In 2016, the city of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department, led by its director, Maurice Cox, began crafting plans in neighborhoods around the city. The department engages communities to discover neighborhood needs and areas for potential investment, then creates frameworks that include proposals for streetscape improvements, city-owned properties that can be redeveloped, policy reforms, park upgrades, and other neighborhood-specific changes that the city can make or influence.
The effort has been largely financed through the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which has received around $130 million in philanthropic support and funding from the city and state.
Because the fund continues to grow, what originally began as a three-neighborhood initiative is now up to 10. The other four plans—East Riverfront, Eastern Market, Greater Corktown and Delray—are separate from the fund and undertaken because the department or the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation believes in their importance.
With all the plans underway, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. We spoke with Cox to provide an up-to-date summary of each one, and will continue to update the plans as they progress.
There’s much more to each than outlined here, many of which exceed 100 pages, and we urge you to read them for yourself. Most can be found on the department’s website.
These plans are in the “implementation” phase, meaning the frameworks have been finalized and the city is trying to put its recommendations in place.
This plan, the first completed, was done in conjunction with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and has been in motion since being released in 2017. It includes upgrades to the riverfront itself, as well as the adjacent district south of Larned.
Atwater Beach, an outdoor gathering space along the river, broke ground in 2018. Streetscaping on Joseph Campau, including a two-way cycle track leading to the Campau Greenway, will begin in mid to late spring. The Stone Soap building was sold, with plans for it to be redeveloped into 42 condominiums, but higher construction costs have resulted in delays.
But that’s really just scraping the surface. There’s a lot to this plan, including a continuous riverwalk between downtown and Belle Isle, which will come to fruition over the next couple years.
There are two main pillars of this plan, which were released at separate points.
The first and most important is the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, which calls for the redevelopment of 115 vacant houses and construction of a network of greenways connecting the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, as well as improvements to Ella Fitzgerald park. Though the first houses hit the market not too long ago, the project has run into some delays.
The other major component is streetscaping upgrades on Livernois Avenue all the way from Margareta Street to 8 Mile Road. The thoroughfare for the “Avenue of Fashion” will have its median removed and be replaced with parking on both sides of the street, two one-way lanes for cars, and a center turn lane. The sidewalks will be expanded to accommodate more space for businesses and pedestrians, as well as sidewalk-level bike lanes separated by landscaping.
McNichols Road will get a two-way cycle track and “enhanced” bus stops that extend out from the sidewalk, among other changes. Most of these streetscape improvements will be completed by the end of the year.
Homebase—a new office for the city of Detroit, Live6 Alliance, and Detroit Collaborative Design Center—should open sometime in April. It will also be available for use by community groups.
Lastly, there was the $8.3 million redevelopment of the old B. Siegel’s department store into 7.Liv, a mixed-use retail and apartment building with 29 underground parking spaces.
The West Vernor Corridor Neighborhood Framework was presented to residents in May 2018 and has a number of components.
There are policy recommendations, such as an ordinance to redirect heavy truck traffic away from residential areas, as well as zoning changes to encourage mixed-use development along Vernor Highway.
There are multifamily developments underway, like the $16 million housing and retail new building coming to Mexicantown. Or the redevelopment of The Murray row houses on Porter Street that should begin in the next few months.
There’s streetscaping on Vernor and the transformation of Bagley Street in Mexicantown into a shared street—these two efforts should begin in the coming weeks. The city is also working with Hamilton Anderson Associates to redesign the northern portion of Clark Park.
This framework plan, centered around Grand River Avenue, was presented to the public in July 2018.
Northwest Detroit is a fascinating and sprawling part of the city that includes troubled neighborhoods like Brightmoor alongside more stable ones like Grandmont-Rosedale. Its main thoroughfare presents both an opportunity and a challenge, since it’s heavily trafficked but so wide that it’s difficult to cross. According to research by the city, “90 percent of Northwest Detroiters drive alone to work.”
That’s a major reason why a number of streetscape upgrades were proposed, including closing the street to traffic to pilot a parklet, as well as creating a “festival” street where the Sidewalk Detroit Festival takes place every year. It will have to collaborate with MDOT, which operates the Grand River, to make more extensive changes.
The plan also calls for the adaptive reuse of Holcomb Elementary, a beloved building that has been vacant since 2010, into senior housing.
There’s a lot more in the plan about housing stabilization, stormwater management, upgrades to Eliza Howell Park, and the creation of an “arts loop” with trails and public art.
One of the more diverse and self-sustaining neighborhoods, this fascinating area that borders Hamtramck has lots of arts organizations and religious institutions.
The plan largely centers around Jayne Field and nearby recreation centers and schools. Even the streetscaping proposals include traffic calming measures, like island crossings, to increase pedestrian safety in areas where there’s a lot of youth. Jayne Field itself will get a cricket and soccer pitch, a nod to the large immigrant population there, as well as a splash pad and other upgrades.
