We dropped by the Detroit Future City’s implementation office to chat with Ken Cockrel Jr., the executive director, about the think tank’s proposed 50-year framework of ideas and some of the criticism the group has faced. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Metro Times: What’s Detroit Future City’s relationship with the mayor and his administration?
Ken Cockrel Jr.: Yeah. So, we are not a governmental agency or a city agency. We do, however, and we have been asked on some occasions to actually give input or strategic advice on some of the ideas and concepts that the city has. We also meet on a regular basis with the mayor’s office towards that end. [Tom Lewand, Group Executive for Jobs and Economic Growth, of the mayor’s office] has a weekly meeting that he does every week that I typically go to and now also our director of the project, Dan Kinkead, goes to those meetings as well. So, I think the administration is still figuring out and assessing the best way to move the framework forward because they’re in kind of a unique position since this is really something that was created by a previous mayor (Dave Bing). So it’s not something that their fingerprints were on, they just kind of inherited it. At the same time, as they’ve gone through it and looked at it, they kind of recognize that there might be a value in implementing a number of these recommendations. A lot of meetings that we have are really kind of with that in mind. Taking a page-by-page look at it and assessing what recommendations make sense that they might want to kind of implement.
Face Time: Ken Cockrel Jr. responds to Detroit Future City’s criticisms
Ryan Felton, December 24, 2014, Metro Times
Jill Washburn looks at the rebirth of Detroit through the eyes of various organizations who are forging the future.
Watch the Segment 4 interview with Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. here.
Street Beat: Detroit Future City, M-1 Rail, And The New District Detroit
Jill Washburn, December 19, 2014, Street Beat CW 50
Allandra Bulger and Michael Forsyth know what it means to hustle.
Both are part of the Detroit Revitalization Fellows, a two-year leadership program of Wayne State University that matches mid-career urban professionals with partner organizations in the city.
Forsyth is a member of the inaugural cohort, which began in 2011. Bulger is in the second group of fellows, which began in 2013. The next cohort of urban leaders will begin its two-year fellowship period next summer.
While the work Forsyth and Bulger do inside the program has been impressive, it is outside the formal boundaries of the fellowship that the two have used skills for what we call “the Detroit hustle.”
Those skills will come in handy in sustaining projects, artistic and entrepreneurial, long after their tenure as fellows is over. Forsyth is a partner in the Detroit City Distillery, which opened in Eastern Market at end of this summer. Bulger does her hustle as a writer, rapper, and emcee. She is part of the Detroit hip hop community and involved with an emerging group of women artists in the scene.
The Detroit hustle: When love for the city goes beyond the 9-to-5
Walter Wasacz, December 16, 2014, Model D
Softening an international reputation as the home of urban ruin porn, the campaign to rid Detroit of blighted eyesores is at last showing results, with the city demolishing about 200 vacant houses a week, four times the level of a year or so ago.
The city believes it can sustain a rate of 200 demolitions a week. At that pace, it could soon be tearing down as many as 10,000 structures a year. Much of the work has been concentrated in about 20 neighborhoods considered the city’s tipping points — places such as Marygrove and Bagley on the west side that have enough homeowners and assets that blight removal would have an immediate, positive effect.
“The idea is to strengthen the strong neighborhoods,” said Kevin Simowski, director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which holds, maintains and sells property taken by the city from tax foreclosures.
The land bank has filed close to 1,200 lawsuits this year against owners of nuisance properties, so far winning judgments or consent agreements in more than 500 cases. And sales of city-owned side lots to neighbors, which used to take at least six months, are now completed in less than an hour, with 85 selling last weekend in a fair sponsored by the city.
Paula and Douglas Rogers, who live in southwest Detroit, just bought their fifth side lot in several years, paying $100 to the land bank. All the lots they’ve purchased are adjacent to their house and all became vacant after the houses were demolished. The Rogerses plant trees there and otherwise keep them up.
Detroit’s blight-removal campaign ramps up
John Gallagher, December 14, 2014, Detroit Free Press
December is an interesting time of reflection as I prepare to conclude my first year as Executive Director of the DFC Implementation Office.
