A Few of Detroit Future City’s Favorite Things in 2015

This has been a very big year for the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office.  We’ve advanced some of our most impactful and transformative work, begun our transition to non-profit status, and identified our new executive director.  We can’t wait to get into 2016 to continue our work, but before we do, we thought we’d take a moment – in the spirit of the season – to outline a few of our favorite things from 2015.

None of these would be possible without the dedication of our partners and funders.  In all we do, our goal is to serve the city’s transformation and help improve quality of life for Detroiters by providing strategic insight, building capacity, offering technical assistance, and spearheading innovation and impact.   We trust you will recognize these attributes in a few of our favorite things from 2015:

Releasing the DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots

The DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots was released this fall. It’s a user-friendly tool offering Detroiters step-by-step processes, ongoing support, and resources to transform vacant land into community assets.
Click here to visit the online Field Guide tool, or feel free to stop by our office for a copy of the workbook. Copies are also available for reference at all Detroit Public Library branches.


In the Media

Former DFC team member becomes executive director of the Detroit land bank authority

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Board has named Carrie Lewand-Monroe as executive director. Lewand-Monroe previously served as director of policy at Detroit Future City.  She also served as director of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority under Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Click here to read the full article in the Detroit Free Press.


Building a Community of Rehabbers to Support Revitalization

The DFC Implementation Office is partnering with the Center for Community Progress for the RemakeBreak Webinar on December 17, 2015 at noon. The RemakeBreak is a free, monthly, Michigan-focused, lunchtime webinar series that will focus on Building a Community of Rehabbers to Support Revitalization in order to connect you to the research, ideas, and success stories that will inform your work on problem properties and community development.

Click here for more information and to register.

In the Media

In last decade, metro Detroit communities take big steps to address regional problems

Debbie Schutt has seen plenty of missed opportunities in her 40-plus years as a community planner in metro Detroit.

“Being a planner during my era was, for a lot of reasons, very frustrating. Not investing in the maintenance of the infrastructure, continuing to build at the expense of maintaining the infrastructure — it just wasn’t a sustainable model.”

But Schutt, who is retiring this year after a career that has spanned stints as executive director of the multi-jurisdictional Woodward Avenue Action Association, planning supervisor at Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services and in private practice, says she’s seen a change in recent years.

“I was part of the era that saw the downtowns empty out. Whether it was a small village or Royal Oak or Detroit,” she says. “Now I’m witnessing them fill back up. It’s like we’ve come to our senses.”

Schutt points to 2004 as a pivotal year for regional cooperation.

Debbie Schutt”There were two nonprofits that spanned Woodward Avenue; the Woodward Heritage Organization in Wayne County and the Woodward Avenue Action Association in Oakland County,” says Schutt. City-suburb squabbles, she says, had prevented the two organizations from cooperating in any meaningful way.

But in 2004, Federal Highway Administration funds became available for economic development programs along major road corridors with historic and scenic significance. The catch: to get the money, the two nonprofits had to cooperate. So they merged, becoming one unified Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) that stretches 27 miles from the foot of Woodward at Jefferson Avenue in Detroit all the way to the Loop in Pontiac.

“It took away the city/suburb, us/them [dynamic],” she says. “Everyone was focusing on the same issue. It took years, but the barriers started coming down.”

In the years since the merger, the WA3 has served as an example of what’s possible when local governments look beyond borders toward common goals, says Schutt. The nonprofit has helped set a regional vision for the entire Woodward corridor featuring historical markers, wayfinding, and complete streets.

INFOGRAPHIC: Regionalism in metro Detroit 1850-2015, an abbreviated timeline

“We can work together to make things stronger,” says Schutt. “Very few municipalities supply all needs for an individual, whether it’s educational or work or shopping. We’re a mobile society, and we’re all in this together.”

Getting beyond regional rancor

Metro Detroit has a long and storied history of intra-regional antagonism. We are very aware of our borders. Many have penned worthy treatises on the subject (see here, here, here and here). Suffice it to say that failures in leadership, racial divisiveness, and Michigan’s home-rule form of government have conspired to create strong disincentives for playing nice across county and municipal lines, let alone across 8 Mile Road.

And that’s been a major hindrance to the economic and social success of the region, according to Conan Smith, executive director of Metro Matters, a nonprofit advocating for regional cooperation. Formerly named the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, the organization was rebranded this year to recognize that solving regional problems requires more than just the action of suburban local governments, but also the city of Detroit, businesses, and institutions.

“The challenges that our cities face are regional, not local,” says Smith. Conan Smith, executive director of Metro Matters

For example, when it comes to economic development, Smith says that a unified approach would prove more successful than what he sees as the parochial approach currently taken by governments across the region.

