DFC Special Report: Vacant Industrial Properties – An Opportunity for Innovative Adaptive Reuse

A Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office Special Report:  Vacant Industrial Properties Require Innovative Reuse

Certain areas once appropriate for industrial use should be reassessed and transitioned to land uses more beneficial to Detroit communities.

Detroit has hundreds of vacant industrial sites that are not likely to be returned to industrial use. A DFC Implementation Office assessment indicates that there are almost 900 vacant industrial buildings spread across the city[1].

Many of these buildings abut residential neighborhoods in some of the city’s most disadvantaged areas.  Without a strategic approach to repurposing these properties, they will remain fallow for years to come, posing threats to public health and safety, and undermining Detroit’s recovery.

There of course remain traditional opportunities for redevelopment. One example of a recent success was the ground breaking for automotive parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate’s 350,000-square-foot, $95-million-dollar plant on 30-acres of vacant land on Detroit’s east side. The new facility will generate up to 750 new jobs, 51 percent of which are guaranteed to go to city residents.

Large-scale, industrial development projects like the one being developed by Flex-N-Gate are important to the city’s revitalization, but such shovel-ready projects aren’t ample enough to redevelop large swaths of the city.

That’s why the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework advocates for innovative, adaptive reuse of some of the city’s vacant industrial sites. The goal: to put these properties back into productive use; economic, creative, and ecological reinvention for the benefit of Detroit residents and communities, and the preservation of some of the city’s history.

In the report, the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office examines the opportunity to transform vacant industrial buildings and sites in the city into viable alternatives, including not only commercial, residential, and recreational uses, but food production, energy generation, and green infrastructure as well. This report also outlines key challenges vacant industrial sites pose for redevelopment and offers up creative solutions.

Click here to read the full report.


April E-newsletter 2017: Five Questions for Our New Board Chair and Director of Community & Economic Development

Laura Trudeau has been appointed as the DFC Implementation Office’s chair of the board of directors, succeeding Dr. George Swan.  Laura recently retired from The Kresge Foundation, where she served as the Detroit program’s managing director.  She is noted for championing game-changing initiatives in Detroit, including serving as a fervent advocate for Detroit Future City, both with planning the Strategic Framework and with its implementation.

Tom Goddeeris was recently hired as the DFC Implementation Office’s director of community and economic development.  Tom is an acclaimed community development leader in Detroit. He previously led the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation for 25 years, building it from a start-up non-profit to an award-winning community organization.

For this month’s newsletter, these two community and industry leaders were asked five questions on their views of the city, of the DFC Implementation Office and their outlook on the future. 



DFC Special Report: Renting in Detroit – A Market that Demands Attention

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Strategic Framework envisions a city of stable, sustainable, distinct and attractive neighborhoods that offer a diverse population of residents a wide range of housing options.  The Framework recommends many strategies to stabilize neighborhoods citywide and improve housing, including targeted code enforcement focused on absentee property owners and landlords, identifying key assets for renovation, and renovating publicly-owned homes in good condition and returning them to responsible, private owners.
In the report, the DFC Implementation Office examines the increasingly important rental market in Detroit – where that market is at today, how it got here, what issues exist, and where there are opportunities for sustainability and growth. 

Click here to read the report.


January 2017 E-newsletter: Field Guide to Working with Lots Mini-grant Program Back for Year Two

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office is thrilled to announce its 2017 class of Field Guide Mini-Grant recipients! Ten Detroit-based, community organizations have been awarded a share of $65,000 in mini-grants to implement lot designs from the Field Guide to Working with Lots to help accelerate vacant land revitalization in Detroit. This is the second year of the DFC Field Guide Mini-Grant program. 

In addition to offering funding to help grantees achieve their visions, the DFC Implementation Office is providing technical assistance through a partnership with Keep Growing Detroit, a nonprofit that promotes food sovereignty in Detroit and educates and empowers residents around land use, and ioby, a crowdfunding platform for small-scale community projects.



A Few of Detroit Future City’s Favorite Things in 2016

This has been a momentous year for the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office. We’ve continued to build on our initiatives that empower Detroiters and advance the DFC Strategic Framework, while developing our organization as a new nonprofit and solidifying a solid path for our future.  
We thought we’d take a moment to recognize key projects and initiatives in the last year that exemplify and steward our implementation focus: equitable civic participation and engagement, planning, and land use.  It’s important to note that none of these would be possible without the commitment of our board, community partners, funders, and most of all, Detroit residents.
So, in the spirit of the season, here’s a few of our favorite things from 2016.



