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American Axle to fund $5M in small business subsidies in Campau/Banglatown

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Mayor Mike Duggan, left, and David C. Dauch, AAM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer talk to reporters on Friday, May 10, 2019.

Detroit — American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. will fund $5 million to support subsidies for small businesses to open up shop in the neighborhood bordering Hamtramck to the north.

The investment announced Friday by the company and city of Detroit is part of a previously announced $35 million commitment to the city's Strategic Neighborhood Fund by seven companies led by Chemical Bank chairman Gary Torgow to extend the revitalization of Detroit's downtown and Midtown into the neighborhoods. American Axle's contribution to the neighborhood fund and Affordable Housing Leverage Fund will support the Campau/Banglatown neighborhood that includes East Davison Village.

"I jumped at the chance to help with the rebirth and revitalization of the Detroit neighborhoods because that's how this city gets fixed," David Dauch, CEO of the automotive supplier with headquarters bordering the neighborhood, said during a news conference at Davison Elementary School. "It's by fixing our neighborhoods where each and every one of us live, where we work, where we go to school and where we play."

Campau/Banglatown is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city with the fourth most utility hookups in the city of Detroit behind downtown, Midtown and Corktown, Mayor Mike Duggan said.

"But if you really want a vibrant, walkable community, you've got to get the businesses to come back," he said.

Small businesses will be able to approach nonprofit Invest Detroit to acquire subsidies so that it becomes economically feasible for them to open shop in the Campau/Banglatown neighborhood with the hope that it will attract interest from others who eventually will not need a financial incentive.

"This is what Detroit has been waiting for," Duggan said. "Before, business only wanted to go into downtown and Midtown. Now they want to go into the neighborhoods, and we're speeding that up."

The mayor pointed to his time at Detroit Medical Center when the hospital partnered with Midtown Detroit Inc. to subsidize the opening of a Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. shop. Other businesses soon followed.

A rendering of a revamped building at 12449 Conant St. shows the possibility for rehabilitation and new construction.

The city previously revealed the plans it developed with residents for the neighborhood to the community in March. A road bond is funding $1.6 million in improvements to streetscapes along Conant Street.

Housing appropriations are turning the former Greater Detroit Hospital into a 50-unit affordable housing complex, and the former Transfiguration Catholic school on Syracuse Street will undergo a $6.4 million renovation to house 19 residential units. Updates to Jayne Field are in the works, as well.

"It's the residents saying we want a resident, community-prioritized plan," District 3 Councilman Scott Benson said. "And this is what we've got."

Derreck Sturgis, 64, who has lived in East Davison Village for most of his life, said he hopes the commitments will bring residents together and return the neighborhood to the thriving community it was in the 1960s that he remembers as a child.

"There's a lot of spark and hope left on Davison Avenue," Sturgis said.

Last week, Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp announced its $5 million commitment to the Gratiot/Seven Mile neighborhood as a part of the second leg of the philanthropically supported Strategic Neighborhood Fund. Troy-based Flagstar Bancorp Inc. is supporting the Old Redford neighborhood.

More corporate partnerships with neighborhoods will be announced in the coming weeks, Duggan said. The first segment of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund focused on Livernois/McNichols, Southwest/West Vernor and Islandview/Greater Villages.

American Axle's commitment follows the news that Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving technology unit Waymo LLC will move into American Axle's Detroit headquarters campus to outfit vehicles with its autonomous hardware and software.

"We're very excited that they're going to be a part of our Detroit campus," Dauch said. "All we wanted to do was bring technology and innovation to the city of Detroit as we continue the rebirth and revitalization of the city."