Blog

DFC Implementation Office Seeking Director of Community and Economic Development

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office is seeking a full-time staff member to serve as Director of Community and Economic Development. The Director of Community and Economic Development will  work closely with the Executive Director in executing the 5-year business plan and specific goals related to single family rental housing systems, commercial corridor systems, analysis and development models for obsolete industrial sites, and community planning.

Click here for more information about this position.

E-Newsletter

October 2016 E-Newsletter: Empowering Detroiters through Neighborhood Revitalization Resources

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office is dedicated to developing innovative, forward-thinking strategies, tools and resources that empower Detroiters’ abilities to revitalize their neighborhoods. Our aim is to steward the DFC Strategic Framework’s recommendations through equitable neighborhood planning that celebrates communities’ distinct characteristics and offers assistance to Detroit residents who are interested in improving quality of life in their neighborhoods.

Below are two signature programs that demonstrate how collaborative implementation of the DFC Strategic Framework has resulted in equitable tools for Detroiters.

READ FULL E-NEWSLETTER HERE

In the Media

Detroit engages with its community to solve its raw sewage and storm water problem using the Strategic Framework

Article Summary
The City of Detroit has a combined sewage and rainwater sewer system that becomes overwhelmed by heavy downpours. Water is flushed into the same pipes that lead to the city’s sewage treatment plant during rainstorms. The DFC Strategic Framework recommends changing the way the city thinks about infrastructure by encouraging Detroiters to use landscapes as infrastructure.


The City of Detroit is solving one of its major problems with the help of one of its other problems. Detroit is experiencing combined sewer overflow, a messy, and often downright dangerous event that happens every time it rains too much. But by leveraging the abundant city-owned vacant land, Detroit may have found a way to alleviate at least some of the overflow.

Detroit, like many cities its size, has a combined sewage and rainwater sewer system. This means that when it rains, water is flushed into the same pipes that lead to the city’s sewage treatment plant. But when it rains too much, this system can be overwhelmed, leading to massive discharges of untreated sewage into the waterways around the city. These sewer overflows are one of the largest polluters of the Great Lakes and also often flood residents’ basements with sewage. The raw sewage, filled with bacteria, chemicals, and prescription drug waste, is also causing dangerous algae blooms in Lake Erie.

In cities like Chicago and Milwaukee, which have partial or fully combined sewer systems, there are epic underground caverns and reservoirs to tackle the overflows. And though this is not foolproof, it is not even an option at all for Detroit: The economically struggling city does not have the means to construct multi-billion dollar tunnels nor the time needed to dig one of these systems—Chicago’s deep tunnel has been under construction since 1975.

So Detroit is turning to a more grassroots approach. One of the major issues of rainwater in any city is that so much of the ground is impermeable, forcing the water into drains instead of just soaking into the earth. As the City of Detroit controls nearly half of the land within the city limits, it has decided to actively ensure this land is permeable. Aside from simply breaking up many square miles of surface pavement, the city is working with communities to build bioswales, rain gardens, and marshlands. 

Joan Nassauer, a landscape architect and University of Michigan professor, has already implemented a set of aggressive water retention prototypes. Working with a team of university researchers, she devised a system that is now in a pilot phase. After the Detroit Land Bank demolishes homes, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department excavates the large holes formerly occupied by the houses’ basements, fills them with sand and stones, and tops them with hardy, short plants. Each resulting bioretention garden collects stormwater from the street, stopping it from entering the overburdened drains. 

For Nassauer, the gardens presented quite a design challenge: Her experiences taught her that green infrastructure in financially-stressed neighborhoods is successful and accepted by the community when it looks well-kept. So the gardens had to be low maintenance without looking wild. Moreover, an overgrown garden might create visibility and safety concerns. The plant varities Nassauer selected—such as St. John’s wort, bergamot, coneflower, yarrow—are all showy but short: They remain visually appealing without growing too tall and requiring attention. Four test sites were built in Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood; each can hold over 300,000 gallons of storm water per year. 

In legacy cities like Detroit, Nassauer said, there’s simultaneously an “opportunity to design super-efficient green infrastructure and immediately make people’s neighborhoods better places….” But much hinges on political will: In Detroit, Nassauer’s challenge to coordinate among institutions was greatly aided the mayor’s office and political climate. “There are political forces and a lot of citizen energy [going] toward taking Detroit to a new level of desirability for a place to live and work,” she said.

