Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2019

July 24, 2019

Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2019
In the second quarter of 2019, DFC released new research on re-purposing vacant industrial property, won support for Working With Lots, built a larger team of land and water stewards in Detroit — and much, much more.
DFC Releases New Research on Reusing Vacant Industrial Spaces

Finding new uses for old industrial buildings is a serious challenge in Detroit, where many such buildings are no longer in productive use. Detroit Future City discusses how to address this challenge in three recently released special reports.

In “Industrial Districts: Rethinking Strategies for Adaptive Reuse,” Detroit Future City describes an array of repurposing strategies for vacant industrial buildings, tailored to Detroit’s unique needs. A sister publication, “Detroit Industrial Adaptive Reuse Initiative: Trends and Case Studies in North America and Western Europe,” examines best practices in adaptive reuse projects across North America and in Western European cities.

These reports were developed in conjunction with a planning process involving the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood of Detroit; that neighborhood has a heavy concentration of industrial vacancy. The resulting ‘Milwaukee Junction District Framework Study,” examines strategies for strengthening that area, with lessons from the other two reports in mind.

DFC extends its gratitude to partners in development in these reports: Vanguard CDC, LISC Detroit, and SmithGroup.

Bank of America Invests in Working With Lots

On May 28th, The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc. awarded DFC a generous grant of $50,000 in support of its Working With Lots program. The program provides technical assistance and mini-grants to community-based organizations working to sustainably repurpose vacant land in Detroit residential neighborhoods.

DFC will use the awarded grant funds to help underwrite operations of the Working With Lots program in 2019. In this calendar year, the program has awarded more than $100,000 to 9 community-based organizations to carry out green, sustainable, and community-oriented land use projects in a variety of Detroit neighborhoods. Adaptive reuse projects through this program make use of DFC vacant land transformation designs published in the DFC Field Guide to Working With Vacant Lots.

Examples of projects funded through the Working With Lots program in 2019 include an effort by Northwest Goldberg Cares to install DFC’s Hedge Fund design; a Storm Soaker installation by EcoWorks; and the Organic Bowl design installation by Downtown Boxing Gym. These and other Working With Lots projects are now made possible through the generous support of The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.

A full description of the Working With Lots program and its 2019 grantees is available here.

New Land + Water WORKS Ambassadors Named

After a competitive application and interview process the Land + Water WORKS Coalition, for which Detroit Future City serves as the backbone coordinating agency, is excited to launch the  2019 Land + Water WORKS Coalition Ambassador Program. This year’s cohort is comprised of 20 residents and 10 nonprofit organizations from across Detroit. These individuals and organizations were chosen for their proven dedication to the neighborhoods they serve and desire to learn and share information on land and water stewardship.

Over the course of seven months, ambassadors will participate in 45 hours of capacity building designed to increase their knowledge of Detroit’s water system, the vital role green stormwater infrastructure can play in Detroit, and how to be sustainability stewards in their neighborhoods.

Additionally, investment is made in ambassadors to increase their skills as community leaders. This year’s cohort will participate in a series of competency training on topics from public speaking and community engagement to grant writing. New elements to the program this year include a mini-grant program to support Ambassador outreach efforts with funding opportunities up to $5,000 and access to a technology center located at Detroit Future City where they can perform research, get coaching and check out tools such as laptops, tablets, projectors and projector screens to aid in their community education efforts.

Ambassadors will work over the next six months to engage 10,000 Detroiters in conversations on sustainability, our collective role in maintaining a healthy water system,  and how GSI practices can help transform vacant land into beautiful safe spaces that help to prevent combined sewage overflows by managing stormwater onsite.

For more information on the Land + Water WORKS Coalition and meet the 2019 Ambassadors please click here.

DFC Executive Director Shares Detroit Story

DFC’s Development Director, Kate Cherry, recently interviewed DFC Executive Director, Anika Goss, about Ms. Goss’s efforts to bring the DFC story to cities around the U.S. Below is a portion of their conversation.

It seems you always have another trip planned to speak nationally about what DFC and others in Detroit are doing to build a more equitable community. Where have you spoken outside of Detroit in the past year?

In the past year, I’ve been asked to talk about DFC and our work in Detroit in several U.S. cities, especially those which are experiencing challenges similar to those we are tackling in Detroit. Memphis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Sacramento have been my latest stops.

What is it that makes the work you are doing here so interesting to people outside of the city and region?

People across the country are curious about what’s happening in Detroit. They are searching for answers to urban challenges that feel natural to us after years of working on them. We’ve been working at the intersection of vacancy and vibrancy for so long that, to others, we seem comfortable addressing these issues. These are things that other cities want to know about and learn from us, so they can begin to deal with their own urban challenges.

For example, a lot of cities are intrigued by the way Detroit has focused on acknowledging the role everyone has in creating places of opportunity for all. Detroit learned from experience that inclusivity and equal access to opportunity are imperative for creating vibrant and healthy communities.

Additionally, I think that our physical transformation as a community has been so visible to so many – if you think about how much Detroit has changed over the last 10 or 15 years, I think people across the country are picking up on that and want to know the recipe for that change.

As you’ve engaged with people across the country about what DFC has done to improve quality of life, what has been surprising about their reactions?

People in lots of places in this country continue to struggle to talk about race and economics, particularly with the level of comfort and openness DFC brings to the conversation. We’re OK with being a city that is 89 percent people of color, and we’ve looked at that with an asset-focus and thought, ‘How can we build upon this to extend quality of life for all.’ We don’t want to redevelop and find that we are like many big American cities, with a wealthy and White core and poor and Black neighborhoods. Detroiters know that doesn’t work and that the best way forward is to create a community of opportunity and prosperity for all.

DFC Staff and Work Honored
On May 14th, 2019, Adweek recognized DFC Executive Director Anika Goss-Foster as one of its “Detroit Brand Stars,” in celebration of Detroit’s resilience and resurgence and for the talent and tireless passion that Ms. Goss-Foster brings to bear for the city each day.

At its Annual Meeting on June 20, 2019, Black Family Development, Inc., a longtime, Detroit-based human services charity, presented DFC with the Community Champion Award for outstanding service to the community.

Detroit Future City is a nonprofit organization, which uses donations from its supporters to plan and execute its community initiatives. If you would like to make a donation in support of this work, please visit our donation page here. Thank you in advance!

Check out these news articles featuring DFC!

Detroit’s Battles Over Once Cheap Land Are ‘Sign of a New Era’

A Detroit Woman is Reclaiming Her Block (With Help from DFC)

Experts Talk Cost of Living in Detroit

Report: Growing African American Middle-Class Vital for Equitable Economic Growth of Detroit


Detroit Strategic Framework
Economic Equity Dashboard