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Detroit — A long-awaited plan to revitalize Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood got going Tuesday with the groundbreaking of a neighborhood park to anchor a project that aims to renovate abandoned homes and beautify vacant lots.

The new 2.5-acre Ella Fitzgerald Park and nearby “HomeBase” community center are part of a massive project that city officials said will rehabilitate more than 100 homes, demolish more than a dozen others and transform about 200 vacant lots into greenways and gardens.

“Over the next year or two, if we execute this the way we’re planning, this will be a neighborhood that people around the country will want to stay,” Mayor Mike Duggan said during a news conference at the site of the future park on Prairie Street. “You can bring people back, you can bring a neighborhood back.”

The park and community center are part of the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project. The effort came together with suggestions from residents on what the neighborhood needs.

The event came with three weeks to go before the Nov. 7 election in which Duggan is seeking a second four-year term against state Sen. Coleman Young II.

The Fitzgerald project aligns with Detroit’s vision for “20-minute neighborhoods” to provide nearby residents with close, walkable access to grocery stores and other amenities.

The city this spring announced Century Partners and The Platform will oversee residential development within the Livernois-McNichols area that is home to about 600 families. The effort is funded in part with dollars from the Neighborhood Strategic Fund.

The park, a space formerly occupied by seven vacant homes, is expected to include a sports field and basketball court, walking trails, picnic tables and other amenities. Duggan said it should be completed by next summer.

Over the next two years, home renovations, demolitions and other parts of the project will be taking place, he added.

Along with the park, officials on Tuesday announced work will be getting underway on HomeBase, a new community center on McNichols. It will house the community steward organization Live6 Alliance. The Detroit Collaborative Design Center, a nonprofit architecture and urban design firm of the University of Detroit Mercy, will also be a tenant.

Live6 is a nonprofit planning and development organization launched by the private university and Kresge Foundation for the Livernois-McNichols area.

“The establishment of offices here will speed tangible neighborhood improvements, including bringing new life to this reviving commercial strip,” said University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine Garibaldi.

The facility will also serve as a shared space for city staff and community groups, officials said.

Kresge has committed $20 million over the next five years to the Liveronis-McNichols project to cover expenses for the park, community center, art projects and greenway development.

“You occasionally have to create some big bets,” Kresge President Rip Rapson told The News. “These are the kinds of bets that hold the potential to turn the city around.”

Prairie Block Club President Darnetta Banks said her group has been waiting for a safe place for neighborhood kids to play.

“Our children need some structure. This will be the start,” Banks said. “We matter in this neighborhood. A lot of us are still here because we chose to be here.”

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

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