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.



Latest 2016 E-Newsletter: A Focus on Neighborhood Planning and Welcoming New Team Members

The Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office’s primary focus is to catalyze the DFC Strategic Framework’s 50-year plan and steward its recommendations.  To do this effectively, so all Detroiters can play an active role in this stewardship, the DFC Implementation Office has to design strategies from the macro, neighborhood to city wide, to the micro, from lot to block, levels.

Equitable neighborhood planning is an essential across all the DFC Implementation Office’s three priority areas, land use and city systems, community and economic development, and capacity building.  Whether leading the effort or providing technical assistance to others, the DFC Implementation Office elevates local and international industry expertise, and empowers Detroiters to participate in developing and implementing that vision for the community with the City’s policies and regulations.



Latest 2016 E-Newsletter: Field Guide Implementation Update, Impact Detroit Partnership for Capacity Building, and Welcoming Seven New Board Members

The DFC Implementation Office works to build capacity in Detroit communities in a number of ways.  It’s how we can ensure Detroiters have the knowledge and resources to put the imperatives of the DFC Strategic Framework into action to improve quality of life in their neighborhoods.

The DFC Field Guide mini-grant implementation and our partnership with Impact Detroit are perfect examples of this.  Both initiatives are putting resources in the hands of Detroiters, so they can influence long-term planning, as well as make near-term changes to their land that have long-term impact.



Latest 2016 E-Newsletter: Vacant Building Reuse, Vacant Land Transformation and Welcoming New Team Member Esteria Rogan

The DFC Implementation Office continues to catalyze Detroit’s transformation using the recommendations in the DFC Strategic Framework to influence systemic changes from a citywide scale, to a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, lot-by-lot or resident-by-resident basis.  By taking this approach, the DFC Implementation Office has the ability to drive equitable transformation so that all city stakeholders, residents, community groups, partner organizations and government are equipped with information and resources to address quality of life for Detroit today, while setting a platform for realizing the Framework’s 50-year vision.

This summer, several DFC Implementation Office initiatives demonstrate how technical assistance, community engagement, and capacity building are the keys to creating inclusive vacant land transformation and adaptive reuse opportunities in Detroit.

The DFC Implementation Office’s Vacant Building Reuse Initiatives

Brick + Beam Detroit

Brick + Beam Detroit is a partnership between Preservation Detroit, Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the DFC Implementation Office, and a winner of the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge. This initiative works toward creating a community for building rehabbers of all levels, facilitating opportunities for engagement and supporting local talent by providing an integrated support network.  A recent crop of new residents are planting roots in Detroit, buying vacant or neglected structures and investing sweat equity into rehabbing them. Brick + Beam Detroit offers residents opportunities for community sharing through classes, how-to demonstrations, online forums, rehab storytelling events, social networking, physical support kits called “Launch Boxes”, and more.  Brick + Beam Detroit partnered with 8 Mile Blvd Association to present the first Detroit Home Expo, which featured do-it-yourself classes, vendors, informational workshops and a skilled trades job fair at the State Fair Grounds on May 21.



April 2016 E-Newsletter: Engaging Detroiters through Open Space, The Buzz and The Field Guide to Working with Lots Initiatives

A primary role in Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office’s efforts to steward the DFC Strategic Framework is to catalyze innovative concepts and recommendations that advance Detroit’s transformation. Detroit’s greatest liability is vacancy, both in buildings and land. Unlike citizens of some other major U.S. cities, Detroiters are uniquely empowered with the opportunity to transform vacant land in their community. This spring, several DFC Implementation Office initiatives exemplify how our organization serves the community and how the community serves to better quality of life in Detroit.

Please see below for more information on the newly-released Open Space Report and The Buzz initiatives, and an update on the Field Guide to Working with Lots.

The DFC Implementation Office’s Open Space Report 

The DFC Implementation Office’s Open Space Report, “Achieving an Integrated Open Space Network in Detroit”, lays the groundwork for creating a new green and sustainable city that will improve the quality of life for all Detroiters. Open space is defined as structure-free land that is intentionally used. Building from the recommendations in the DFC Strategic Framework, the DFC Implementation Office worked with key stakeholders to create the Open Space Report, a comprehensive report that takes the essentials of the DFC Strategic Framework around open space, and outlines a set of considerations advancing the vision of transforming vacant land into an integrated open space network.