredible amount of positive change to a neighborhood,” said Julie Schneider, acting director of the Housing & Revitalization Department. “But that change does not have to come at the cost of residents who have called this neighborhood home. We, as a city, should protect those residents.”
HUD selected Detroit as a winner of its highly competitive Choice Neighborhoods grant program, which will allow Detroit to bring more than 500 new units of affordable housing to the rapidly-developing Corktown neighborhood, Mayor Mike Duggan announced today. Detroit, which is among just five cities nationally to be selected, will receive a $30-million HUD grant, the largest amount offered under the Choice program, per a press release.
The $30-million HUD grant is supported by $1.01 billion in leverage commitments from grant partners, including Ford’s new $740-million mobility campus and other economic development initiatives in Greater Corktown.
The Detroit neighborhood has seen its fair share of increasing rent prices as a result of new development, but now with over $200 million invested in 840 new units of housing completed over the next six years, at least 60 percent (504 units) of will be set aside as affordable housing units to ensure that Detroiters of all income levels can afford to live there:
- 40% of the new units will serve households earning between 30 and 80 percent AMI; or no more than $50,000 for a two-person household.
- 20% of the units will serve households making up to 30 percent of area median income (AMI), meaning no more than $19,000 per year for a two-person household.
- Additionally, 20% of the units will serve households earning 80 to 120 percent AMI, or no more than $76,000 based on a two-person household.
- Only the remaining 20% of the units would be able to be rented at the market rate.
“This is the city we are trying to build, where longtime Detroiters know they won’t be pushed out by development and where residents of all income levels can live side by side in quality housing in any neighborhood in the city,” said Duggan. “Our Housing and Planning teams put together a fantastic plan, and we are grateful to Secretary Marcia Fudge and the Biden administration for their confidence in the good work we are doing to prevent gentrification and displacement.”
Duggan thanked state housing officials for their support.
“MSHDA has been a great partner to Detroit and we are deeply appreciative to Director Gary Heidl and his team for their support during this process,” he said.
The planning area for this initiative is bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north, Fort Street to the south, the Fisher Freeway to the west, and Lodge Freeway to the east – encompassing both historic Corktown and North Corktown, according to a press release. Along with new housing, the grant will help Detroit leverage tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, better public spaces, more amenities, and a community hub with early childhood education and health services for residents.
One resident who spoke during the press conference said that this win is not just for the local community but for “affordable housing everywhere.”
“For so long we’ve had affordable housing where it is just a pocket of poverty and now going to have mixed development,” the Clement Kern Gardens resident said. “It means just so much more to me than having a place to live. … I look forward to the development and the future of housing and the future of how this is done across the country. … we’re going to show you how to do this right.”
The plan is focused on three key areas:
- The left field of the former site of Tiger Stadium: The first phase of development on this 3.7-acre site along the Fisher Service Drive and Cochrane Street will see a new, $29-million 120-unit development being erected that will feature 48 units of affordable housing ranging from 30 to 80 percent area median income (AMI). The project, developed by ACD, was selected last year for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding. Work is to begin this summer.
- Clement Kern Gardens: This 7-acre site currently features 87 townhome-style units of affordable housing built-in 1985. When it was built, the site was isolated, with berms and a fence around it, and streets were cut off. Under the plan, the structures would be razed and rebuilt in phases beginning no sooner than 2023. All current residents would have the option to stay in the rebuilt Clement Kern Gardens or be given priority to move into another Corktown property. Most important, existing residents, no matter their income, will see their current rents continued to be based on their income, and their housing needs and status will be prioritized throughout the project. The site also would see the street grid restored to help reconnect the community with the neighborhood, and mixed-income housing would be added to create a more integrated community. Clement Kern is owned by American Community Developers (ACD).
- North Corktown: There are 143 vacant lots in this area controlled by the City spread across 14.6 acres that will see new infill housing built on the site. The framework also calls for a new neighborhood service hub and outdoor recreation area to be built upon the former site of the Owen School, replacing a longtime concern in the neighborhood.
The Corktown plan represents the first time Detroit has been selected to receive a Choice grant.
“This has been the most comprehensive and ambitious planning project Detroit has undertaken in a generation,” said Katy Trudeau, acting director of the City’s Planning & Development Department. “The fact that our plan was chosen speaks to the incredible team of planners, housing experts, and dedicated City staff that we have working on designing a Detroit that brings the community into the planning process and helps create a city where all are welcome and all can benefit from the city’s turnaround.”
“The revitalization underway in our city is incredible, but we need to ensure that Detroiters who have stayed aren’t squeezed out of their neighborhoods,” said Donald Rencher, group executive for Housing, Planning, and Development. “With all the economic development happening in Corktown, it is critical that there is affordable housing developed alongside it. Given the tremendous investment and trends that we are seeing, we are at an important time to ensure Corktown remains a place where Detroiters of all walks of life are welcome.”