On eve of historic convention, Fain assumes UAW leadership with daunting to-do list

Corktown 'wish list': Neighborhood investment, affordable housing fund

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
A neighborhood advisory council involved in helping shape the footprint for Ford Motor Co.’s Corktown campus in Detroit gave the automaker a “wish list” from residents, including multimillion-dollar investments in affordable housing, job training and boosts to local businesses. (Max Ortiz, The Detroit News)

A neighborhood advisory council involved in helping shape the footprint for Ford Motor Co.’s Corktown campus in Detroit gave the automaker a “wish list” from residents, including multimillion-dollar investments in affordable housing, job training and boosts to local businesses.

The proposed community benefit agreement, detailed during an advisory council meeting Monday in Detroit, was drawn from input during meetings, emails and communication with the nine-member panel.

Based on that feedback, the members compiled a list of “asks” for the development. They include:

•A $5 million investment in the city’s strategic neighborhood fund, along with a program to subsidize property tax payments for longtime homeowners; single-family home repair and small-business façade improvement grant initiatives; and creating a bird habitat

•A $5 million investment in an affordable housing leverage fund

•Establishing a scholarship program for "impact zone" students and adults near the Ford development as well as a local “hiring hall”

•Starting a $12 million community-controlled fund through which renters, homeowners and business leaders can seek financial help

•An agreement with Ford through which the automaker communicates its mobility experiments in the neighborhood and offers opportunities for feedback and first access to pilot programs designed at its campus

The company plans to relocate 5,000 people to a planned 1.2 million square-foot Corktown campus by by 2022.

"We’ve made a very serious effort to put together a set of ideas for consideration embedded in the notion that the people who live in this impact area should have access to the resources to make sure everyone can stay as long as they want," advisory council member Sheila Cockrel said during a meeting Monday. 

The automaker is reviewing the list and will respond at another advisory meeting next week, said Rich Bardelli, program manager at Ford Land, the automaker's real estate arm.

"Our expectation is to take quite a bit of time to go through each line, give it its due diligence," he told the council.

The wish list isn't final and could change before a Community Benefits Ordinance is finalized in the coming weeks, Cockrel said.

The advisory group, which includes residents in the project's impact zone, has been working to develop a report for the City Council before final approval.

It is involved since the Corktown project falls under the Community Benefits Ordinance that Detroit voters approved in November 2016 that targets developments worth at least $75 million, if the development receives $1 million or more in property tax abatement or $1 million or more in value of city property sale or transfer.

Ford recently said it wouldspend as much as $740 million on the company’s planned 1.2 million-square-foot Corktown campus, including Michigan Central Depot. The company plans to relocate 5,000 people by 2022.

The Dearborn automaker also seeks $104 million in tax breaks from the city as part of the $250 million over 34 years through local, state, federal tax incentives that the company has said it will seek to offset the cost of the Corktown project.

Asked about the need for the tax breaks Monday, a Ford representative said in a statement: "... These types of incentives have been applied to comparable projects recently completed or currently underway in the city, without incentives this project is not economically feasible. The request for incentives would support the 1.2 million sq. ft. of the project development, including Ford’s rehabilitation of the Michigan Central Station, as well four other structures purchased in the neighborhood. We are hopeful that Detroit officials will approve the incentive package this fall so that work can begin on initial rehabilitation to protect the train station before winter."

With such a large project, some residents who attended Monday's meeting were disappointed that not all of their concerns appeared to be addressed in the proposed agreement.

"I don’t see half of them here," said Rebecca Bradley, who lives in Corktown.

Cockrel acknowledged the difficulty in distilling many comments into the proposal.

"It’s not going to reflect every single idea that every person put in. There’s an editing responsibility that being a member of the (neighborhood advisory council) requires," she said. "So not everything’s going to be here, but Ford will be aware … of everything that was put forward."

Others welcomed the council's work in gaining community input.

"They sincerely listened to the community," said Debra Walker, another Corktown resident. "It was tough, if not impossible, to include what everyone wanted. There are a lot of good ideas and options."

Meanwhile, the city is working to create a strategic framework for the Greater Corktown neighborhood. A framework plan is a written document that details short-term implementation plans and long-term goals for a neighborhood's development.

A consultant was to be selected before Sept. 30 and meetings are scheduled to start by Oct. 30. A planning study takes place over nine to 10 months, with a final framework available in August 2019.

The community input for the Corktown project dovetails with the city's overall goals for the area, said Arthur Jemison, Detroit’s chief of services and infrastructure.

"It’s important the community came together and enunciated what they wanted," he said. "These are important things this process is identifying."