In the Media

Can Duggan change history of failed master plans?

Now that Detroit has emerged from Chapter 9 bankruptcy, said good-bye to emergency manager Kevyn Orr and seen elected leaders Mayor Mike Duggan and the City Council returned to power, a palpable sense of hope, or at least optimism, has returned to the Motor City.

People are talking up plans for M1-Rail, plans for blight removal, plans for new housing, a new hockey arena, a new bridge.

There is even talk of — dare I say it? — a new Master Plan.

Mere mention of that term may send shudders down the spines of folks who recall a series of master plans that were ignored, ineffectual or never completed during the 60 years of economic decline that culminated in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

The one I remember best was delivered in 1985, just as the city struggled to recover from the last severe recession of the 20th Century.

Coleman Young was mayor, Corinne Gilb was Detroit’s planning director and Joe Stroud, a genteel son of Arkansas, was the esteemed longtime editorial page editor of the Free Press.

Here’s what the usually gracious Joe, who retired in 1998 and died in 2002, wrote on July 28, 1985 about that master plan:

“I don’t mean to be unduly charitable, but it is a piece of garbage. It is incoherent. It fails to offer an intelligible implementation strategy. It does little to set priorities.

“It tries to be all things to all people and winds up being not much of anything for anyone.

“Its strategy for economic development is, in essence, a ritualistic and underdeveloped incantation to the great god High Tech. One cannot possibly imagine Coleman Young and Emmett Moten, the mayor’s development guru, sitting down with this plan and coming up with a strategy that offers real hope of putting block upon block until the city’s economic foundations are put back in solid condition.”

Whew. Joe’s fears, of course, were fully realized.

I sincerely hope I do not ever find myself feeling the same way about whatever Detroit’s current leaders decide upon as the next blueprint for the city’s revival. But the path to a coherent plan is littered with pressures and dangerous temptations to satisfy a disparate and often vocal set of constituencies.

Some of the key players in pending discussions about Detroit’s economic game plan include Duggan; his group executive for jobs and economy Tom Lewand; new planning director Maurice Cox; Detroit Economic Growth Corp. CEO Rodrick Miller; Detroit Future City executive director Ken Cockrel Jr.; and Carol O’Cleireacain, deputy mayor for economic policy.

Can Duggan change history of failed master plans?
Tom Walsh, February 26, 2015, Detroit Free Press

In the Media

Chandler Park to rise again with $20M makeover

A group of longtime and former Detroit residents has formed the Chandler Park Conservancy to oversee a $20-million transformation of the nearly 100-year-old, 200-acre east-side park that will include new football and soccer fields, tennis courts and the state’s first urban conservation school for K-12 students.

“The entire park will be a living lab for ecology and conservation,” said Maggie DeSantis, president and CEO of the East Side Community Network, formerly the Warren-Conner Development Coalition, which is facilitating the project for the conservancy. Nearly half the money is in hand, including the funding for the school and fields. The conservancy continues to raise the rest.

“We want students at the school to be able to learn about the environment through the park, whether it’s wetlands, certain kinds of trees, flower gardens or food gardens,” she said. “The campus will deal with infrastructure installations that everybody understands since the flooding last August.”

That massive flooding, which caused an estimated $1.1 billion in cleanup and repair costs, left hundreds of Detroiters with flooded basements, sewers and yards. The disaster cast a light on the need for legions of conservation and environmental workers in our community and made clear that the antiquated Detroit water system that manages storm water could use some help from additional management systems.

The Chandler conservancy emerged last year from the Chandler Park Promise Coalition, which had worked nearly a decade to overcome a failed Salvation Army pledge. (Photo: Kimberly Mitchell/Detroit Free Press)
DeSantis said the school will be a regional campus, eventually accommodating 800 students who will run the park’s storm water management and irrigation system through tree canopies, rain gardens and other methods. Their work will save the city money and train future employees who can help do the same for other parks, she said.

Besides the school and athletic fields, which are slated to open in September 2016, the plans call for community gardens and updates to the historic comfort station.

All serve to complement the Wayne County Family Aquatic Center, the city’s only water park, which continues to operate on the grounds and is loved by local parents like Lisa Vosburg, a sign language interpreter and mother of four who goes to the park with a group of about 26 neighbors several times a month.

“It’s awesome. It’s an absolutely beautiful place,” she said, adding that the aquatic center “is just as nice as what we have in Grosse Pointe Park. It’s super clean, and the lifeguards were incredible.”

Vosburg, 36, said that she and her husband, Brian Vosburg, an urban planner, lived in Detroit for 10 years, but finally had to move to find good schools. She said that had the school planned on the Chandler Park grounds happened sooner, they might have stayed.

“My children are 11, 9 years old and one just turned 6,” she said. “That would have been an absolute game-changer for us four years ago because that was one of our biggest reasons to move.”

As the city’s landscape changes, dictated by various plans and community groups and city government, the conservancy made sure that its plans mesh with those of the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP) and the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework.

Chandler Park to rise again with $20M makeover
Rochelle Riley, February 16, 2015, Detroit Free Press


January/February E-Newsletter: DFC Implementation Office’s 2015 Outlook

2014 was a pivotal year for the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office. Through the support of our funders and community partners, we announced our two-year priorities, opened our bricks-and-mortar office in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood, activated about 50 initiatives, and engaged the community in several collaborative information and resource-sharing events. If you didn’t have a chance to see our 2014 yearend report, click here.

As the DFC Implementation Office looks to 2015, our primary goal is to continue catalyzing innovation and participation in Detroit’s transformation.

We look to build on our momentum through a strong focus on cultivating partnerships, driving impactful, collaborative and enterprising initiatives, defining an agenda for decision making, providing thought leadership, and ensuring equity and opportunity.

In addition to our 50-some initiatives, the DFC Implementation Office has two signature programs it is introducing this spring that demonstrate our 2015 focus.