DFC August E-Newsletter: DFC Welcomes New Team Member, Support for HUD grant and Field Guide Set for September

DFC Implementation Office Welcomes Shari Williams to the Shari Williams is a Detroit Revitalization Fellow serving as the Neighborhoods and Operations Program Manager at DFC. Shari comes to DFC with extensive community development experience. Prior to becoming a part of the team, Shari spent the last four years working for Focus:HOPE where in her most recent role as Family and Community Partnerships Manager she developed relationships between parents, the community, and administration, while also cultivating parent leadership and managing the parent engagement fund. We are excited for Shari to contribute her strong knowledge of community development to the team.

Learn more about Shari here.

DFC’s HUD Resilience Technical Assistance and its Impact on Detroit’s The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office was proud to support the City of Detroit being granted $9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Mayor Duggan’s announcement of this groundbreaking initiative happened on August 7 alongside HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Councilmember Gabe Leland. Here’s a story that appeared in the Detroit News about HUD’s investment in Detroit’s infrastructure.

The critical need for these funds was sparked in August 2014, when tens of thousands of metro Detroit residents were impacted by the great storm that flooded basements and roadways. These incidents also contributed to the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and sanitary waste to the Detroit River and highlighted the need to think differently about our systems. Read Detroit Free Press’ editorial “Re-envision infrastructure in wake of historic rainfall” to refresh your memory of the August 2014 storm here.

This HUD investment comes after nearly eight months of planning, strategy and preparation. Through this initiative, DFC and the City of Detroit will work to fulfill significant facets of the DFC Strategic Framework, particularly regarding city systems and neighborhood stabilization, by establishing more resilient, cost effective and innovative infrastructure systems that can improve quality of life in Detroit. This will help the city’s ability to withstand the impacts of severe rain events as they grow more frequent.

Check out the DFC’s HUD Resilience Technical Assistance charter for more information on our role in the City securing this funding here.

Read the full August 2015 e-newsletter here.

In the Media

With the right planning, Detroit’s vast empty space could be an asset

In Detroit we have a real chance to do things with our land that no other major city in the world has ever done. From  growing food  and  producing solar power to planting trees and improving public health, Detroit’s 23 square miles  of vacant land  offers a future full of possibilities.

That was the mood and topic of discussion at the latest “Ideas for Innovation” event hosted by Detroit Future City. Some excellent questions arose from this community conversation that are worth continued consideration as we examine how best to transform  Detroit’s vacant land into an open space amenity. Some include:

  • If we come up with plans and develop the open spaces in our neighborhoods, how do we protect them from future development?
  • Who’s responsible for maintaining these spaces in the long-term?
  • How will all of these projects interconnect?

These questions all point to the need for a citywide master plan and open space plan that offer a shared vision for the future, as well as room for communities and neighborhoods to plan within it.

This doesn’t mean we have to start from scratch, however. As the Detroit Future City event showed, there are plenty of projects already underway and plenty of people who have been working hard on land use issues in Detroit for years.

With the right planning, Detroit’s vast empty space could be an asset
Guy Williams. August 24, 2015. The Detroit News.

In the Media

Federal funds should help manage storms

Detroit will receive almost $9 million in federal disaster relief funds to help it prepare for future flooding. The money will go toward redevelopment projects in neighborhoods to better prepare the landscape for severe weather.

It’s good news for Detroit, which suffered more than $630 million of damage in the epic flooding of August 2014. Statewide, estimated damage was more than $1.1 billion. President Barack Obama declared the area a major disaster, and more than 120,000 Southeast Michigan residents filed for federal disaster relief funds.

The storm impacted the economy of Detroit and all of Southeast Michigan, and future storms threaten to do the same if improvements aren’t made.

Metro Detroit’s storm water management system is severely aged, and a more resilient infrastructure is needed to deal with torrential rainfall.

During last year’s storm, roughly 10 billion gallons of sewage overflow ran into the drains of more than 70 communities, and ultimately into the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Worse, nearly 80 percent of the overflow was untreated, threatening residents’ water supply.

Detroit’s system combines both rain water and household sewage, which makes it more prone to flooding because there’s always a base layer of sewage in the system.

When systems like Detroit’s overflow, the dirty water carries bacteria, viruses and untreated industrial wastes – all threats to people and wildlife.

The federal funds, which officials say are intended to mitigate these threats, were announced with much fanfare at a press conference that included Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, U.S. Rep John Conyers, and Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Federal funds should help manage storms
The Detroit News. August 18, 2015. The Detroit News.

In the Media

Redesigning Detroit: Mayor Mike Duggan’s blueprint unveiled

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is a disciplined speaker whose message rarely varies from the nitty-gritty ways he and his administration are repairing the wounded city they inherited: Improving emergency response times, auctioning vacant homes, turning on street lights, demolishing abandoned property and trying to lower auto insurance rates.

The mayor does not appear to consider himself a master builder, and virtually never talks about what grand vision he might have for Detroit beyond a community that works like most large American cities.

Yet inside Duggan’s administration, his top officials are working on groundbreaking plans that could transform large swaths of Detroit. If the plans come to fruition, they could turn the city into a global showplace for how struggling cities can capitalize on shrinking populations.

Led by the newly hired director of planning, Maurice Cox, a nationally known urban designer who last worked in New Orleans, the administration is quietly formulating a strategy to reimagine Detroit’s neighborhoods to take advantage of what has long been considered one of the city’s biggest problems: vacant land. It’s a “greening” strategy built on a blueprint laid out by Detroit Future City in 2013, but with a twist:

Cox and his aides are drawing maps that throw out traditional neighborhood boundaries and combine largely vacant areas of the city areas with more stable neighborhoods nearby. The purpose of the new districts is to take existing empty green space, refashion it, and use it to benefit both the distressed and stable neighborhoods.

“This is a very different way of thinking of neighborhood development,” Cox told Bridge recently in a bare office at city hall that had several maps of Detroit neighborhoods on the floor.

“It’s thinking about the vacancy (in troubled areas) in conjunction with stable neighborhoods which are right next door, and it’s all a part of one unit,” he said.
Cox, reaching for a map, pointed to Rosedale Park, Grandmont and Brightmoor, three neighborhoods in northwest Detroit. Rosedale and Grandmont are stable areas mostly filled with gracious brick homes and landscaped lawns. Brightmoor has long been one of Detroit poorest areas, with extensive blight and vacant land.

“Whenever we map the city, we never map Brightmoor without mapping Brightmoor, Grandmont, Rosedale,” Cox said.

Future open-space networks in Detroit could include both large and small green areas, and they could exist inside and outside of neighborhoods, according to the Detroit Future City framework. The open spaces could contain such features as lakes, retention ponds, parks, swales, recreation areas and green buffers. Credit: Detroit Future City

And the reason for that, he said, is that Brightmoor’s vacant land can be turned into productive acreage that works for both its remaining residents and those in nearby Rosedale and Grandmont.

What constitutes “productive” land? Cox said empty lots in Brightmoor will be remade for recreation, nature, agriculture or so-called green and blue infrastructure, with engineered plots of land with plants and trees to dispose of stormwater or alleviate air pollution. Along with its blight, Brightmoor already has some of the most extensively developed agriculture in the city. Cox said Brightmoor residents eventually will benefit by living near carefully landscaped property, including parkland and wooded areas, rather than amid the wild and trash-filled parcels that mark many parts of the landscape now.

“We will have a strategy of how to steward that land, that vacant land within the city, and make it contribute to why someone would actually want to live in Grandmont-Rosedale,” Cox said.

He was less specific when asked about funding for the plans, or when residents might start to see construction. On August 7, officials announced $8.9 million in federal funds will be spent for storm management in three Detroit neighborhoods, including for green infrastructure in Brightmoor.

Building on Detroit Future City

The idea of using Detroit’s vacant land for innovative purposes beyond agriculture has been percolating among experts and various community groups for several years, but such discussions have been largely theoretical beyond the city’s numerous vegetable gardens and such projects as the “green corridor” of trees that the Greening of Detroit organization quarterbacked last year along the Southfield Freeway to reduce storm-water runoff, pollution and noise while providing shade and a non-motorized greenway around the city. Repurposing the city’s vacant land was one of the foremost proposals of the Detroit Future City recommendations unveiled in 2013, and significant green infrastructure plans have been hatched even before the Aug. 7 announcement.

