Seven Detroit neighborhoods to get $35M boost for development

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit  — Seven neighborhoods will get a $35 million boost from seven companies to help kickstart redevelopment in areas of the city that residents say are often neglected.

Describing the effort as "historic commitments" to the neighborhoods, city officials announced Monday that the funding will be used to improve parks, streetscapes and commercial corridors as well as single-family and affordable housing over the next five years. 

The effort addresses a key political concern that the billions of investment reshaping “greater downtown” into a glitzy center is creating a separate, unequal rebound of Detroit.

Mayor Mike Duggan, left, seated with corporate and political leaders at a press conference announcing investments that will be made in several Detroit neighborhoods at the Artist Village in Detroit on Dec. 10, 2018.  The press conference announced $35 million corporate commitment to invested in seven Strategic Fund Neighborhoods.

The neighborhoods marked for funding are: Campau/Banglatown, East Warren/Cadieux, Grand River Northwest, Gratiot/Seven Mile, Jefferson Chalmers, Russell Woods/Nardin Park and Warrendale/Cody-Rouge.

“We’ve been waiting for these kinds of announcements for 25 years because that’s how long we’ve had empty storefronts, if not longer,” said Al Manfroni, chief financial officer of Detroit Blight Busters, a nonprofit that has helped get rid of hundreds of vacant structures as well as build new structures.

The initiative was announced Monday in the Old Redford neighborhood in a room packed with city residents who repeatedly cheered as Mayor Mike Duggan and corporate executives laid out the plan.

The program, which will be called the Strategic Neighborhood Fund 2.0, will also create more affordable housing as officials work to maintain the city for all income levels. The Detroit News reported earlier Monday that Detroit could lose as many as 10,000 affordable housing units in buildings with expiring low-income housing tax credits in the next five years, threatening massive displacement of renters.

Each of the companies involved in the neighborhood revitalization effort has committed $5 million: American Axle & Manufacturing, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chemical Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Flagstar Bank, Huntington Bank and Penske Corp. 

A few of the plans for various neighborhoods at a press conference announcing investments that will be made in several Detroit neighborhoods.

“We got to get back that feeling that people want to live in our neighborhoods,” said Alessandro DiNello, president and CEO of Flagstar, who grew up a few miles from the site of the press conference, which was at the Artists Village Detroit on Lahser Road.

“Without an inclusive, collaborative effort like this one, it probably isn’t going to happen. We are thrilled to be part of this."

The companies will donate $5 million, for a total of $35 million, over a five-year period. The hope is to eventually leverage another $70 million in private investment for a total of $105 million of new investment, Duggan said.

The investments will allow the city to create new parks and add amenities to existing ones as well as pave streets and sidewalks to "create walkable, beautiful streets that are attractive to businesses and pedestrians alike." Also targeted is the renovation and preservation of vacant houses to build up affordable housing.

Another goal is to help fund small businesses to set up shop in blighted storefronts along commercial corridors that have struggled for decades.

"Most of these are smaller storefronts," Duggan said. "It's going to be a mix of  shoe repair, coffee shops; the kind of thing you want to walk or ride your bike up to." 

The seven neighborhoods identified Monday join three other neighborhoods the city has already targeted for redevelopment. Those neighborhoods are Livernois/McNichols, Southwest/West Vernor and Islandview/Greater Villages.

“What’s important to us is in this neighborhood concept is to make sure we’re providing the first subsidize investment,” said Arthur Jemison, the city’s chief of services and infrastructure, in an interview last week.

That will hopefully lead to more private investment, he added. 

“We’ve also obviously seen Dan Gilbert and Quicken and his family of companies be real leaders in downtown," Jemison said. "What we haven’t seen is the medium and regional organizations, corporate organizations making big investment in the city.” 

Staff writer Candice Williams contributed.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN