DFC June E-newsletter: New Urban Places Collaboration Continues, Blight Bootcamp in July and Ideas for Innovation

DFC’s “New Urban Places” Collaboration in its 11th Month 

The DFC Implementation Office, community+public arts: Detroit (CPAD), The Greening of Detroit, and community residents are 11 months into their two year ‘New Urban Places’ collaboration to transform vacant and underutilized spaces in four Detroit neighborhoods into public arts projects with a substantial green infrastructure component that address unique community needs as identified through monthly meetings.

CPAD facilitated visual brainstorming activities, discussions of neighborhood challenges and opportunities, and presented artwork from a roster of local artists. The community heard how the citywide DFC Strategic Framework’s data, strategies and actions could help inform their projects at a neighborhood scale, and how they could be neighborhood leaders of implementing the Framework. The Greening of Detroit has brought their expertise in urban planting, gardening and community engagement to the project development so the green infrastructure can help the land ‘work’ for the neighborhoods.

The residents in each community have selected by popular vote the artists that would best fulfill their vision, and are assisting them further in developing the projects and deciding where it should be sited within the community.


In the Media

With each new idea, momentum builds in Detroit

Innovation is at the center of Detroit’s inclusive recovery. Yet this word “innovation” is used so often that its meaning tends to get a little obscured.
Rather than the narrow definition of technological advancement, the meaning of innovation we should use in Detroit is about doing things differently, redefining our future, and challenging ourselves to move beyond business as usual.

Innovation in this way is not an objective in itself – it’s not a new product, for example – rather it is a collection of new means and methods by which Detroiters can help to create substantial and sustainable change.

Innovation in Detroit can be seen operating at two levels. The first is through effective concepts, policies, and resources that will:

  • Increase employment and residential density through focused, equitable growth.
  • Stabilize neighborhoods by supporting residents and their ideas, and ensuring the amenities and city services we need to thrive.
  • Transform existing land and building vacancies into an integrated network capable of yielding new approaches to food, energy, recreation, and urban ecology that are unseen in other cities.

The second level of Detroit innovation is through specific projects and initiatives advanced by Detroiters to demonstrate how these approaches can, in their sum total, guide Detroit toward a future that maximizes the city’s strengths, most notably its people, while also delivering improvements in quality of life for everyone.

With each new idea, momentum builds in Detroit
Dan Kinkead. June 18, 2015. Michigan Radio

Press Release

Week of events will promote a more livable Detroit

Beginning June 22, Detroit will host Gil Penalosa (photo above), an internationally renowned livable city adviser who is passionate about creating vibrant and healthy communities.

Gil—whose mantra is “Every city should have a law of two words: Pedestrians First!”—founded 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit dedicated to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places.

Many community partners, including Knight Foundation, are joining the conversation and hosting events. Others include Jefferson East, Inc., theWayne State University Office of Economic Development, City of DetroitGeneral Services Department, Grosse Pointe War Memorial, Detroit Future City, Community Development Advocates of Detroit and more.

Gil’s work dovetails with our efforts here at Knight Foundation to make cities like Detroit better places to live. To do that, we invest in civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. Designing places to achieve these goals is crucial to city success. Come hear how we can do that in Detroit. There are multiple opportunities the week of June 22 to see and hear from Gil and 8 80 Cities.

Week of events will promote a more livable Detroit
Katy Locker. 6.16.15. Knight Foundation

Press Release

Gil Penalosa to Keynote Detroit Future City ‘s Workshops on “Strengthening City Neighborhoods” Thursday, June 25

Detroit Future City is participating in “Move Detroit” – an immersion week of workshops, discussions and activities – by hosting its third Ideas for Innovation event “Strengthening the City’s Neighborhoods”. The celebrated founder of 8 80 Cities, Gil Penalosa will kick-off the event with a presentation on moving ideas to action and then the attendees will be able to participate one of three workshops.

Thursday, June 25, 2015
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Northwest Activities Center
18100 Meyers Road, Detroit MI 48235

Bringing Back the People! Animating Your Public Space
Focus:Equip participants with tools to animate public spaces through low-cost, high impact community projects that boost community engagement
Workshop Leaders: Representatives from 8 80 Cities

How to Connect a Safe Route to School Neighborhood Walking Audit
Focus: Learn how to conduct Safe Routes to School Walking Audit to gather data on conditions around their local school as in important tool to improve student safety.
Workshop Leaders: Representatives from Michigan Fitness Foundation, Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, Detroit Public Schools and WSU Center for Urban Studies – Americorps Urban Safety Project

Resourcing Your Idea
Focus: Tools for thinking creatively about how to resource the planning or implementation of your idea.
Workshop Leaders: Representatives from Michigan Community Resources, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit Soup and Osborn Neighborhood Alliance

“Ideas for Innovation” was established to provide a platform for collaboration and discussion on Detroit’s future. Strengthening the City’s Neighborhoods is the third in a six part series  funded by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The  first two were attended by 500 people and centered on Ideas for Innovation and What Makes Great Cities.


