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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.

In the Media

How Detroit’s turnaround began long before bankruptcy

So many new developments are popping up around the greater downtown Detroitthat historians may one day try to pinpoint the exact moment when Detroit began its turnaround.

Many no doubt will point to the city’s 2013-2014 trip through municipal bankruptcy.. But choosing the bankruptcy as the turnaround point underestimates groundwork laid earlier, in some cases many years before.

The year 2007, for example, may seem like a random — even silly —  time to pinpoint, with the city sliding toward insolvency and the foreclosure crisis beginning to devastate Detroit neighborhoods.

Yet in 2007 so many good things were already happening. That year, a big section of the RiverWalk opened, Dan Gilbert announced he would move his Quicken Loans headquarters to downtown, the New Economy Initiative launched to encourage entrepreneurship, and D-Town Farm, one of the city’s premier urban agriculture sites, was expanding.

Or go even earlier, to 2000, when the National Football League awarded Detroit its 2006 Super Bowl, civic and business leaders joined in unprecedented cooperation to clean up downtown, enhance the streetscape with wider sidewalks and street lighting and to market the city’s highlights.

In a recent conversation, Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, suggested to me that the exact date is less important than the change in attitude gradually adopted by Detroit’s philanthropic foundations.

That new attitude focused on ways that philanthropy could play an increasingly aggressive and intimate role in shaping the city’s destiny.

“When it became clear that the public sector was really going to struggle to deliver on its agenda and the private sector was going to be in a bunker for awhile, it was clearer and clearer that philanthropy was going to be the only discretionary capital to be tapped,” Rapson said.

So instead of sitting back and waiting for worthy organizations to apply for grants, foundation leaders from Kresge, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Hudson-Webber Foundation and many others began to actively seek out ways to advance the mission of improving Detroit.

The New Economy Initiative was one such effort. Funded by 12 foundations who contributed more than $100 million, NEI has assisted more than 4,400 companies and helped change the culture in southeast Michigan from one totally dependent on giant corporations to one more nimble and entrepreneurial than before.

Philanthropy, of course, stepped up big time during the city’s bankruptcy, when major contributions from Kresge, Ford Foundation, Community Foundation and others created the “Grand Bargain” that ransomed the artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts and staved off draconian cuts to pensions of municipal retirees.

“It’s less the sheer money that we threw at the set of issues than it was an attitude,” Rapson said, “and I think what we’ve seen in Detroit over the last decade is a change in attitude on the part of philanthropy about its willingness to step up and take risks.”

As part of this evolution, instead of distinct roles for the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the lines between them began to blur. Philanthropy and business began to take on responsibilities that government could no longer handle. The creation of the Detroit Future City plan, and the work of the Detroit Blight Task Force, saw foundations and private business playing roles once handled strictly by the city.

Click here to read the full article in The Detroit Free Press.

In the Media

DIY spirit brings businesses to vacant Detroit land

Detroit resident Ron Shelton knows it’s a gamble to sink his scant finances that include earnings from carpentry work into a small apple orchard and cider mill in a neighborhood with vacant land and aging homes.

“A profit would be nice. I’d have to see where that goes,” Shelton, 51, said after hauling a rusting apple grinder from a pickup truck’s bed into his backyard.

He and others are using a do-it-yourself approach to start businesses amid Detroit’s overabundance of vacant land and wide open spaces. The city’s population loss of about 1.1 million people since the 1950s and subsequent bulldozing of empty and dilapidated houses have left it with about 120,000 vacant lots. Spread across the city, the lots are part of about 24 square miles of empty real estate — enough to fit nearly all of Newark, New Jersey, and about half of Miami.

 

Other former manufacturing hubs are dealing with what to do with empty lots once houses are torn down. Chicago has sold more than 400 vacant parcels since 2014. In Milwaukee, homeowners next to a vacant lot can buy it for $1. Detroit’s Land Bank charges homeowners $100 for city-owned side lots next to their homes.

 

Shelton, who began planting apple trees last year on two borrowed lots near the house he bought from a friend for $1,500, said there’s plenty of room to grow and build things cheaply in Detroit. Besides the 55 trees he has on the two lots, he has two more trees growing elsewhere in the neighborhood. He’s still collecting machinery for the mill he’s assembling in a garage-like building he constructed behind his home.

Jeff Adams has started Artesian Farms with a 7,000-square-foot building he bought in 2014 for $35,000.

“You have to pick and choose what you are capable of and what can make money,” said the 61-year-old Adams, who used to sell tech applications to the auto industry and now grows and harvests kale, lettuce and basil in the building formerly used by an auto supplier.

