A new neighborhood track for the group behind the QLine

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The foundation that helped create the QLine is reinventing itself to focus on the people the QLine doesn’t reach.

The Hudson-Webber Foundation, which bankrolled the feasability study for the M-1 Rail system, will now look beyond downtown and Midtown to try to make sure the rest of the city shares in the recovery.

“It’s the same overarching goal — to ensure a strong quality of life in Detroit,” said Melanca Clark, president and CEO of the 78-year-old, $170 million foundation. “Our work in Midtown and downtown is by no means done. But the recovery isn’t going to be sustainable without attention to long-term residents.”

The new approach, she said, will center on four mission areas: community and economic development; built environment; arts and culture, and safe and just communities.

That’s a new spur from the old track it called the “15x15 Initiative,” designed to bring 15,000 young, college educated people into Detroit by 2015.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about inclusion and equity,” Clark said. “We’re looking forward to really thinking through, ‘What do we mean by that? How do we hold ourselves accountable and hold our partners accountable?’ ”

Early grants under the just-announced blueprint include $1 million to Develop Detroit to support affordable and mixed-income housing development, $1 million to Invest Detroit to make real estate investments in three targeted neighborhoods, and $150,000 to the Community Reinvestment Fund to increase access to home loans in neighborhoods.

Wayne State will receive $45,000 to support the Detroit Police Department’s violence-reduction Ceasefire program, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies will receive $20,000 for economic policy research into marginalized communities.

Hudson-Webber is “almost approaching this as an exercise in building blocks,” said Sonya Mays, president and CEO of Develop Detroit. “They said, ‘Let’s do some placemaking in the core. Now let’s see what that same strategy does outside the core.’”

Mays’ organization, in its second year, recently purchased a 53-unit senior citizen apartment building in Woodbridge.

The former owner could ultimately have converted the builing to pricy market-rate housing for the same people Hudson-Webber spent 15 years attracting to Detroit. Instead, with the foundation’s help, Develop Detroit will renovate the units while maintaining reasonable rents.

“It’s a people-driven strategy,” said Clark, who moved to Indian Village 14 months ago from Washington, D.C.

For Clark, “Midtown is easy to take for granted,” she said. “That’s where the bookstore is, and where we buy the kids’ clothes.”

The challenge is to make life in the other sectors of the city seem that comfortably routine.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn