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Detroit wins national $4M grant for Fitzgerald project

Christine Ferretti, and Ian Thibodeau

Detroit — A $4 million grant is on its way to the city to support redevelopment efforts in northwest Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood, city officials said Thursday.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration said the mayor is expected to visit Philadelphia later Thursday for a formal announcement of the grant award to boost community revitalization connecting Marygrove College and the University of Detroit Mercy campuses. The effort, officials said, will be matched with an additional $4 million in local funding the city has raised.

Detroit is one of four cities in the country selected for the grant funding, provided through “Reimagining the Civic Commons.” The national initiative aims to counter trends of economic and social fragmentation and disinvestment in cities. Other recipients of the funding are Chicago, Akron and Memphis.

“Through the Civic Commons initiative, we hope to rekindle the sense of pride current residents should have living in a neighborhood adjacent to such wonderful institutions of higher learning,” said Maurice D. Cox, Detroit’s director of Planning and Development, in a Thursday statement.

In Detroit, the grant dollars and local match funding will be used to advance the Duggan administration’s 20-Minute Neighborhood plan. The initiative calls for investment in targeted communities to make housing, retail, recreation, transportation and educational centers more accessible, officials said.

The first neighborhood targeted in the program is the Fitzgerald neighborhood and the city’s Livernois-McNichols area.

The city’s Housing and Revitalization Department and Planning and Development Department in July said it was seeking developers to take on a two-phase revitalization project in the Fitzgerald neighborhood near McNichols and Livernois. Proposals were due in late August. Award notices are slated for Sept. 30.

The project sets out to renovate 100 vacant houses owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and turn 257 vacant lots into urban orchards, gardens and parks that the city’s Parks and Recreation Department would maintain. A greenway path through the neighborhood would connect the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, according to the plan.

The city has said it wants one development company to work on the housing and a separate company to work on the vacant lots, many of which were created by the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s recent demolition brigade.

The city’s request allows the housing developer to determine whether the 100 vacant houses are renovated to be for-sale or for-rent units, though the planning department “supports for-sale development proposals for all or a portion of the units,” according to the request for proposals. If the houses are for sale, the proposal “must include a marketing plan for successfully selling the units ...”

“Vacant lots turned into a park and greenway connecting Marygrove College and U of D Mercy complement our effort to rehab and reoccupy 100 vacant homes in the neighborhood, and help strengthen the entire fabric of the community,” Cox added.

The $4 million grant will contribute to the creation of a $30 million “Strategic Neighborhood Fund” the city is raising with Invest Detroit to cover revitalization work in three neighborhoods: Livernois/McNichols, West Village and Southwest Detroit.

Civic Commons is partnership between four national foundations — Kresge, John S. and James L. Knight, Rockefeller and JPB — as well as top planning and economic development officials, including Cox.

For more information, visit civiccommons.us.