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Stephen Henderson’s Tuxedo Project looks to turn blight into literary center

Facing the enormous amount of blight in Detroit can be a daunting task and can feel hopeless to many. But what if we look at it as one house at a time, and turn that into one block at a time?

One project, led by Detroit native and Pulizter Prize winner Stephen Henderson, is working to change his childhood home into a literary residency program, learning center, and source of hope in the community.

It’s located on Tuxedo Street, near Livernois and Elmhurst. Henderson visited his childhood home at 7124 Tuxedo Street back in 2012 and saw a house that had been stripped, decimated, left.

Henderson goes into great detail of that visit and what followed in a powerful narrative here. Instead of turning around and turning his back on his house, he developed a plan over the next few years. Henderson and his high school friends have banded together to help the neighborhood and turn it into a place of hope. The plan, dubbed The Tuxedo Project, is a partnership with Marygrove College, which has garnered support from the Knight Foundation and is seeking crowd-funding support through a Patronicity campaign.

From the campaign,

"In partnership with Marygrove College, the Tuxedo Project will resurrect the blighted home as a literary center where a resident English professor will engage students, the community, its history and residents with the hope of transforming the neighborhood. " and "The professor who'll live in the house will build the literary center around the idea of helping people in the neighborhood tell their own stories, collect and build oral histories, and work with the area's kids on developing a love of words and reading."

He tells Curbed that they have a lot of the funding they think they need for this house. They've been negotiating with the city over a purchase agreement and are ready to start work next month. They plan to get windows and doors up soon so they can work inside during the winter.

The renovation of this house and tearing down the house next door is phase one of the project, which needs to be done by late spring, early summer of 2017. Henderson estimates there are 13 houses on the block that need attention and the project will turn to those after phase one.

As of October 31, the project has raised over $12,000 of its $50,000 goal. If it can reach that goal, the group will receive another $50,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Ideally, the house would be a stepping stone to rebuild the whole block.

Here’s a look at Henderson’s childhood home.

Henderson tells Curbed, " This project is about the power of one property. Changing that one can inspire more change. Small scale change like this can grow into larger, organic change in neighborhoods that have been forgotten." You can find out more about the campaign here.