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Fitzgerald Revitalization update: fewer homes, longer timeline, realistic expectations

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The new goal is for 76 homes to be rehabbed by 2024

Houses which are part of the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project in Detroit. The houses have brick facades and yards in front. Courtesy of Fitz Forward

The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project has proven much more challenging that anyone anticipated. While those roadblocks have meant less progress, it also signals a shift towards realistic expectations.

Announced in the spring of 2017, the massive project in the Fitzgerald neighborhood in northwest Detroit had the ambitious goal of rehabbing 115 homes in two years. When Curbed Detroit checked in with the project two years later, only 13 homes were expected to be done by the end of the summer.

David Alade, co-founder of Century Partners, one of the two firms part of the Fitz Forward development team, said at the time that, “There probably was too much optimism at the beginning, that you could do something that’s never been done before, in a neighborhood that had never received this kind of attention, and do it at lightning fast speed.”

Other facets of the project in the struggling neighborhood included clearing blight through cleanups, boarding up and demolishing homes, and planting wildflower meadows.

A couple stands in the front walkway of a gray home, smiling. They hold two dogs on leashes. Another man stands behind them on the porch, also smiling, with his fist in the air.
A couple after buying their rehabbed Fitzgerald home in 2018.
Courtesy the Schultz-Spradlins

At the time, Alade declined to say how many homes would ultimately be rehabbed. But in a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, Fitz Forward says it hopes to have 76 homes finished by 2024.

Two city of Detroit programs will also be contributing. Rehabbed & Ready through the Detroit Land Bank Authority and Bridging Neighborhoods, which helps resettles residents affected by the Gordie Howe International Bridge construction, have rehabbed or committed to rehabbing an additional 15 homes.

The city has already built the Ella Fitzgerald Park and a 0.5-mile greenway connecting Marygrove College and the University of Detroit Mercy. And the Kresge Foundation has committed millions of dollars in grants and contributions to the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund to help development of McNichols Road, which borders Fitzgerald.

The city also provided another $400,000 grant to Fitz Forward for the next phase, bringing the total subsidies for rehabbing homes to $2 million.

All of this is part of a significant shift in expectations. “I wish we had been more conservative about the timelines,” Arthur Jemison, the city’s group executive for housing, planning and development, told the Free Press.

Jemison added that the lessons learned from Fitzgerald can be applied to other corridors in the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund.