George Adams Jr., founder and president of 360 Detroit and a 360 Detroit Art Mural.
Photo courtesy of 360 Detroit.
Community organizations are the backbone of Detroit and are responsible for much of the city’s revitalization. In an effort to make Detroit a safer place to work, live and raise children, community organizations dig deep into the heart of neighborhoods and promote impactful change.
360 Detroit was founded in 2014 by George Adams Jr as a way to promote positivity and revitalization in his neighborhood.
“Our focus, primarily, is in the Virginia Park community. At that time, the grass was uncut, there were some vacant lots and houses needed to be boarded up. We began to board up houses and cut about two to three acres of grass. It’s about 40 acres of vacant grass in the boundary. We tackled two or three acres at a time for a year,” said Adams.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, Virginia Park is a community full of character and legacy. Considered a part of the New Center area, Virginia Park runs from Woodward Avenue to the John C. Lodge Freeway. Established as an upper middle-class neighborhood, Virginia Park has suffered from economic shifts and blight. Working to change the narrative, 360 Detroit was created from a need to improve conditions for those in the community.
“I’ve been doing it for a while, some type of service for years. Specifically for this community, I’ve lived here and I wanted to see a difference in transformation in the community. I moved in in 2014 and started the organization in 2014 because I wanted where I live to look different and to be different,” said Adams.
The District 5 neighborhood is home to many working-class families. Wanting to provide area children with a safe space to play, 360 Detroit got to work on converting some of the community’s uninhabited land into a safe haven.
“The [proudest] accomplishment is the park. We have converted a half-acre, 22,000 square-feet of vacant blighted land, into a community park,” said Adams.
The organization did not stop there. To ensure the team was serving the needs of the community, 360 Detroit began to ask residents what was needed to help their neighborhood thrive. The responses helped to expand 360 Detroit and bring to life the community’s vision.
“We did a block party. We began to do that annually. I began to ask neighbors and residents of Detroit, what would they like to see in the neighborhood,” said Adams. “It was important to me to get a grasp of what the ideas were from my neighbors, especially the children, to try and make that a reality.”
As a result, 360 Detroit began to work on additional items for the community. Soon, a space for creatives was born.
“Another thing the community wanted was a space to – like a neighborhood hub. A space so they can actually do various types of crafts or socialize or art,” said Adams. “We had a space we created, The Art House, where we were going to do art programming. Then, COVID hit. So, we couldn’t use the space as we intentionally wanted to.”
To pivot, the organization painted a mural on the House and began to do virtual art programming. This year, the organization plans to use the park the group renovated to do in-person artwork outdoors.
The pandemic presented an opportunity for 360 Detroit to further its impact in the community. With many families facing financial hardships, the organization stepped in to lighten the load.
“We had to pivot to meet the needs. We were fortunate to get dollars to support the community with grocery gift cards, with utility payments, tablets, care packages,” said Adams. “The neighborhood sees Detroit 360 as a partner and important to the renaissance of the community.”
In 2022, 360 Detroit plans to continue being a positive force in the community. In-person cooking classes and sports will soon begin in the park. The group hopes to introduce overnight camping in the neighborhood park as well in an effort to expose inner city youth to various aspects of life.