Gordie Howe bridge awards $100K to eight community projects in Detroit, Canada

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Eight charitable organizations — four in Windsor and four in Detroit — will be awarded grants in July totaling $100,000 as part of investments being made in the communities closest to the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

It's the second round of funding provided through a Community Benefits Plan hashed out by project representatives and officials in Michigan and Canada which commits $100,000 annually to be evenly split between west Windsor's Sandwich Town and Detroit's Delray neighborhood through 2024.

The A pillar, right, of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on the Canadian side is seen between the cranes in front of the General Motors Co. world headquarters from Belanger Park, Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

The four Detroit awardees include: $25,000 for the First Latin American Baptist Church to create a community recreation center; $17,000 for the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation to establish bilingual programs for family assistance; $5,000 to Unity in Our Community TimeBank for outdoor events; and $3,000 to the Clark Park Coalition for its 2022 winter carnival.

Applications for funding were open November through January and stakeholds from the host communities identified 30 eligible applicants that were then vetted and selected by a coalition of 16 local community group members. Directors said the projects were selected to honor historic community roots and promote group activities through 2022.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge awards $100,000 split for eight projects in Detroit's Del Ray neighborhood and Canada's Sandwich community.

First Latin American Baptist Church began operating on Fort Street in 1967 but was demolished in 2018 due to the bridge project. The congregation relocated to a donated church, previously the Shiloh Freewill Baptist Church on Scotten Avenue.

"We were able to renovate the sanctuary, but our goal was to also have a gymnasium and recreational center like we had on Fort Street," said Pastor Kevin Casillas. "Because of COVID-related delays and increased costs, things got a little tight with the budget and these funds will help us complete that recreational center and actually open its doors this fall."

Casillas, who also teaches Spanish at Cass Technical High School and led the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, said the 4,600-square-foot space is necessary for indoor basketball, volleyball, community meetings and a space for events like quinceaneras.

"Ultimately, this helps us in our mission as a church," he added.

Michael Hatchell, CEO of Bridging North America, provided a construction update Tuesday, noting work has commenced on the main building on the Canadian Port of Entry. On the United State's Port of Entry, drainage work is ongoing "so we can build a foundation that won't crack since we want to be here for 100-plus years," he said. 

Towers on both sides of the bridge are starting to be placed 120-feet above the ground, "segment by segment," Hatchell said. 

Project director Michael Hatchell provides an update as the bridge's towers begin erecting 120-feet high.

The $4.4 billion bridge project is touted by officials as one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America.

Bryce Phillips, chief executive officer of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, said the project has met delays with workers on both sides of the bridge contracting COVID-19, but they aim to have the bridge operating by the end of 2024.

"I'm still very optimistic that we're delivering the project as expected," Phillips said. "We by and large are where we thought the project of this magnitude would be two to three years in. It's been a reasonable job given that we're in the middle of a pandemic."

► For subscribers: River Rouge sees view of new Howe span as fiscal cure

Officials will begin accepting a new round of community grant applications in November.

The next community meeting will be held virtually 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_