He admits the space that sat vacant for years is an odd place for an indoor farm, but said good business principles can be applied almost anywhere.

Edward Lynch, a planner for Detroit Future City, said the amount of vacant land in Detroit is “larger than what we can use for potential development.” Thousands of derelict houses are razed each year or await demolition, and little new housing is coming to neighborhoods outside the greater downtown area.

“The market demand to do a lot of things isn’t there,” Lynch said.

Detroit Future City, announced in early 2013, is proposing ideas for how to best use land in the city over 50 years.

“With 120,000 vacant lots throughout the city, that essentially means every single street, every single block ends up being impacted,” said Anika Goss Foster, executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office. “Because most of these lots are undevelopable, they become an economic detriment to neighborhoods.”

She said finding ways to transform property into something productive “strengthens the economic capacity” of those areas.

Click here to read the full article in The Detroit News.

In the Media

Using the DFC Strategic Framework to Rethink Vacant Land Transformation

On Friday, March 6, 2015, the city of New Orleans posted more than 1,700 properties online and began auctioning them off. Most were vacant lots. The city was hoping to attract investors who could put these properties back into circulation, so to speak, in part to raise tax revenue and also to continue chipping away at the scourge of blight that had afflicted New Orleans since well before Hurricane Katrina.

Today, somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 lots sit vacant in New Orleans, about the same number as before the levees collapsed but significantly fewer than the 43,000 tallied in 2010. The city has employed a number of strategies to bring that number down, including these online auctions, a strategy later adopted by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), a public agency that owns close to 2,500 vacant lots in the city.

Despite the lack of implementation, Future Ground has informed the city’s approach to vacant land, including the creation of a Strategic Acquisition Program. New Orleans Redevelopment Authority

Auctions can be good for a city’s bottom line. They generate revenue and reduce maintenance costs—NORA’s lots are typically mowed about every three weeks, which means the agency is responsible for some 45,000 maintenance visits over the course of a year. But a series of proposals produced by the winning teams of the Van Alen Institute’s Future Ground competition suggests that some vacant lots are worth holding on to. In certain areas, cities should even consider purchasing additional properties to create larger parcels, which are required by job-creating industries like manufacturing. “This kind of physical economy is really important and is really very tied to our land use policies,” says Amy Whitesides, Associate ASLA, a studio director at Stoss Landscape Urbanism, which led one of the winning teams.

The notion of strategic acquisition is just one of several revelatory strategies that came up as part of Future Ground. Launched in 2014, the competition emerged out of conversations between Jerome Chou, Van Alen’s director of competitions, and Jeff Hebert, NORA’s executive director, who in 2014 was appointed the city’s chief resilience officer.

After Katrina, NORA’s role in rebuilding New Orleans expanded significantly. It was charged with selling 5,000 city-owned vacant lots and overseeing the Lot Next Door ordinance, which allowed property owners to cheaply purchase adjacent lots. As a result, the agency began focusing on redevelopment strategies that were larger in scale and driven by data, consulting experts from around the country and implementing a number of green infrastructure projects across the parish to help create a more amphibious city.

With Future Ground, Hebert, who resigned his position at NORA when he was named deputy mayor and chief administrative officer by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2016, wanted to go further. He was interested less in design strategies for individual lots; the city already had the requisite rain gardens and the low-maintenance wildflower meadows. Rather, Hebert wanted to know how the city should think about vacant land.

Over the course of six months, three teams of architects, landscape architects, urban designers, lawyers, economists, and experts in land use policy and real estate identified a number of novel solutions for New Orleans, many of which subvert conventional wisdom and can be adopted by
municipalities across the United States. Some already have jumped Louisiana’s borders.

Participants, however, say Future Ground also raises serious questions about the responsibility of organizers to design professionals and cities like New Orleans, which, since Katrina, has become a repository of shelved, stalled, and failed plans. “That was a sensitivity in New Orleans from the beginning,” Whitesides says. “There have been a lot of people planning things in New Orleans” and a history of “things not happening.”

It is not clear what exactly happened between Van Alen’s original RFQ and the conclusion of the competition, but team members recall what they describe as an aggravating and duplicitous process. The Ohio State University landscape architecture professor Kristi Cheramie, who led another winning team, says the competition was “significantly botched.”

“We left the competition with a very, very bad taste in our mouth[s],” she says.

From the beginning, it was an ambitious enterprise. According to the RFQ, Future Ground would generate “flexible design and policy strategies that forecast and accommodate changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape over the next half-century in New Orleans.” Van Alen encouraged a mix of local and national talent and required that teams be multidisciplinary, and in 2014 it and NORA selected the winning teams: Team NO/LEX (New Orleans Land Exchange), led by Cheramie; Team Stoss, led by Whitesides and Chris Reed, FASLA; and Team PaD (Policy as Design), led by the architect James Dart of the design firmDARCH.

Jonathan Tate, the principal of an architecture and urban design studio in New Orleans and a member of Team Stoss, says the competition provided teams with an opportunity to bring ideas that had not yet been tested in the city. He and Ann Yoachim, who has 10 years of experience working in New Orleans, helped Stoss vet ideas for their sensitivity to the local context but also for their originality. “We were there to say, look, somebody’s already done this, this has already been investigated, let’s try to coax out something that feels new,” Tate says.

The Stoss team focused on the role that land plays in job creation. By combing through national economic data, it homed in on the link between lot size and the types of employment opportunities. “A lot of middle-wage jobs, especially middle-wage jobs for people without college degrees, are in the physical economy,” says Teresa Lynch, a principal at Mass Economics who has worked with Stoss in both Detroit and Atlanta. “They involve making things, moving things, fixing things, or storing things. So you need land.” Specifically, between two and four acres of it, Lynch found—a size ideally situated for light industry. Because the majority of vacant lots are a tenth of an acre at most, Stoss recommended that NORA suspend land auctions until it can devise a strategy for assembling these lots into larger parcels.

Land assembly can be a slow, onerous endeavor, however, and Stoss suggested aggregation as a quicker, easier way to group parcels. Building on its work with the Detroit Future City plan that was released in 2013, Stoss proposed that scattered sites be bundled together and treated as a common economic and social unit. For Whitesides, it reframed the way even she thought about vacant land. “At Stoss, we talk a lot about productive landscapes,” she says. “But we don’t think about them as job-producing landscapes.”
Click here to read the full article in Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In the Media

Do-it-yourself spirit brings business to vacant Detroit land

Detroit resident Ron Shelton knows it’s a gamble to sink his scant finances that include earnings from carpentry work into a small apple orchard and cider mill in a neighborhood with vacant land and aging homes.

“A profit would be nice. I’d have to see where that goes,” Shelton, 51, said after hauling a rusting apple grinder from a pickup truck’s bed into his backyard.

He and others are using a do-it-yourself approach to start businesses amid Detroit’s overabundance of vacant land and wide open spaces. The city’s population loss of about 1.1 million people since the 1950s and subsequent bulldozing of empty and dilapidated houses have left it with about 120,000 vacant lots. Spread across Detroit, the lots are part of about 24 square miles of empty real estate — enough to fit nearly all of Newark, New Jersey, and about half of Miami.

Other former manufacturing hubs are dealing with what to do with empty lots once houses are torn down. Chicago has sold more than 400 vacant parcels since 2014. In Milwaukee, homeowners next to a vacant lot can buy it for $1. Detroit’s Land Bank charges homeowners $100 for city-owned side lots next to their homes.

Shelton, who began planting apple trees last year on two borrowed lots near the house he bought from a friend for $1,500, said there’s plenty of room to grow and build things cheaply in Detroit. Besides the 55 trees he has on the two lots, he has two more trees growing elsewhere in the neighborhood. He’s still collecting machinery for the mill he’s assembling in a garage-like building he constructed behind his home.

Others are turning cheap, vacant Detroit land into projects, too. A theater collective is holding plays and other programs on side lots near two homes it owns. A nonprofit has created a flowering prairie amid urban blight.

Jeff Adams has started Artesian Farms with a 7,000-square-foot building he bought in 2014 for $35,000.

“You have to pick and choose what you are capable of and what can make money,” said the 61-year-old Adams, who used to sell tech applications to the auto industry and now grows and harvests kale, lettuce and basil in the building formerly used by an auto supplier.

He admits the space that sat vacant for years is an odd place for an indoor farm, but said good business principles can be applied almost anywhere.

Edward Lynch, a planner for Detroit Future City, said the amount of vacant land in Detroit is “larger than what we can use for potential development.” Thousands of derelict houses are razed each year or await demolition, and little new housing is coming to neighborhoods outside the greater downtown area.

“The market demand to do a lot of things isn’t there,” Lynch said.

Detroit Future City, announced in early 2013, is proposing ideas for how to best use land in the city over 50 years.

“With 120,000 vacant lots throughout the city, that essentially means every single street, every single block ends up being impacted,” said Anika Goss Foster, executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office. “Because most of these lots are undevelopable, they become an economic detriment to neighborhoods.”

She said finding ways to transform property into something productive “strengthens the economic capacity” of those areas.

Click here to read the full article in SFGate.