Press Release

Detroit Future City to Become Independent Non-profit An Exciting Step in its Evolution

The DFC Implementation Office announced it will launch its next phase by making the transition to an independent non-profit organization governed by a board of directors. A new transition management committee made up of members of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office Steering Committee and headed by Dr. George W. Swan III will oversee the process over the next four to six months.

“This is an exciting next step in the evolution of Detroit Future City. Since the launch of the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework Plan in early 2013, the DFC implementation office has overseen efforts to activate the strategies within that framework and successfully coordinated collaborations around pilot projects to jump start its implementation,” said Swan. “Several factors lead us to take this step: the positive launch of the office, the City’s emergence from bankruptcy, and the Mayor’s vision to grow and rebuild. Now is clearly the right time for DFC to become an independent, non-profit organization to sustain and increase its momentum.”

Since its inception, DFC has operated as a sponsored project of Detroit Economic Growth Association (DEGA), an affiliate of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). Rodrick T. Miller, president and CEO of DEGC said, “The work of Detroit Future City is very important to the long-term economic success of the city, and we are proud of DEGC’s part in supporting the original research and incubating the implementation office as it has launched innovative pilot projects. We expect to continue to work closely with DFC as one of our key partners in redeveloping Detroit.”

DFC’s independence brings multiple benefits, including a broader base of constituents, closer ties to the community, and its own board of directors specifically charged with governing, guiding and supporting DFC. This board will help shape the future direction and decision-making of DFC to ensure its most meaningful positive impact on the city’s revitalization.

Rip Rapson, president and CEO, The Kresge Foundation, the lead funder of Detroit Future City to date, said, “The original structure allowed the DFC team to work in an ‘incubator’ setting, which works well for a startup organization. We always hoped it would grow the capacity to stand on its own, and we are pleased that it has reached that stage. To continue its innovative work the new structure will create better opportunities to involve more partners and broaden its outreach in the community. In light of this important step, we are pleased to announce that our Board of Trustees has approved a $1.2 million grant to continue funding DFC’s operations and important programs during this transition.”

Swan added, “Detroit Future City is unique in the way it has integrated technical recommendations from experts in economic development and land use with local knowledge and engaged leadership. This is an opportunity to sustain the important work that has been done because it makes DFC a community-based organization rather than a program of another agency.”

As part of the transition, Ken Cockrel, Jr. will leave his position as executive director at the end of June, and the organization will conduct a national search to fill this critical leadership role.

“Ken has done an excellent job of guiding the DFC team as it advanced the recommendations of the strategic framework. He moved this project from a comprehensive report into an office of energetic people eager to implement the pilot projects,” said Swan.

During the transition, the transition management committee will conduct a search for a permanent executive director, recruit directors for a new board and decide on the appropriate non-profit classification for the organization. Dan Kinkead, currently the innovation director, will serve as the acting director of DFC during the search for a new executive director. DFC’s current and new projects will continue during the transition.

The transition management committee includes Jed Howbert, executive director, jobs and the economy, city of Detroit; Alice G. Thompson, CEO, Black Family Development; Laura Trudeau, managing director, community development/Detroit, The Kresge Foundation, as well as Miller and Swan.

About Detroit Future City

The Detroit Future City Strategic Framework is a highly detailed, long-term guide that articulates a shared vision for Detroit’s future and recommends specific actions for reaching that future. The DFC Implementation Office is the steward of the Framework, and coordinates actions and resources to achieve five priorities: employ more Detroiters; fulfil regulatory reform; renew city systems strategically and innovatively; stabilize neighborhoods; and transform vacant land into an innovative open space network. Detroit Future City receives support from the Kresge Foundation, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and works in collaboration with the city of Detroit.

Media Contact
Bob Rossbach

In the Media

Detroit Future City stresses need for neighborhoods, new minds in city’s comeback

It’s the mantra of naysayers and Detroit cheerleaders alike: without fixing the neighborhoods, the city will never actually comeback.

While rampant development, redevelopment, business deals and rising rent costs keep the pulse of the greater downtown pumping, there has yet to be a steady spill over into apparent dead zones in the city.

Detroit Future City is trying to fill the gaps between downtown and other pockets of population on the outskirts of the city.

The group Tuesday night hosted an event inside Detroit’s recently-purchased Packard Plant on the east side as part of a six-part series of talks on innovation in the city.

After a complex 347-page Detroit Future City urban planning document was released in 2013, the group in 2014 introduced a new office and new webpage, listing dozens of pilot projects taking place across the city as officials work to shift the effort from extensive planning to widespread implementation.

Now, they’re taking to community to “delve deeper into the core tenets of what is needed for the city’s transformation.”

Dan Kinkead, director of projects with the DFC Implementation Office, Tuesday said the events frame what innovation might mean for residents of Detroit, specifically those living outside of downtown.

Kinkead and other speakers pointed to the need for an entrepreneurial spirit on a number of different levels.

According to Kinkead, fixing Detroit “isn’t business as usual.”



Detroit Future City stresses need for neighborhoods, new minds in city’s comeback
Ian Thibodeau, June 3, 2015, MLive