I joined the DFC Implementation Office in January, after serving four terms as a member of the Detroit City Council. I served Detroit during some of the most interesting years in the City’s history. Since assuming the reins at the DFC Implementation Office, I’m constantly running into people who tell me that I look much more relaxed. My reply is usually that looks are deceiving. I am just as busy today, as I was during my time on City Council, working to help transform the City of Detroit. I’m thrilled to be working with a dedicated team of professionals who are fully committed to an agenda of positive transformation and growth for the city of Detroit and, most importantly, for the people who live here. Our portfolio of work is diverse and includes initiatives that fulfill five strategic priorities emanating from the DFC Strategic Framework: Employing more Detroiters, Policy and Regulatory Reform, Strategic Renewal of City Systems, Neighborhood Stabilization, and an Open Space Network.
One notable project this year was our Blight Bootcamp. Held in June, this event drew over 300 Detroiters who came to hear best practices and share insight on how to eliminate blight at a block-by-block level.
Consistent with this theme, the DFC Implementation Office concluded its Partial Deconstruction Pilot initiative. This initiative targeted 10 homes in the Springwells Village neighborhood of Southwest Detroit to test deconstruction practices that offer an alternative to the complete demolition of blighted structures. Goals of this project were to show how partial deconstruction can create jobs, reduce soil and air pollution, and create a secondary market for materials reclaimed from deconstructed buildings.
READ THE FULL E-NEWSLETTER HERE
After activating 52 pilot initiatives in 2014, the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office has solidified its position as the team local leaders call-on to help strategically coordinate actions and inform decisions for catalyzing the transformation of Detroit.
“It’s been an extremely productive year that gives us plenty to build upon in 2015,” said Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., Executive Director, DFC Implementation Office. “We successfully advanced projects and coordinated with millions of dollars in investment by providing resources, expertise and counsel to our partners, engaging the community around critical matters such as blight remediation, and piloting innovative initiatives to develop best practices for the future of the city.”
The DFC Implementation Office worked in partnership with 93 different agencies from federal, state and local government, civic groups, philanthropic foundations and education entities on piloting initiatives aligned with its Implementation Priorities — Employ more Detroiters, Fulfill Policy and Regulatory Reform, Renew City Systems, Stabilize Neighborhoods and Transform Vacant Land.
Detroit Future City Implementation Office Activates 52 Pilot Initiatives
AJ Williams, December 8, 2014, Michigan Chronicle
Officials have decided to delay unveiling proposals for the redesign of downtown Detroit’s aging I-375 freeway until early next year.
The Detroit Downtown Development Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation were going to reveal options and seek public feedback on Monday, but canceled the meeting Friday.
In a news release they said the delay was needed to “allow the technical committee additional time to consider input from stakeholders.”
That committee, composed of representatives from the DDDA, MDOT, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit Future City, the Federal Highway Administration, the city of Detroit and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, has been studying plans for more than a year.
It is considering options that include rebuilding the main line, turning it into a boulevard or connecting it to the riverfront with bike and pedestrian lanes. The freeway, slightly longer than a mile, is considered a major gateway into downtown and is close to the Eastern Market, Greektown, the stadiums, the East Riverfront and the Convention Center.
Robert Morosi, a spokesman for MDOT, said I-375 needs to be rebuilt.
“The overpasses are in poor condition and the pavement has seen some resurfacing efforts, but essentially it needs to be rebuilt,” Morosi said. “We targeted the price at about $80 million. The freeway is a little over a mile long and is below street level. We wanted to ensure that before we started any preliminary engineering, we wanted to ensure that what we built would last 40 to 50 years and would fit into the vision of the city.”
I-375 project delayed, to be announced next year
Leonard N. Fleming and Tom Greenwood, December 5, 2014, The Detroit News
Friends of the Rouge will host its annual membership meeting and dinner Dec. 9 at Glen Oaks Country Club in Farmington Hills.
Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and a special program.
The business meeting will begin at 7:20 p.m.
Reservations are currently being accepted and all are welcome to attend.
Dinner reservations are available for $35 per FOTR member, $40 per non-member and $300 for a reserved table for six people.
Guests may select from chicken, vegan or vegetarian entrée options.
Pre-registration is required. Online reservations may be made via the annual meeting page at therouge.org.
The evening will feature FOTR’s first-ever green infrastructure panel discussion with local leaders who will field questions about local and regional green infrastructure efforts and best practices for homeowners.
The guests include moderator Kenneth Cockrel Jr., executive director of Detroit Future City; panelist Jennifer Lawson, water quality manager for the city of Ann Arbor; panelist Amy Mangus, manager of Plan Implementation Group for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments; panelist Noel Mullett, technical projects coordinator for the Wayne County Department of Public Services’ Water Quality Management Division; and panelist Jim Nash, water resources commissioner for Oakland County.
