Focus: HOPE representatives talk about their Kresge grant project to renovate the "LaSalle House" into a LEED Platinum house. Robin Buckson


Jerrell W. Harris is working to rebuild Detroit, far from the city's red-hot downtown, its bustling Midtown and its more popular neighborhoods.

Harris, a Detroit Revitalization Fellow at Wayne State University, is starting with a single house, a blighted two-family flat in the HOPE Village neighborhood on LaSalle on the city's west side.

Harris and others will spend the next four months transforming the boarded-up brick home into the first LEED Platinum rehabilitated home in the city of Detroit, with the goal of taking the house completely off the grid.

The renovated 2,400-square-foot house will be used as a community space, serving as an art gallery and meeting spot, and acting as a demonstration site that provides residents with access to green technologies.

It is one of 18 neighborhood projects the Kresge Foundation will announce on Wednesday that will receive a total of $1.6 million in grants in the Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit program.

In 2014, Kresge created a $5 million, three-year initiative to fund Detroit-based nonprofits in their efforts to strengthen neighborhoods across the city post-bankruptcy.

"We created the program because stability and revitalization across the entire city is vital for Detroit's transformation," Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson said. "Organizations and residents are partnering in every neighborhood to percolate new ideas and find creative solutions to transform their communities."

The Kresge grants are intended to help shovel-ready projects break ground and to seed idea-stage projects so that they can further materialize, Rapson said.

Harris, a manager with the HOPE Village Initiative, said the location of the project — one block from Focus: HOPE's main campus on Oakman Boulevard near Linwood — was intentional, to show local residents what's possible in their own neighborhood.

"When we looked at this project it was really important for us to say this is the Hope Village. We're not downtown. We're not Midtown. We're not one of the more popular neighborhoods," Harris said.

"But it makes sense to do this one house in this one neighborhood on this one street to show this can happen anywhere in the city of Detroit. We have this great opportunity to rebuild and redevelop way better than we were before. By showing residents how to make homes more energy efficient it improve their quality of life," he said.

The LaSalle house will receive a $150,000 grant. Inside residents will see cut outs of insulation, flooring, wiring and solar energy systems so they can see what's in use.

In addition to the renovation, the grant will support an analysis to determine the feasibility of transitioning portions of the neighborhood off the electric grid by transforming brownfield sites into solar-energy producing locations, Kresge officials said.

If successful, it could be a model for vacant land reuse that enhances the environmental sustainability of neighborhoods, Harris said.

Work will begin in May and the project should be complete by July with an open house for the community.

The Focus HOPE Village is 100 square blocks and has 6,000 residents. It's mostly low-income with a large elderly population and a strong housing stock.

"We see housing as one part giving community members a voice, empowering them to make it a place where people want to live work and play," said Ryan Dinkgrave, director of government, corporate and foundation relations for Focus: HOPE.

The neighborhood projects funded by Kresge span the seven Detroit City Council districts.

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