Along with Nassauer’s prototypes, the city’s flood mitigation plan is heavily based on the 2012 report Detroit Future City. Among other things, the report recommended changing the way the city thinks about infrastructure. Rather than focusing on hard infrastructure—roads, sewers, bridges—the report encouraged “landscapes as infrastructure.” The benefits of the plan are varied, but one of the main advantages is the community-based nature of improvements. Not only can the public see the improvements, but they are able to enact their own changes within the system. Multiple nonprofits have taught residents how to construct rain gardens, while other groups already working in vacant lots to cultivate land for food production. More formal projects by the city include permeable sidewalks and streets, improvements that can be made when streets are already in need of repair.

Click here to read the full article in The Architects Newspaper.

In the Media

Detroit Future City, Michigan Community Resources mini grants spur green infrastructure projects

Article Summary
The Detroit Future City Implementation Office is working to stimulate the creation of green infrastructure projects in Detroit neighborhoods through a second-year round of Working with Lots mini-grants. The Working with Lots mini-grant program offers up to $65,000 in funds to ten neighborhood groups to revitalize vacant lots. Groups must use lot designs in the Field Guide to Working with Lots, an award-winning DFC tool, to implement their plans.


Two organizations are supporting implementation of green infrastructure in Detroit neighborhoods through competitive mini-grant programs.

Michigan Community Resources (MCR) in partnership with ULI Michigan recently announced the following five awards to community groups to implement green infrastructure:

  • The Jefferson Chalmers Community Food System to build a water catchment system to irrigate their cut flower farm.
  • Urban Neighborhood Initiatives to create a water catchment system on a commercial building
  • Earthworks Urban Farm for research and development of an affordable, modular solar pump that will allow for the captured water to be used for irrigation in urban agricultural systems.
  • North Corktown Neighborhood Association to build a four-season rain garden on a vacant lot.
  • Marygrove Community Association to create a community rain garden with park-like amenities on a residential lot.

Each recipient will receive $5,000 in cash from MCR for materials and construction and an additional $2,000 in cash from ULI for signage, education, and maintenance. ULI will also provide pro bono technical assistance from their network of civil engineers and landscape architects.

According to CEO Jill Ferrari, this program represents a shift in its service strategy and focus.

“MCR envisions a more comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization in the City of Detroit,” says Ferrari. “To meet this challenge, we are focusing on more targeted technical assistance that includes support for sustainable community initiatives. We want to empower groups to design and implement projects that have environmental, social and financial sustainability so that their work in the community is more impactful.”

Funding for the MCR mini-grants is provided through a grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

Detroit Future City is also working to stimulate green infrastructure implementation in neighborhoods through a second-year round of competitive mini-grants to support neighborhood transformation of vacant lots into green infrastructure assets.

The program is offering $65,000 in funds to up to ten neighborhood groups to utilize its DFC Field Guide to Working with Lots (available online at dfc-lots.com). Each group will receive a maximum of $5,000 to be used toward lot design and implementation. An additional maximum of $1,500 must be dedicated toward the maintenance of the lot, programming and education. The program is funded by the Kresge Foundation.

Click here to read the full article in Model D.

Blog

Field Guide to Working with Lots Mini-Grant FAQs

The following questions were asked by participants at the two Working with Lots Info Sessions. If you need further clarification, please reach out to jlewis@detroitfuturecity.com or attend the three upcoming info sessions

What Date Location Time
Office Hours #1 Friday November 4, 2016 Grand River Work Place 19120 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48223 10:00am-1:00pm
Office Hours #2 Friday November 11, 2016 MASH Detroit 14711 Mack Ave., Suite B Detroit MI 48214 10:00am-1:00pm
Office Hours #3 Thursday November 17, 2016 DFC Implementation Office 2990 W. Grand Blvd., Suite #2 48215 5:00pm-8:00pm
APPLICATION DUE December 5, 2016 Submittable website, mail, or delivered to DFC Noon

Is the PowerPoint presentation from past informational sessions online?
Yes, the presentation is available online at: https://detroitfuturecity.com/tools/a-field-guide/

How many grants will be awarded this year?
Ten grants of up to $6,500 will be awarded this year. Up to $5,000 is dedicated to the lot design implementation and $1,500 is earmarked for the maintenance of the lot, programming, and educational materials expenses.

What should you do if the lot that you want to get permission to use has several owners?
You will be responsible for asking each owner to state in writing that you have permission to implement the lot design on that property.

Is there any coordination with Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) for decreased sewage costs?
We are currently working to see how we can align the Field Guide to Working with Lots with the guidelines for the Drainage Credits Program that is under development. However, there are currently several designs that would address stormwater management issues. The Field Guide would be a place to start if you are a church, business, resident or non-profit that are currently, or anticipate being assessed drainage fees. DFC can help connect you to DWSD with further questions.

