Dozens of stakeholders, guests, and media representatives gathered on the morning of Thursday, April 25 to mark the official opening of Neighborhood HomeBase, a community and office space in northwest Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood.
Located on McNichols Road between University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, HomeBase will be the main office for Live6 Alliance, a nonprofit that services the area, and Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), a firm within Detroit Mercy’s Architecture School that designed the space itself.
But its 4,000 square feet can be used in flexible ways. Residents will be able to use HomeBase to get updates or provide feedback on the city of Detroit’s planning efforts. There will be a rotating gallery of renderings and local art. And the back half of the office can be closed off, allowing community groups to host larger meetings in the front half, rent free, even securing a key for after hours gatherings.
“Residents have been an important part of this project, have been involved in this project, and have had a say in this project,” said Stephanie Harbin, president of the local San Juan Block Club.
The space was intentionally designed with these goals in mind, said Dan Pitera, executive director of DCDC. “How do you celebrate the heritage of a place and then move into the future? This place does that.”
The ceiling panels were stripped and incorporated into the wall design, which also makes the lobby feel more open. Old wood was repurposed to make some of the furniture. The carpet was removed and floor refinished to reveal original tiles underneath. And there’s plenty of exposed brick, beams, and pipes.
The collaborative effort in the opening was demonstrated by the number of major players who made public remarks at the event: Mayor Mike Duggan, Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson, Detroit Mercy President Dr. Antoine Garibaldi, and Live6 Alliance Executive Director Cecily King.
The Kresge Foundation is a major funder of the Live6 Alliance and contributed $15 million to the city of Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which is used towards neighborhood revitalization efforts.
The Live6 area—whose neighborhoods include Fitzgerald, Bagley, the University District, and Martin Park—has received a significant amount of attention and funding to make streetscape improvements, upgrade Ella Fitzgerald Park, and redevelop buildings along McNichols.
The Fitz Forward project, started two years ago, has been working to rebuild and sell homes, clean vacant land, and construct a greenway between the two universities.