Detroit neighborhood revitalization plan takes shape with youth input

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Taylin Hodges envisions a neighborhood where there are community spaces for children and teens and safer streets. That’s what she wants for her neighborhood in Cody Rouge on Detroit’s west side.

“I mostly just want a place where kids can grow and learn,” said Hodges, 18, a member of the Cody Rouge Youth Council. 

From left, Khadijah Harris, 18, and Taylin Hodges, 18, both of Detroit were part of the youth council that participated in the Warrendale Cody Rouge Framework plan. Photos were taken at Stein Playfield, where some improvements will be made, in Detroit on May 18, 2021.

Many changes are on the way for the Warrendale Cody Rouge neighborhood as the city plans to revitalize the area with recreational activities, business façade and streetscape improvements, and housing stabilization.

During a virtual meeting Wednesday, the city will present its Warrendale-Cody Rouge revitalization plan, resulting from more than a year and a half of input from teens like Hodges and other residents. Planned improvements to the area represent at least $7.4 million in public and philanthropic investment, according to the city.

The Cody Rouge and Warrendale neighborhood centers around Joy Road and Warren Avenue between Greenfield Road and Rouge Park. It's an area that has its mix of blighted areas as well as blocks of well-kept homes. 

The plan is part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, a city initiative revitalizing 10 areas with the help of philanthropic money. Huntington Bank in 2019 pledged $5 million to the area. Warrendale-Cody Rouge is the ninth neighborhood with framework plans completed, officials said.

Among the projects are façade improvements for businesses along West Warren beginning this fall, a mural program and streetscape improvements in 2022 that will reduce traffic space, said Matt Williams, planner with the city planning department.

The areas parks will also see improvements with Stein Playfield on West Chicago to receive a seating and stage area. Tireman-Minock Park is expected to become a neighborhood fitness-based facility and could include a walking track, baseball field, soccer field and picnic area.

Also on the way is an open air plaza on a section of city-owned land on at the corner of West Warren and Mettetal across the street from Papaya Fruit Market.

Most notable is the youth involvement in the project, said Katy Trudeau, acting director of the city's planning department. Since planning kicked off in 2019, a group of teens with the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance's Cody Rouge Youth Council met regularly, interviewed city officials and provided their input on the plan.

According to the city, the Cody Rouge and Warrendale neighborhoods collectively have 12,000 children, the second-highest in the city, following Southwest Detroit.

“I think one of the things that was interesting in working directly with teenagers as well as with adults in the neighborhood was that the youth frequently had almost the exact same concerns as adults might around blight, traffic safety, having recreational assets in the neighborhoods," Trudeau said. "That was something that I think was really interesting to see was just how aligned the youth were. They weren’t necessarily prompted by adults in the community. These were really organic interactions that the planning department had with the youth council.”

Trudeau said she’d like to replicate the model in other neighborhoods.

“A lot of the youth we’re interacting with are necessarily driving around the neighborhood,” she said. “They go to school in the neighborhood, so they're often on foot in a way that adults might not normally be.”

Williams said the city will pilot its slow street network program that will include street signage, street humps and protected bike lanes on Tireman and Chicago. Since 2019, the city has installed speed humps and will continue to do so, Williams said.

“Why this matters for our youth is that they told us time and again that they have problems getting around the neighborhood because they can’t cross Joy Road, or they can’t cross Tireman or there are no bike lanes or people drive too fast, and their parents won’t let them cross the road,” he said.

Hodges said she's pleased with the installation of speed humps.

"Speeding is a huge problem in this part of the neighborhood,” she said. “I feel like we definitely could use a lot of different street safety methods.”

Evergreen Block Club president Shirley Rankin spends a lot of time weeding and planting in the Evergreen Block Club Garden in Detroit.

Shirley Rankin, a resident in Warrendale, has lived in the area for about 10 years. She said she’d like to see help for seniors who need their homes repaired, youth programming, and beautification in the neighborhood. Rankin, a community leader in various organizations created the Evergreen Block Club & Garden at the corner of Evergreen and Sawyer.

“I’d like to see the youth programs for the children, things to do and be active,” she said. “We’re looking to one day have a large community center and for it to be active.”

Eric Dietz, president of Huntington’s southeast Michigan region, said the bank has participated in the neighborhood with family-friendly events and help with a community garden. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank hasn't been able to do a lot of the volunteer work it wanted to do.

“We probably can’t do everything to help the neighborhoods, but we can pick one and we can make a difference in one neighborhood is how we view this,” he said.

Sandy Pierce, senior executive vice president, private bank and regional banking director, and chair of Michigan section for Huntington Bank, said she's appreciative the bank was asked to participate in the fund. 

“We’re so grateful that we get to see the impact for future generations that the future generation gets to create,” she said.

On Tuesday at Stein Playfield, Hodges said she’s looking forward to seeing some of the ideas from the youth coming to fruition.

“Whenever I used to look around and see different things being made, I used to think it’s up to the city, the community doesn’t have a decision most of the time, but knowing I have a chance to make an impact, especially as young as I am, it’s awesome," she said. "It’s really amazing.”

The presentation will be 6- 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Those interested in attending virtually can do so via Zoom at https://cityofdetroit.zoom.us/j/88397449191 or by phone at 312-626-6799. The meeting ID is 883 9744 9191.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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