“There needs to be a stronger, more deliberate partnership between government economic development agencies,” he says. “The Detroit Regional Chamber is a great leader, but they face a cultural, structural barrier. When we look globally at how regions are framing themselves for the rest of the world, I don’t think just Oakland County as an attractant is going to be as successful and compelling as all of metro Detroit.”

A regional renaissance: Major milestones 2008-2015

Since the economic crisis of 2008, many seeds of regional cooperation have been planted. As Detroit emerges from bankruptcy and the region recovers from the Great Recession, it remains to be seen how well they will grow. Here’s a shortlist of some of the big moments in recent years where metro Detroit’s communities have come together:

2008: The Detroit Zoo Millage – In 2008, voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county approved a 10-year property tax millage to help support operations at the independent, nonprofit Detroit Zoo. The millage expires in 2017, and the Zoo is already looking to gauge support for renewal, according to the Detroit News.

2009: Cobo Center Authority – In 2009, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority was formed to operate Cobo Convention and Exhibition Center, which hosts the Detroit International Auto Show and other major conferences and conventions, representing a major step toward regional cooperation. The facility is governed by a five-member board including representatives from the state of Michigan, the city of Detroit, and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

2012: The Detroit Institute of Arts Millage – In 2012, voters in three counties approved a ten-year millage to fund the Detroit Institute of Arts following steep declines in funding from the state of Michigan and city of Detroit. In return, the DIA entered into service agreements with county arts authorities in Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties that includes free admission to the facility for all residents.

2012: Regional Transit Authority – In 2012, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan was created by the Michigan Legislature. It is the first successful attempt to create a regional transit agency after 23 failed prior attempts since 1970. The RTA is governed by a 10-member board appointed by the county executives of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, and the mayor of Detroit.

2014: Great Lakes Water Authority – A product of Detroit’s bankruptcy, the Great Lakes Water Authority incorporated in 2014 as a mechanism to deal with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s debt and to “operate, control and improve both the Water Supply and Sewage Disposal Systems owned by the City and presently operated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (‘DWSD’),” according to the Memorandum of Understanding. The members include the city of Detroit, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.  The authority will lease the DWSD for 40 years from the city and will become autonomous on Jan. 1, 2016, according to its website. It has no power to tax and must adhere to annual revenue — not rate — caps set forth in the MOU.

Toward common interest: race, class, and the city-suburb divide

In spite of the major regional milestones accomplished in the last decade, issues of race and class linger in the region and continue to hold it back, according to Dan Kinkead, director of initiatives at Detroit Future City, a nonprofit dedicated to implementing a 50-year strategic vision for the city of Detroit.

Click here to read the full article in metromode.


Reminder! DFC’s Field Guide to Working with Lots Mini-grant Applications is due Monday, Dec. 21 at Noon.

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Field Guide to Working with Lots is a tool that provides step-by-step instruction to support Detroiters in transforming vacant land in order to create cleaner, safer and more attractive neighborhoods.

The Field Guide mini-grant program is offering Detroit residents, community groups and businesses grants up to $5,000 to utilize the Field Guide to implement land stewardship activities in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Click here for more information, to apply for a mini-grant and to sign up for a 1 on 1 consultation with the DFC Implementation Office.


Keep Growing Detroit offers Community Gardening Program to Detroiters

The DFC Implementation Office partners with Keep Growing Detroit, an organization that promotes a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables Detroiters consume are grown by residents within the city’s limits, to share information about the Urban Roots Community Garden Training Program.

The Urban Roots Community Gardening Training Program is a 9-week hands-on course designed to teach community leaders core community organizing and horticulture skills. The course emphasizes organic methods and is designed for gardens that are producing food. Urban Roots is open to residents of Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck who demonstrate involvement and/or interest in community gardening in those cities.

Click here to learn more about Keep Growing Detroit.

Click here to download the full application. Applications are due January 15th.

In the Media

Layers of government inhibit the regional cooperation we need

There are a handful of things we in Michigan are proud of and value about ourselves and our state.  We work hard. We make things. We love our Great Lakes and outdoors.  We are proud of our education institutions and what they represent.

We want to be proud again of our Michigan communities as great places to live, work and raise a family. In order to get there, however, we have a big problem that must first be fixed. Many of our communities, particularly our older core cities and suburbs, are literally falling apart, with no way to pay for their rebuilding.

Detroit Future City’s final “Ideas for Innovation” community conversation focused on regional approaches to moving Detroit and Southeast Michigan forward. Besides complex racial dynamics, one of the major barriers to much-needed regional cooperation — not just in the Detroit area, but all across our state — is the way our cities and towns are funded.

Layers of government inhibit the regional cooperation we need

John Austin. November 25, 2015. Michigan Radio

Press Release

Apply for up to $5,000 to improve a vacant lot in Detroit!

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Field Guide to Working with Lots is a tool that provides step-by-step instruction to support Detroiters in transforming vacant land in order to create cleaner, safer and more attractive neighborhoods.

The Field Guide mini-grant program encourages Detroit residents, community groups and businesses to utilize the Field Guide to implement land stewardship activities in Detroit’s neighborhoods. This December, the DFC Implementation Office will award 15 grants for a maximum amount of $5,000 per applicant.

Click here for the mini-grant application.

In the Media

Detroit Future City Names New Executive Director

Anika Goss-Foster has been named the new executive director of Detroit Future City, as the organization becomes an independent, non-profit entity. The organization It coordinates strategies, actions, and resources to catalyze long-term revitalization for the City of Detroit.

Goss-Foster, a Detroit native, has more than 15 years of leadership in national and local roles in community development and non-profit management. She was chosen after an extensive nationwide search.

Click here to read the full article in Dbusiness Magazine.

Press Release

Anika Goss-Foster Tapped to Lead Detroit Future City As it Becomes an Independent Non-profit

Detroit – The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office announced, today, that Anika Goss-Foster will serve as its next executive director, leading the organization as it becomes an independent, non-profit entity. Goss-Foster will begin in this role on Jan. 4, 2016, after more than 15 years of leadership in national and local roles in community development and non-profit management.

Goss-Foster, a Detroit native and resident, was chosen after an extensive nationwide search, which began in June of this year. Dr. George Swan III, who has served as chair of the DFC Implementation Office’s transition management committee (TMC), which led the executive search, said, “Anika was the clear leader in an impressive pool of candidates from across the US.

“With deep roots in Detroit, expertise in community development, and proven non-profit leadership, she is extremely well-qualified for this role. We are thrilled to have Anika lead Detroit Future City into this important next phase for the organization,” said Swan.

Goss-Foster has worked at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for 15 years. In her most recent post as vice president of the Midwest region, she provided strategic and technical support for seven LISC offices in cities across the Midwest that are engaged in resident-led, comprehensive community development. Prior to this role, Goss-Foster served as vice president of sustainable communities, where she supported 16 local offices’ efforts to implement comprehensive community development strategies as part of LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities program.

Her experience in Detroit began with LISC as well, where she served as the organization’s Detroit program director. She was noted for several major achievements while in this position, including managing a $40 million community development campaign, and designing and leading the campaign for the city’s first Land Bank Authority. Goss-Foster has also worked for the City of Detroit as its director of philanthropic affairs and executive director of the Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative which launched initiatives in six neighborhoods to improve city services and attract philanthropic investment.

“Leading the DFC Implementation Office provides an exciting opportunity to translate my experience and expertise into an effort that is providing long-term, sustainable, and transformational impact in the City of Detroit,” said Goss-Foster. “We are at an important moment where we can work to further our position as the connecting force that aligns stakeholders around the recommendations in the Strategic Framework.”

In addition to Swan, the TMC that led the executive search includes Jed Howbert, Mayor Duggan’s Office of Jobs and Economic Development; Rod Miller, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; James Ribbron, a Detroit citizen; Alice Thompson, Black Family Development Inc.; and Laura Trudeau, The Kresge Foundation.
As the DFC Implementation Office transitions to an independent non-profit, the TMC is finalizing the governance of the organization, including the nomination of its new board, which will be in place in January 2016.
Dan Kinkead, who has served the DFC Implementation Office in a leadership capacity since its inception in May 2013, will continue to lead innovative programs and projects as director of initiatives. The DFC Implementation Office has a nine-person team working to advance the recommendations set forth in the DFC Strategic Framework.
Swan said, “Dan and the DFC Implementation Office staff have advanced some of our most impactful and innovative work to-date. They’ve established the organization as a pivotal partner on numerous initiatives, and a nationally and internationally recognized thought leader. With our leadership team in place and a strong board coming in to offer strategic direction, the DFC Implementation Office is well-positioned to enhance and expand the great work it has achieved towards the city’s transformation.”
Major initiatives completed this year include a DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots, a print and online tool that offers instructions for Detroiters to transform vacant land into beneficial landscapes; and Ideas for Innovation, a six-part speaker series that engaged local and nation thought leaders and Detroiters in conversations on several key focus areas of the DFC Strategic Framework. In addition to these signature programs, the DFC Implementation Office has been engaged in more than a dozen other impactful initiatives this year to revitalize Detroit.

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About Detroit Future City
The DFC Implementation Office was formed to advance the recommendations of the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework Plan. It coordinates strategies, actions and resources to catalyze long-term revitalization of Detroit and adds research and implementation capacity to the work of contributing partners and stakeholders. For more information visit www.DetroitFutureCity.com.