Will decommissioned alleys present problems when attempting to determine the property lines for these vacant lots?
DFC and Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) will provide technical assistance to ensure that residents are working within the City’s zoning and regulatory guidelines.

If the focal point of your lot design isn’t based on the Field Guide designs, can you retool the design to fit the guidelines?
Yes, you can incorporate the Field Guide designs to complement something existing, different or original planned for your lot. Technical assistance can help you think how they work together within your space.

What if you have multiple lots and they will have a kid’s play scape on them, for example, how would you incorporate the Field Guide designs?
You would choose your lot design accordingly. For instance, you wouldn’t put a play scape in the middle of a wildflower field.  This can be discussed further during office hours with KGD.

If you have multiple lots, can you get a grant for each lot?
No, you would only be eligible for one grant, which you could use on multiple lots if it is appropriate for the design you choose and the budget allows.

What’s the best way to water your lot?
KGD will be doing trainings for grantees on how to water and maintain their lot designs. DFC is also working with KGD to address legal and safe water access options. As part of the trainings we will address these issues and discuss best practices for water conservation. Be mindful of your water situation as you are thinking about which lot design(s) to choose for the grant.
How can you be eligible for the grant if you don’t belong to a block club/association?
Talk to your District Manager about connecting with existing community groups in your area.  If your group doesn’t have an official status, you can provide documentation that shows you are an active group. Accepted documents include: a list of events, sign-in sheets, minutes, and a list of your board members.

Are there any permits required for this project?
Permitting is on a case-by-case basis. If you choose to crowd raise through ioby it’s possible that you could need a permit to implement that plan. Implementation of the Field Guide designs does not currently require a permit, but if any questions arise we will work through the technical assistance process to make sure the implementation is in alignment with City codes and policies.

What happens if you want to repurpose the lot after five years?
There are no rules regarding the exact longevity of the project, however, a preference will be given to projects that are intended to be long lasting or permanent.

What happens if you already have materials, and can your project be funded by other sources in addition to the DFC grant?
The application asks that you describe anything that is already in place (such as additional funding already secured, prep work completed, volunteers, and other elements) which helps demonstrate your group’s readiness. Additional funding can be utilized to make the scale of the lot design larger, or implement the overall vision of the lot.

Will the city continue to maintain the lots once we have acquired the lots or gotten permission to utilize them?
No, once you have purchased the lots or received permission to use them, you assume full responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the property.

If you own a group home, are you eligible to receive credits if you already have irrigation and storm water management systems in place?
DWSD would have to evaluate the systems and determine what credits would be allowed.

What does the $5000 for design implementation cover?  
Each design has a shopping list that breaks down necessary materials needed for a successful installation. Additional eligible costs include: rental costs for tools, hiring a contractor, stipends for volunteers or basic logistical materials for volunteer days (water, snacks, gloves, etc.)

Does the grant cover the cost for tree removal for example?
The grant does not cover large site preparation costs like the demolition of a structure or removal of trees. However, basic site preparation like soil testing, grass removal, or tools for cleaning up debris, would be permitted.

How much does it cost to purchase a lot for this project?
Contact Darryl Earl at DLBA, dearl@detroitlandbank.org,  to determine the availability and cost of the lot you wish to acquire.

At what point does the electorate get a chance to have a voice in the decision-making process with regards to land acquisition?
DLBA is just a holder of land and must follow directives from the City, while at the same time attempting to be fair and equitable.  For the purposes of the mini-grant, if you do not want to own the land, a leasing program that is currently under development could be an option. Please contact dearl@detroitlandbank.org, or attend office hours for more information.

Is the application available electronically?
Yes, you would go to the DFC website https://detroitfuturecity.com/tools/a-field-guide/ and there is a link to the online app via the online program called Submittable, or you can download the PDF and submit a hardcopy.

Can you save the application and return to it later in Submittable, the software that assists applicants with their submissions?
Yes. First, you create an account with Submittable and then save the document while editing and return to it anytime. You will only submit it once you have completed the application in its entirety. You can also upload your supporting files to Submittable and safely return to the application later.

Is the format on Submittable different from the hardcopy?
Yes, while the applications may look different (Submittable just includes the text, not the graphics) the content is the same.

Blog

DFC Sponsors Neighborhoods Rising Summit To Offer Ideas, Tools, Actions To Transform Detroit

Every Detroit neighborhood must be livable, lovable and vibrant for our city to truly transform. Its future depends on it.