Redesigning Detroit: Mayor Mike Duggan’s blueprint unveiled
Bill McGraw, August 18, 2015, MLive


DFC’s Involvement with Resilience Technical Assistance

Overview –

On August 11, 2014, the City of Detroit received 4.57 inches of rain, the second largest rainfall on record according to the National Weather Service. This severe weather overloaded Metro Detroit’s aging stormwater management system, leading to severe flooding of highways, disruption of Detroit’s economy and critical manufacturing and freight operations, damage to over 70,000 Detroit homes and businesses, and the discharge of over 10 billion gallons of combined sewer overflow, threatening the overall health of Great Lakes water system and Metro Detroit’s water supply. The State of Michigan estimated the total residential and commercial flood damage for the three-county Metro Detroit area to be over $1.1 billion, and on September 25, 2014 the President of the United States declared a major disaster in the State of Michigan. In responding to the 2014 flooding disaster, Detroit has a powerful imperative to not only address the unmet needs and vulnerabilities associated with severe weather and flooding, but also to establish more resilient, cost effective, and innovative infrastructure systems that can improve quality of life. In support of this objective, Detroit Future City, alongside partner University of Detroit Mercy Detroit Collaborative Design Center, is providing broad technical assistance to the City, advocating for the incorporation of resilience objectives in project planning, developing proposals for resilience projects, and supporting requests for resources from public and philanthropic sources.

Objectives –

• Address unmet needs and ongoing vulnerabilities through resilience project planning and development;
• Transform vacant and underutilized land into innovative open spaces that can address future storm events but also stimulate economic development, support essential reinvestment, improve environmental and health conditions, and encourage thriving communities.
• Improve the fundamental value proposition for residents and businesses to be in the city by improving delivery, reducing costs, and moving beyond traditional legacy infrastructures to create a more sustainable city.

Approach –

Detroit Future City recommended a technical feasibility, visioning, and community engagement process to develop a citywide plan for an open space network. Detroit Future City also provided a larger resilient recovery concept, recommending the investment in renewable energy systems and sustainable natural systems in the form of green and blue infrastructure to help prevent untreated discharges of combined sewer overflows into the Great Lakes, improve air quality, reduce heat island effect, create new jobs and job training opportunities, and provide new amenities that improve the quality of life for current and future Detroiters. Detroit Future City continues to provide additional technical assistance to the City.

Press Release

DFC Statement about Resilience Announcement

Today’s announcement by Mayor Duggan, along with Secretary Castro of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and Councilmember Gabe Leland, marks a significant step forward to achieving greater quality of life and resilience in Detroit.

The $9 million in funding will support the realization of highly innovative green infrastructure systems and renewable energy provision. This investment comes after nearly eight months of planning, strategy and preparation. The Detroit Future City Implementation Office (DFC) has been delighted to provide ongoing technical assistance to the City of Detroit to tailor an impactful approach to garner critical funding to support these efforts. Each will work to fulfill significant facets of the DFC Strategic Framework, particularly regarding city systems and neighborhood stabilization.

The great storm of August 2014 impacted tens of thousands of residents through basement and roadway flooding. These incidents also contributed to the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and sanitary waste to the Detroit River and highlighted the need to think differently about our systems. The planning and implementation initiatives we helped to shape with the City of Detroit, and that were announced today, will begin to improve our city’s ability to withstand the impacts of severe rain events as they grow more frequent.

At the core of these initiatives is a concerted effort to transform Detroit’s vacant and underutilized land into an asset to create resilient 21st century infrastructure at a scale unachievable by many other cities. Here one of Detroit’s greatest perceived liabilities becomes one of its most profound differentiating assets.

We all have the opportunity to shape a new future, where we conceive a truly sustainable city that moves beyond the conventional definitions of the past.

We are thrilled to see such profound support from Federal and City officials, community members, and philanthropic leaders to advance this future. DFC will continue to partner and advocate for these and other innovative ways we can positively transform our city together.

Dan Kinkead, Acting Executive Director
DFC Implementation Office