In the Media

Brainstorming at Packard

On Tuesday, Detroit Future City is hosting a session for the public to come and Think Big Thoughts on “opportunities for innovation in Detroit.”

And while we at Crain’s like to think big thoughts with the rest of them, we can’t lie that we’re most excited about the location: Packard Automotive Plant Building 22.

So it’s a legal excuse to visit the Packard Plant. Tuesday’s event will be held 6-8 p.m. A panel will discuss innovation, including Rufus Bartell, owner of Simply Casual; Lydia Guiterrez, co-founder and president of Hacienda Mexican Foods; William Jones, CEO of Focus: Hope; and Dan Kinkead, director of projects for DFC.

James Canning, spokesman, said the event seeks to engage people within their own communities and Future City’s planning framework.

Brainstorming at Packard
Crain’s Detroit Business Staff, May 31, 2015, Crain’s Detroit Business

In the Media

On Detroit’s East Side, Managing Vacant Land Takes Collaboration

The verdure of spring is on full display in Detroit — but so, too, are the challenges of maintaining open land in a fiscally challenged city where over 30 percent of all parcels are vacant. Overgrowth and illegal dumping are not atypical features of many of the city’s 100,000-plus vacant parcels.

In no section of the city are these challenges more evident than Detroit’s lower east side, a 16-square-mile area that stretches from downtown to the city limits, bounded by the Detroit River to the south and I-94 to the north.

“This area has the largest aggregation of vacant land and the largest aggregation of city-owned land of any in the city,” Jacqueline Bejma, executive director of nonprofit developer Land, Inc., told participants of the Center for Community Progress’s Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference this week, during a tour of green reuse projects on Detroit’s east side.

Fortunately, the lower east side is one of Detroit’s most organized areas when it comes to identifying opportunities presented by vacant land. The tour introduced participants to a variety of innovative pilot programs that are transforming these liabilities into community assets, from green infrastructure installations to agricultural sites.

Bejma’s organization is an arm of the Eastside Community Network (ECN), a 30-year-old nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life on Detroit’s east side. ECN was instrumental in the development of the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP), a community-driven project designed to engage residents and put vacant land and property back to productive use. To date, it is one of the most comprehensive plans for any area in the city and has laid the groundwork for the implementation of a variety of green infrastructure and blight mitigation projects.

LEAP launched at roughly the same time as Detroit Future City(DFC), an extra-governmental effort that produced a long-term citywide strategic framework in 2013. Since then, DFC’s implementation office has been busy getting partner organizations like LEAP to align with the framework, which prescribes various land use typologies for different parts of the city. It designates the majority of the lower east side for “innovative productive” and “innovative ecological” uses.

On Detroit’s East Side, Managing Vacant Land Takes Collaboration
Matthew Lewis, May 21 2015, Next City

In the Media

I can’t wait 50 years to live well in my Detroit neighborhood

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” —Mahatma Gandhi

This quote resonates deeply with me these days, because in my Detroit neighborhood, the change I wish to see seems so far away.

Imagining places that are clean, safe and vibrant threads my work as an urban planner and sustainability advocate. Yet, despite years of planning and designing these grand visions, my daily landscape doesn’t match the efforts. I know there’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting anxious.

I need to see action that signals clear progress toward a neighborhood where I can feel safe enough to walk and bike. And I refuse to believe this is too much to ask.

We must find more ways for residents of Detroit’s neighborhoods like the Airport District to become involved in the rebuilding process, says Khalil Ligon. We must find more ways for residents of Detroit’s neighborhoods like the Airport District to become involved in the rebuilding process, says Khalil Ligon.

To start, we need to better organize within our neighborhoods to make sure the things we want to see happen actually get done.

Of course, there are many things we can do as individuals right now — not litter, recycle, mow our lawns, creatively use vacant greenspaces, have block parties, and engage with our local police departments.

However, the long-term planning and larger real estate and infrastructure projects require a broader perspective and greater resources. As neighborhood residents, we must demand more input and organize in a way that positions us for dialogue with city leaders about development and restoration.

The Detroit Future City “Ideas for Innovation” series, which began last month, has sought to reconvene Detroiters around implementing its Strategic Framework. In the first session, which focused on “what makes a great city,” speakers with experience leading citywide planning efforts talked about their processes — what worked and what didn’t — and shared stories about the transformation their cities are experiencing.

I can’t wait 50 years to live well in my Detroit neighborhood
Khalil Ligon, May 7 2015, Michigan Radio