Our neighborhoods are looking for ways to:

  • Fight blight and crime
  • Set up strong block clubs
  • Find volunteers
  • Help youth find the right path
  • Find funding
  • Groom future leaders
  • Train for jobs

The 7th annual ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Rising Summit addresses these issues and more. It will be held Saturday, Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College District at 1001 W. Fort Street. A continental breakfast and lunch are included.

Sponsored by the Kresge Foundation, Detroit Future City and the DTE Energy Foundation, the summit is free. You can register at www.arisedetroit.org or call 313-921-1955.

“We hope the summit inspires more people to get involved in transforming our neighborhoods and making them the best they can be,” says Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit. “Our panelists are not just experts. They have all really rolled up their sleeves to make things happen in city neighborhoods and will have excellent advice and best practice strategies to share with residents.”

The summit will cover many hot topics including Proposals A and B, which residents will vote on in the upcoming election. Proposal A would require developers of projects costing $15 million or more with public subsidies of at least $300,000 to meet with community members and create a legally enforceable community benefits agreement.

Proposal B sets a different threshold. It would require those with projects worth at least $75 million that receive subsidies of $1 million or more to create community benefits agreements. If both pass, whichever proposal receives the most votes will be put into place.

Click here for the list and the times of each workshop being offered at the summit.

In the Media

Turning Detroit’s Abandoned Homes Into Greenhouses Using the DFC Strategic Framework

When Steven Mankouche first saw the house at 3347 Burnside Street in Detroit, in 2013, it was buckling and scarred with burn marks. An artist named Andy Malone, who lived nearby, had just purchased the lot for $500 and was hoping to find some way to bring it back to life. Mankouche, an architect, and his partner, Abigail Murray, a ceramicist, floated a proposal to do just that, by commandeering the house’s foundation and repurposing it as a sort of plant nursery.

The following year, a team set to work dismantling the empty house, and in 2015, a new frame went up. By the time I visited, in June of this year, a new exterior had taken shape, with a fluted-plastic roof and wood siding. Like the old walls, the siding was charred, but deliberately so, via shou sugi ban, a Japanese technique that singes wood to render it resistant to rot. Despite summer’s heat and humidity, the interior of the structure was temperate. Come winter, Mankouche told me, “it will be hot enough for plants, but not for people.”

That’s fitting, because the structure’s future inhabitants will include species that can’t usually weather Michigan winters, like fig trees. With the help of his design collaborative, archolab, Mankouche—a professor at the University of Michigan—is building a sunken greenhouse he calls Afterhouse, which he hopes will serve as a prototype for other projects across the city and beyond.

Two years after Detroit emerged from bankruptcy, its urban-farming scene is flourishing, with some 1,400 farms and community gardens spread across the city’s 139 square miles. Many local growers worry that they will be uprooted as the city woos development projects, and with them, much-needed taxes and jobs. But green spaces don’t have to be at odds with revitalization, says Maurice Cox, the city’s director of planning and development, who notes that farms and gardens are a key element of the Detroit Future City plan, a blueprint for diversifying local land use.

Click here to read the full article in CityLab.

In the Media

Where Small Businesses Are Powering Inner-City Neighborhoods

It’s no secret that small businesses are the engine of the U.S. economy, typically making up 64 percent of net new private sector jobs in a given year. It turns out, that’s even more true when it comes to the economies of inner cities, according to a new report from the Institute for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).

The report looked at five cities — Detroit, D.C., Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. ICIC researchers defined small businesses as those with fewer than 250 employees. They compared the share of jobs in small businesses in each city overall with the share of inner-city jobs in small businesses. With one exception, small businesses accounted for a higher percentage of jobs in inner-city areas than cities overall.

ICIC defines an inner city as a set of contiguous census tracts in a city that have higher poverty and unemployment rates than the surrounding metropolitan area and, in aggregate, represent at least five percent of a city’s population. These neighborhoods also must have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent, and unemployment rates at least 150 percent of metropolitan area unemployment (or a median household income that is 50 percent or less than median income for the metropolitan area).

So, while inner-city areas remain economically depressed, they are also safer than they’ve ever been. Perhaps it’s because entrepreneurship is connected with lower violent crime. After all, minorities, particularly black women, are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs.

In L.A., small businesses account for 74 percent of aggregate jobs. In L.A. inner-city areas, small businesses account for 77 percent of jobs. Both were the highest percentages in the study, which points to the film and entertainment industry as a possible cause for those high percentages. One small business developer to told ICIC, “There are a lot of small businesses in the entertainment industry. The studios outsource a lot — almost everything. There is a real symbiosis between major entertainment studios and the small businesses that serve them.”

In D.C., a city of only 659,000 people within district limits, small businesses account for 220,785 jobs, or 62 percent of aggregate jobs. In D.C. inner-city areas, mostly in the far northeast and southeast parts of the city, small businesses account for 74 percent of jobs.

In Chicago, small businesses accounted for 58 percent of jobs overall, compared with 70 percent of jobs in inner-city areas.

Detroit small businesses accounted for 108,465 jobs, or just 53 percent of all jobs within city limits. Detroit’s inner-city map is striking, covering nearly the entire city. Small businesses accounted for 64 percent of jobs in Detroit inner city areas.

Dallas was the exception, with small businesses accounting for 48 percent of jobs overall and just 38 percent of jobs in Dallas inner-city areas. The study points to Dallas’ historical strategy of “attracting and retaining” large employers. Considering Dallas’ inner-city areas are mostly in the southern parts of the city, that strategy hasn’t worked out well at all for those neighborhoods.

One easily ignored reality that the report points out: Inner cities aren’t economically isolated pockets of survival-driven entrepreneurs with no options elsewhere. In fact, they are deeply embedded within larger regional economies. While small businesses account for most jobs located in inner-city areas, most inner-city residents leave inner cities to get to work. The small businesses that are located in inner cities serve neighbors employed in other parts of the city and all over metropolitan areas. In the cities ICIC studied, only 11-25 percent of inner-city residents also work in the inner city; in Detroit, 67 percent of inner-city residents leave the city entirely to find work.

The report points to other studies showing that Detroit suffers from a lack of entry-level job opportunities, forcing many Detroiters to find work elsewhere. Detroit would need to increase small business jobs by 63 percent in order to eliminate inner-city unemployment, ICIC estimates. None of the other cities needed more than an 18 percent increase in small business jobs to eliminate inner-city unemployment.

The report includes a playbook for supporting urban small business job creation. None of the cities studied had a comprehensive small business plan, although every city had other plans or frameworks in place for inner-city job creation and economic development, such as Detroit Future City, which involved over 1,000 residents in a comprehensive sustainable development planning process.

Click here to read the full article in NEXT CITY.

In the Media

Kresge Foundation Seeks Detroit Nonprofits to Fund $2M in Neighborhood Projects

As part of the third round of Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit, a three-year, $5 million pilot initiative, the Kresge Foundation is planning to provide $2 million in grants to 15 to 20 community-based nonprofit groups across the city that will work on neighborhood transformation projects.

The first two rounds of the initiative distributed $3 million in grants in response to nearly 200 applications. This third round slates $2 million entirely for implementation grants, with at least one expected to land in each of Detroit’s seven city council districts.

“We continue to learn from the grantees we’ve funded over the first two rounds about what it takes to make a tangible difference in city neighborhoods as well as how we might continue to support their ability to catalyze further efforts in building stronger neighborhoods,” says George C. Jacobsen, senior program officer of the Kresge Foundation’s Detroit Program.

Applications for grants will be judged on a competitive basis on factors including alignment with the Detroit Future City Framework Plan, which is a long-range guide to land use and development created after a multiyear research and community engagement process funded by Kresge.

Click here to read the full article in dbusiness.

In the Media

Have An Idea To Transform Detroit Neighborhoods? Kresge Foundation Giving $2 Million In Grants

Have an idea on how to make a neighborhood better?

The Kresge Foundation is seeking 15-20 community-based nonprofit groups across Detroit to share $2 million for projects to transform neighborhoods.

The funds are for the third round of Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit, a $5 million pilot initiative launched in 2014. Unlike earlier rounds, this one slates $2 million entirely for implementation grants, with at least one expected to land in each of Detroit’s seven City Council districts; the first two rounds were divided between implementation and planning grants.

“From neighborhood cleanups to innovative building renovations and land reutilization projects to creative public space enhancements, we’re seeing community-driven visions of progress realized across the city,” George C. Jacobsen, senior program officer of The Kresge Foundation’s Detroit Program, said in a statement.

As in earlier rounds, grant-supported projects are to be completed within 18 months of the award.

Applications will be judged competitively basis on factors including alignment with the Detroit Future City Framework Plan — the long-range guide to land use and development shaped by a multiyear research and community engagement process funded by Kresge. Applicants are asked to pay particular attention to portions of the Detroit Future City framework describing the transformation of vacant land, the use of public and open spaces and the stabilization of neighborhoods.

Click here to read the full article on CBS Detroit online.