Friends of the Rouge to host green infrastructure panel discussion
November 26, 2014, Press and Guide
DFC Implementation Office Convener Chris Dorle, who is also a Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, had the opportunity to take a self-directed study tour of Germany in October. The goal of the study tour was to research Germany’s best practices in sustainability and the adaptive reuse of vacant industrial property. In crisscrossing the country by rail and rad (German for bike), he was able to glean information and actions that can be used in Detroit, including:
Renewables provide more than clean energy and can be a potential local revenue source for former industrial cities. At the Local Renewables Conference in Freiburg, Dorle joined energy policy experts from across the European Union and the world to discuss the lessons of Germany’s Energiewende, renewable energy transition. Renewables are not only increasingly competitive as a means of powering cities and regions – thank Germany’s $140 billion investment for setting prices on the path to grid parity – but through new financial partnerships such as crowdfunding, they hold enormous potential as a means of generating local revenue for cash-strapped cities and residents alike.
Industrial heritage can form the basis for creating cultural destinations. The former industrial capital of Germany, the Ruhrgebiet has transformed itself and its former coalmines and blast furnaces into a European cultural center. The “Route of Industrial Culture” links these landmarks into an interconnected greenway system, with signs pointing the way for cyclists to visit sites such as Zollverein, the iconic former coal mine turned UNESCO world heritage site and museum, Gasometer Oberhausen, a former natural gas storage facility turned world-class art museum, and Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, a former iron works turned outdoor adventure destination with climbing walls, rope courses, and Europe’s largest diving tank.
Musical history can be leveraged as a differentiator. The former East German city of Leipzig has branded itself as a world city of music by establishing a “Trail of Notes”, a musical tour of 23 preserved and restored sites famous for their connection to composers to such as Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner, and Mahler. By elevating its musical history, Leipzig has increased its appeal as a destination, differentiating itself from its neighbors including nearby Berlin.
With U.S. Judge Steven Rhodes’ acceptance of the stakeholder-approved plan of adjustment, our community will be the subject of every manner of intellectual, legal, political, and social discussion over the coming weeks. And we should welcome that.
We have spent a year in profound struggle. About the legitimacy of non-elected decision-making. About the relative rights of creditors of every conceivable stripe. About the inviolability of our obligations to former city employees, who dedicated their careers to public service. About the need to steward our cultural heritage. About the “feasibility” of Kevyn Orr’s blueprint for improving public services, remediating blight and rebuilding the tax base.
It’s time now to step back and take stock of the lessons we’ve learned. This is to our benefit and all those interested in the economic future of countless communities that find themselves in circumstances not so different from our own.
Previously on Detroit Rises: Reggie Turner: Let’s find a common ground on education
The bankruptcy has been, at root, about whether Detroit can and will put in place the building blocks necessary for its revitalization. It has been about whether the region can follow a trajectory that will once again propel Detroit to its rightful place as one of America’s great cities.
This desire to move forward with the business of rebuilding a shared future was the essential reason those of us in the philanthropic community contributed, along with the state of Michigan, the pensioners, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, to the grand bargain.
We had to do everything in our power to make sure that the harm pensioners felt would be kept to an absolute minimum. We couldn’t stand by while proposals ricocheted through the bankruptcy trial to strip the assets of one of our community’s treasures.
With those objectives accomplished to the best of our abilities, we must now resume with redoubled passion and skill the efforts underway to realize a healthy, united future.
That is our foundation’s focus. We will continue to seek out, support, and work with partners locally and from across the country — nonprofit, public, private and philanthropic. We want to help foster long-term economic opportunity that advances social equity, promotes cultural expression, and re-establishes our hometown as the center of a vibrant region.
We will offer our assistance to Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and the City Council as they seek ways to retool city services to improve safety, remediate blight, turn the lights on, pick up the trash, get the buses running on time, and attend to countless other challenges of fixing basic municipal functions.
We will continue our partnerships with the private sector to ensure M-1 Rail’s success as the first leg of a regional transportation system. M-1’s streetcars promise to draw markets back into our city center and into our neighborhoods. All along the route, it will encourage the kind of small business activities that will help diversify our economy and create new jobs.
We will work with neighborhood residents, community-based organizations, and the Detroit Future City office to ensure that we are investing in our neighborhoods, whether through the creative re-purposing of blighted land, the strengthening of places that anchor a community’s identity and build social cohesion, the incorporation of art into a neighborhood’s daily life, or the development of new preschool development opportunities.
Rapson: Detroit is on track for a positive future
Rip Rapson, November 12, 2014, The Detroit News