In the Media

Friends of the Rouge to host green infrastructure panel discussion

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

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 Studies Adaptive Re-use Best Practices in Germany

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.

In the Media

Rapson: Detroit is on track for a positive future

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

In the Media

Detroit Exits Bankruptcy—What’s Next for this City’s Nonprofits and Foundations?

Now that Detroit has “emerged” from bankruptcy with a deal with creditors, what next? For nonprofits and foundations, the challenges have not abated. In reality, while Detroit may have reached an agreement with creditors and pensioners to deal with the bankruptcy court, the city is still deeply troubled, with social and economic problems that remain immense impediments to a municipal revival that benefits all the citizens of Detroit, particularly its legion of poverty-stricken families who may not see themselves as beneficiaries of such highly touted elements of Detroit’s renaissance as Dan Gilbert’s acquisition of much of Downtown or the private investment focusing on the Midtown area.

Getting something done for the neighborhoods

Poor Detroiters. They have been the recipients, or perhaps the victims, of decades of plans of great promise but stunning underperfomance. These initiatives were always pitched as the answers that Detroit desperately needed, always pitched as grassroots and inclusive, and so often wrought with action that fell far short of what Detroit needed to pivot toward progress. Examples include the Clinton-era Empowerment Zone, specially designated for Detroit in 1994 (Detroit’s EZ application was ironically called “Jumpstart for the Motor City”), the Obama administration’s selection of Detroit as one of the seven pilot cities in the Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) program, and other government initiatives plus a variety of nonprofit and philanthropic efforts—including the targeting of the Lower Woodward Corridor as one of the four sites of the Ford Foundation’s Neighborhood and Family Initiative, and the Warren Connor Development Coalition as the focus for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Rebuilding Communities Initiative. Then, there are more recent (and, in some instances, ongoing) efforts like Habitat for Humanity’s “ReBuild Detroit” initiative, the Woodward Corridor Initiative associated with the Living Cities “Integration Initiative” (an “eds and meds” strategy), and the Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods/Good Schools program. Notwithstanding the fine leaders from these programs who bring a surfeit of expertise to Detroit today—especially Tonya Allen, who led Casey’s RCI program and now oversees Skillman, Vincent Tilford, who leads Habitat in Detroit and previously headed the Detroit program of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and Maggie DeSantis, the longtime head of the Warren/Connor Development Corporation—these Detroit initiatives have not been the answer to the city’s deep structural needs.

Now, the bankruptcy-emerged Detroit has the Detroit Future City plan on its plate. It would be easy at this point to find shortcomings and pitfalls in the DFC framework and contemplate new versions of a plan for Detroit’s revitalization. No offense to the propensity of so many to generate new plans and, worse, new studies discussing the lessons learned from various community initiatives, but this is the time to take action, to put money behind the various parts of the plan that benefit Detroit’s legacy residents, and rebalance the focus from Downtown (and the eds-and-meds Midtown) to the neighborhoods. In his statement after the bankruptcy ruling, Kresge CEO Rip Rapson suggested several points of milestones for building Detroit that he says are already “readily apparent,” including, “Neighborhood organizations…accessing private funding to pursue their aspirations and meet the enduring challenges their communities face” and “A strong platform for community decision-making [that] is strengthening the city’s existing assets and transforming its liabilities, particularly abandoned and blighted properties.”

Detroit Exits Bankruptcy—What’s Next for this City’s Nonprofits and Foundations?
Rick Cohen, November 10, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly

In the Media

A Model in Detroit’s Post-bankruptcy Plan

Over the past century, Detroit has served as a world-class model in two areas: manufacturing (cars) and music (Motown). Now add a third: How to emerge from a municipal bankruptcy with amazing speed, cooperation, and hope.

On Friday, a federal court approved a plan for the city that represents a well-negotiated sacrifice by various stakeholders combined with pledges of substantial investment by private and public bodies. The plan erases $7 billion in debt and will provide $1.7 billion in new money. It took only 15 months to negotiate and may prevent years of litigation and stalemate.

“We give the city back with the fresh start and second chance the city needs,” Judge Steven Rhodes said.

The plan’s lesson for other troubled cities lies in its “grand bargain,” which ties together the interests of several philanthropic foundations, municipal workers, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The big charities will give millions to help save the museum’s valuable art collection, and that money will help save most of the pensions of city workers. Benefactors of the museum also made large contributions. This part of the deal, said Judge Rhodes, “borders on the miraculous.”

In addition, the insurers of the city’s bonds will be given a financial stake in a few of Detroit’s money-making operations, such as a public arena, a traffic tunnel, and public garages. If all parts of the plan hold together, Detroit might live up to its new motto as “America’s great comeback city.”

The negotiations required finding a common vision among many institutions to overcome their differences. That effort was aided by a new spirit of community among the city’s nearly 680,000 residents, as seen in the efforts of groups like Detroit Future City and Arise Detroit! In addition, the federal government, the state of Michigan, and Detroit’s surround municipalities also added financial support.

A model in Detroit’s post-bankruptcy plan
Christian Science Monitor Editorial Board, November 9, 2014, Yahoo News!

In the Media

Neighborhoods Summit seeks to bust blight, improve city

Ralph Hall likens Detroit’s struggles with blight to the need for dental work.

Blight has “run the city down,” he said today during a break in the fifth annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Rising Summit.

“(Blight) is like bad teeth … not a good smile,” said the 55-year-old east-side resident. “Detroit needs some good dentists.”

Hall was one of more than 100 people at the Wayne County Community College District’s downtown campus today for the summit and said he would attend a workshop focused on fighting blight.

Before the beginning of a dozen workshops, which focused on everything from entrepreneurship to developing strategies to fight crime, Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit!, told the crowd that the narrative about Detroit is changing and the national buzz about the city and its neighborhoods has grown. He noted that national media outlets have been in contact with him in recent months about changes in the city.

“That’s all because all of you have created a tremendous buzz about Detroit,” he said, noting that people love a comeback story.

Kenneth Cockrel Jr., former mayor and executive director of Detroit Future City, also spoke to the group, talking about the importance of neighborhoods as well as the plan his organization is working to implement to remake Detroit. The group is promoting a blueprint for the city’s future dealing with everything from green space to transportation.

“Neighborhoods are the fabric that binds our city together,” he said. “Detroit will not move forward unless we have strong neighborhoods here that are thriving.”

Cockrel said his group will be creating a vacant lot transformation guide to show how to maximize the value of vacant lots, turning what have long been considered detrimental to Detroit into assets.

He also answered some questions, noting the value to the city of urban agriculture and farming. Cockrel said the city has a chance to lead in this area.

Neighborhoods Summit seeks to bust blight, improve city
Eric D. Lawrence, November 1, 2014, Detroit Free Press