Redevelopment of the Transfiguration School, which was expected to cost $6.4 million to build 23 units of affordable housing, has not yet begun. But the developer told Crain’s Detroit Business that they expect to secure financing later this year and begin construction in spring 2020.
There’s other commercial and residential redevelopments in the plan as well, with Conant Street being targeted as a potential neighborhood corridor.
One of the more recently released plans, it emphasizes development along Jefferson Avenue and housing stabilization efforts.
Redevelopment of the Kresge Building, which will house the new restaurant Alma Kitchen and offices for local nonprofit developer Jefferson East, Inc., is expected to break ground very soon. The plan also calls for a mixed-use building at Jefferson and Piper, which would include the neighborhood’s first full-service grocery store in decades.
Jefferson Avenue has already received significant streetscape upgrades, including protected bike lanes and crossing islands.
The city will also work to preserve 500 units of affordable housing and create 100 more. As Model D reports, “The city is also renovating a for-sale rehab bundle that includes four single-family homes and six duplexes for those making $25,000 to $71,000 per year.”
In an area where the median income is below $30,000, these efforts are crucial.
These plans are not yet complete, though community meetings have taken place and, in most cases, designs have been proposed. In some, implementation has begun as well.
Islandview / Greater Villages
Though this plan is largely complete, it’s been rolled out piece by piece and updates are fairly common.
For example, a meeting about the Butzel Family Park will take place this Thursday, April 11, to allow residents to voice what they’d like to see in the renovations.
Upgrades to Kercheval Street, which the city sees as having the most potential as an east-west thoroughfare in the Villages, will begin soon. Designs for the street show a two-way cycle track, and two lanes for parking and cars. At intersections between East Grand Boulevard and Parker Street there will be bus stop islands.
The city plans on renovating and selling 16 publicly-owned homes over the next year. Developers will begin construction on the Parker Durand development at Kercheval and Van Dyke, which will keep half its 92 units “affordable.”
There haven’t been a ton of details released about this plan, which will impact one of the city’s most important neighborhoods. That’s probably because the Eastern Market and the Detroit Economic Growth corporations have taken on much of the heavy lifting for this plan, which has been in the works for a couple years.
According to design consultants Utile, here’s what you can expect: An expansion of the market, improved open spaces between sheds, and stormwater management tools in the nearby vacant lands north and east of the market. There will also be some new mixed-use buildings to help enliven the district in the evening hours.
One of the complicating factors is that many of Eastern Market’s buildings have changed hands in recent years, and they may have goals that differ from the city’s.
This plan technically got kicked off in summer 2018 when planning consultants Hector and the rest of the team introduced itself to the neighborhood. Publicly, not much has been revealed since. Cox says that the consultants have been meeting with a local youth council and the first big meeting will kickoff later in April.
What’s most interesting about this plan is that it will be child-centered. As we wrote when the framework was announced, “Cody Rouge and Warrendale have one of the largest populations of school-age children in the city, and a planning study is moving forward to support growth, health, and safety for the neighborhood’s children.”
Three community meetings were held in 2018 in Detroit’s largest historic district. The city identified resident priorities, like the need to deal with vacant housing and making Davison Avenue more pedestrian-friendly. Residents frequently leave the neighborhood to do shopping and would like more local options.
Cox says that a fourth meeting will be scheduled for May, and that residents should expect further investment in Zussman Park and Dexter Avenue.
These neighborhoods have been announced as future sites for plans, but the first community meetings have not taken place.
Set to kick off in the next month or so, there’s a number of unique dynamics at play in Detroit’s most polluted neighborhood. For one, the city instituted a program to help residents relocate as part of a community benefits agreement with the authority in charge of constructing the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.
But for those who choose to stay, the city wants to help improve their quality of life. “While it may be getting an incredibly complex development initiative—a bridge—it’s still going to be a neighborhood,” Cox says.
He also says there will be a strong “environmental justice” component and that nine design firms are competing to get the bid for design lead.
This one should begin in the summer, soon after the city hires a consultant design team.
So while nothing has been officially released, we know this for certain: The key component of the plan will be preparing for the impact of Ford’s redevelopment of Michigan Central Station. Ford recently hired someone of their own to develop a master plan, and it will be imperative that they work together.
Cox says that there will be a lot of focus on streets, parks, greenways, and (hopefully affordable) multifamily developments. And don’t forget North Corktown, the area north of the freeway, which will also be included in the plan.
On the far east side touching the border of Grosse Pointe, this area is becoming one of the trendier spots to buy homes and definitely could use a framework to help guide its future.
The Alger Theater, a historic theater that’s being slowly activated by local community groups, is the centerpiece of the East Warren commercial corridor. The city will be opening up a design resource center across the street—the result of the Design in a Box competition. There will be a similar center in northwest Detroit in the famous “Obama” building at Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road.
“Most people want to know what’s going on in their neighborhood,” says Cox. “With these, you walk off the street and into a storefront gallery and see everything that’s going on.”
Not much is known about this plan for Detroit’s far northeast side. Through the local community organization Restore Northeast Detroit, residents have been doing some work of their own in this regard.
Stay tuned for updates.