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First privately negotiated CBA in Detroit’s history signed for NW Goldberg development

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A community group and developer negotiated the agreement for a mixed-use building near the Lincoln Street Art Park

An older woman stands at a podium with a number of officials behind her
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative president Mildred Hunt Robbins speaks at a press conference announcing the CBA with Grasso Holdings
Aaron Mondry

A bit of development history was made in Detroit today.

For a soon-to-be-constructed development at Lincoln and Wilbur streets in Northwest Goldberg, the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative (WGBC) negotiated a community benefits agreement (CBA) with Philadelphia-based developer Grasso Holdings. The groups are calling it the first privately negotiated CBA in the city’s history.

To date, all other CBAs came about through the city’s Community Benefits Ordinance, which requires developers to negotiate an agreement with a Neighborhood Advisory Council if a project costs more than $75 million or receives over $1 million in public benefits.

In the case of this development near the Lincoln Street Art Park, the parties came to the table willingly.

So far, few details have been released about the project, though Grasso said it’s going to be a mixed-use building with ground-floor retail and several stories of residential housing. The company hopes to start construction by the end of the year.

Rendering of a triangular-shaped four-story building which is part of NW Goldberg Developments in Detroit.
Preliminary rendering of Grasso Holdings’s development
Courtesy of Grasso Holdings

And because it’s privately negotiated, the sides didn’t release specifics about the CBA. But according to a summary document, there are commitments to provide “some” affordable units that exceed the city’s minimum requirement of 20 percent of the total units at 80 percent of the area median income.

Grasso will also work with WGBC to hire locally—for construction jobs, subcontractors, and small business tenants—pay a living wage, and submit quarterly reports on its employment progress. There’s also items related to sustainability, safety and security, and quality of life.

“These documents represent the things that we plan to do together for the benefit of [Grasso’s] business and our community,” said Mildred Robbins, president of WGBC, at a press conference attended by State Rep. Isaac Robinson and others.

In case Grasso doesn’t comply with its commitments, WGBC says there are enforcement and oversight mechanisms, but declined to say exactly how they’d be executed.

WGBC received legal and technical support from Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit and the Sugar Law Center.

Grasso has been active in New Center and nearby neighborhoods. It bought the old Woolworth building at Woodward Avenue and West Grand Boulevard and developed the Holden Block buildings across the street from Recycle Here.

WGBC also negotiated two Letters of Understanding with Henry Ford Health System around the new Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion and a separate warehouse. Thanks to those agreements, the hospital recently hosted a job fair in which 47 residents were hired, according to Jan Harrington-Davis, director of Employee/Labor Relations for HFHS.

Robbins hopes her group’s efforts can be an example for the rest of Detroit. “The real celebration will come when we have hundreds of community benefits agreements throughout the city,” she said.