Detroit to invest $45M in renovating, reopening 12 rec centers

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Doors of the former Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center on Detroit's northwest side have fogged with dust since its closure in 2019, but community leaders hope that promised renovations will be the heart of revitalizing a dilapidated part of District 7.

By 2024, the city of Detroit plans to reopen the vacant building and invest $8.5 million in its renovation for an indoor sports facility, community rooms and kitchen space for events and classes.

It's one of a dozen recreation centers in the city that are slated for renovations, expansions and reopenings with a total spending of $45 million, city officials announced outside of Dexter-Elmhurst Thursday. 

Helen Moore, longtime community advocate, said when the center was forced to close, it had many building violations with only $900 in the treasury and no grants left. 

"This certainly is the place that people came not only when they're in trouble, but when they are in need of food, in need of recreation, and when they need the spirit of God to direct them in the right path," Moore said. "If you lived in this community, and you know what this community has gone through, you will rejoice with us that this is happening."

By 2024, the city of Detroit plans to reopen the vacant Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center and invest $8.5 million in its renovation for an indoor sports facility, community rooms and kitchen space for events and classes.

The spending includes $30 million from the city's share of American Rescue Plan Act funds, $10 million in city bond funds and $5 million from businessman and entrepreneur Roger Penske. 

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In all, eight existing recreation centers will undergo renovations including Adams Butzel, Chandler Park, Coleman Young, Dexter-Elmhurst, Farwell, Heilmann, Patton Rec Center and the State Fair Band Shell. Another three, Butzel Family, Clemente and Crowell are currently under construction to open in April. Lastly, Lenox community center is undergoing a $5 million rebuild in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood with the Penske donation.

The announcement comes after Mayor Mike Duggan announced the improvements in his ninth State of the City address last week stating that since the 1980s, Detroit closed 20 recreation centers, leaving children and seniors with fewer options. In most recent years, the city has renovated and reopened the Kemeny Center in southwest, partnered with Detroit Free Press columnist  Mitch Albom and Los Angeles Rams Matthew Stafford to renovate the Lipke Center on the west side.

“In the past eight years, we’ve completely renovated more than 150 parks, giving children and families across the city the opportunity for a quality place to play near their homes,” Duggan said in a statement after the event. “Now we are shifting our attention to our aging recreation centers to make sure they, too, are of the quality you would see available in any suburban community.”

Dexter-Elmhurst is undergoing an environmental study. It will seek a bid for a design and bring it to the City Council for approval this summer. Construction is slated to begin spring 2023.

"This center is unique was one owned by the community and as you can imagine, it is difficult to find funding," said District 7 Councilman Fred Durhal III. "It goes untold that Dexter Avenue was once a mecca for minority businesses. I grew up here. This is my neighborhood. To see this, as we work to make changes to the area around it, I am very hopeful for our community, very hopeful for our residents and excited for what is yet to come."

On the rebuilding of Lenox, the city hopes to create a new solar-powered center that will double as a hub for residents experiencing power outages.

The $6.68 million reconstruction will be outside of the area’s floodplain and will include community rooms, multipurpose room for sporting activities and a kitchen for family events and classes.

"We're going to bring back bring programs here that focuses on our core areas, enrichment programs, nature programs, athletics, and focusing on critical needs as well," said Keith Flournoy, deputy director of Detroit Parks and Recreation. "As we get closer to opening up, we're gonna be looking for support from the community."

A full list of projects completed, underway or planned include:

$30 million in ARPA-funded improvements

  • Dexter-Elmhurst Rec Center, which is vacant and closed
    Details: City plans to purchase the community building this year and fully renovate it, as well as staff and operate it as a new city recreation center
    Timeline: Out for bid for design services this summer. Construction starts in spring 2023 and will cost $8.5 million
  • Chandler Park, currently an outdoor sports field
    Details: City plans to install a new indoor center and full-size dome-covered football field
    Timeline: Out for bid for design services. Construction is expected to start summer 2023 and will cost $12 million.
  • Farwell, open and operating
    Details: Expansion to include new gymnasium, lockers and walking path.
    Timeline: Out for design services. Construction is expected to start spring 2023 and cost $4 million.
  • State Fair Band Shell, open and operating
    Details: Historic amphitheater will be relocated to Palmer Park
    Timeline: Construction is expected in 2022 and will cost $3 million

$10M city bond-funded improvements

  • Adams Butzel, open and operating
    Details: Full renovation including roof replacement, HVAC upgrades, pool and locker room improvements
    Timeline: Already completed in 2021 and cost $4.2 million.
  • Coleman Young, under construction
    Details: interior renovations, updates, and improvements to lobby, entry way, restrooms and kitchen.
    Timeline: Summer 2022 and will cost $1.5 million.
  • Butzel Family, under construction
    Details: interior and exterior updates
    Timeline: April and will cost $1.5 million.
  • Heilmann, open and operating
    Details: Renovation to the lobby, restrooms and kitchen
    Timeline: Opened in March 2022 and cost $1.2 million
  • Patton Rec Center, open and operating
    Details: Renovation including pool and gymnasium improvements, HVAC upgrades and renovated dance room
    Timeline: opened in 2021 and cost $900,000
  • Crowell, under construction
    Details: Renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen and landscaping
    Timeline: April and will cost $828,000
  • Clemente, under construction
    Details: Renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen and landscaping
    Timeline: April and will cost $750,000
  • Lenox, $5 million donation to complete rebuild this abandoned recreation center in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. Unknown timeline.

The city is also spent $500,000 to completely renovate mini-libraries at 11 city recreation centers that was completed October.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_