Detroit council supports $125M revitalization plan

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously signed off on a $125 million bond program to revitalize neighborhood commercial corridors.

The enhancements for a couple dozen districts are part of a broader $317 million plan to improve 300 miles of roadway and replace 300,000 damaged sidewalks over the next five years.

Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. said the program puts the city on a path toward progress.

“It’s something that fulfills a huge gap that we have continued to put out in terms of our economic development programs for neighborhoods,” he told colleagues just prior to the vote.

Mayor Mike Duggan, who is running for a second term as Detroit’s mayor, unveiled the proposal this month.

Under the plan, about $80 million would go toward major infrastructure improvements along a couple dozen key city commercial districts, including Livernois-McNichols, West Vernor and East Warren. Upgrades would range from landscaping to bike lanes, improved on-street parking and wider sidewalks.

The city said the remaining $45 million in bond funds would be funneled toward an existing effort to improve city roads and broken sections of sidewalk.

“Thanks to City Council’s unanimous support of this program, neighborhoods across the city will be seeing significant investment and physical improvements,” Duggan said in a statement released Tuesday. “This is a great day for our city.”

The bond deal must now go to the Michigan Finance Authority for approval. The city expects the deal will close in mid-November.

City general fund dollars won’t be used to repay the bonds. The funding instead will come from increased revenues the city is receiving from its share of state gas taxes and vehicle registration fees not included in its current road improvement plan.

The state started this year gradually increasing the gas tax and registration fees as part of a road funding package passed in 2015 that will generate an estimated $1.2 billion annually for road fixes by 2021.

In addition to the $125 million in bonds, the city intends to spend another $193 million of budgeted city, state and federal dollars to improve major roads and residential streets and replace broken sidewalk sections.

Construction on the first corridor projects will begin next year. Road paving and sidewalk repairs also will begin next year and continue annually for five years.

State Sen. Coleman A. Young II, who is challenging Duggan in the Nov. 7 election, has criticized the mayor over his recent announcements on neighborhood and road investment projects. The two will debate Wednesday.

“Now all the sudden there’s a $100 million plan for neighborhoods and roads. Where was that three years ago?” Young told The Detroit News earlier this month.

The mayor, in recent days, countered Young’s statement, noting “it wasn’t like I started just last week on this.”

Duggan celebrated the bond fund approval after touting city improvements during a morning at the World Conference of Mayors at the MGM Grand Casino.

The mayor highlighted the Detroit Promise, which gives high school graduates access to free two- and four-year college degrees, as well as the council’s push to have a certain percentage of housing built with city funds be designated as affordable units.

He also admitted that the city has “a lot of challenges, a long way to go.”

James David Dickson contributed.