detroit works project

Two inspiring things happened yesterday in a place where the word “hope” is too often preceded by the words “little” or “no.” Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project finally released its “future city” report on how to build a Detroit that works.

That might not have meant much in itself. There have been all sorts of bright and brilliant visionary plans that today are gathering dust on some library shelf.

But the release of the book-length Detroit Future City Plan was accompanied by the announcement that the Kresge Foundation was pledging a $150 million to help it stay on track to reality. While that sounds like a lot, it is, of course, a drop in the bucket, an amount that by itself might not even cover the soaring current budget deficit. But it is a sign of belief in the future.

The plan, called the Detroit Strategic Framework, envisions a Detroit 17 years from now that seems more like some idealized version of Seattle or Vancouver.

By then, the planners see the population has having stabilized at between six and eight hundred thousand people, a city transformed by federal, state, local and just good old sweat equity efforts into a variety of green spaces and mixed-use neighborhoods.

A long-awaited—and controversial-- long-term vision for Detroit’s future emerged Wednesday.

“Detroit Future City” is the result of a two-year effort called The Detroit Works Project, one of Mayor Dave Bing’s signature initiatives.

It comes after two years of community meetings, fact-finding, and exhaustive planning—“the broadest, deepest, and most comprehensive look at Detroit that’s ever been done,” according to its creators.

Ford is investing $10 million to boost community programs in southwest Detroit.

The centerpiece of what the company calls “Operation Brighter Future” is the planned Ford Resource and Engagement Center, at the Mexicantown Mercado.

Detroit officials are showing off progress on some of Mayor Dave Bing’s signature initiatives.

Bing toured a rehabbed historic house in the city’s once-prestigious Boston-Edison neighborhood Tuesday. Boston-Edison has historically been one of the city’s stronger communities, but it’s seen blight creep in steadily over recent years.

http://www.indiegogo.com/zworlddetroit

People have come up with a lot of ideas about how to repurpose the large swaths of vacant land and abandoned buildings in Detroit, but turning them over to the undead is probably a first.

No, the zombie apocalypse isn't finally upon us, at least as far as we here at Michigan Radio know. The "zombies" in this case would be "professionals" there to chase paying customers as they flee through derelict neighborhoods and crumbling warehouses.

The zombie-themed "game zone" is the brainchild of Clawson's Marc Siwak who told Detroit's WWJ-AM that he envisions a structured game where an initial group of professional zombies catches participants and assimilates them, while the remaining "living" players try to avoid the growing horde.

Siwak is currently trying to raise funding through online crowd-sourcing.  WWJ reports that while he has failed to secure any sort of permission from the city, he thinks Z World Detroit would fit in well alongside urban farms and other projects aimed at transforming blighted areas.

From Siwak's website:

“There are formal proposals to essentially abandon some of Detroit’s neighborhoods. That’s not a solution.  Collectively we must be more creative than that. Let’s do something fun and unique that will revitalize an area while creating some jobs for Detroiters.”

Siwak told WWJ-AM that he's already received resumes from brain-hungry potential employees.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Community PlanIt screen shot.

Community meetings about the future of Detroit neighborhoods wrap up this week.

The Detroit Works Project focuses on how to make neighborhoods more viable, and how to keep current residents while attracting new people to the city.

Dan Pitera is co-leader of Civic Engagement for Detroit Works long-term planning. He is also also a professor of architecture at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Some main concerns from Detroit residents, Pitera said “are safety for everybody, education and health for everybody in the city.”

Detroit Works has used several methods to engage the Detroit community. One of the newest is an online video game called Detroit 24/7. “Some people love to go to meetings, other people don’t,” Pitera said.

So far more than 900 people are playing the game, which lets players describe what they encounter everyday as they move around the city of Detroit, point out the pros and cons, and then suggest strategies that can improve the city. The idea is to engage a younger population, those ages 18 to 35.

“It actually deals with many of the same issues we are dealing with in the community conversations but done online, and we are attracting those people that are not going to meetings.”

According to Pitera, the intention of the project has been to first collect data from city residents, and then create city wide strategies that are informed by what is happening in different neighborhoods.

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia commons

A project that aims to radically re-shape Detroit’s geography and better align resources with its declining population is starting to wrap up.

After a rocky launch in 2010, city officials split the Detroit Works Project into short-term and long-term planning teams.

The long-term plan organizers have been holding community meetings for months. They’re trying to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the city’s future.

Romney in Michigan today

Mitt Romney is making his first visit to Michigan today since he narrowly won the Republican Presidential primary here last February. He's going to deliver a policy address at Lansing Community College. More from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Romney’s expected to focus on the economy in his speech, and suggest President Obama’s policies have slowed the pace of the nation’s, and Michigan’s, economic recovery.

The appearance certainly suggests the Romney campaign considers Michigan an attainable prize. Michigan has not gone for the Republican presidential nominee since 1988.

Yesterday, Romney gave a speech in Ohio in which he took credit for the revival of the auto industry.

Rethinking Detroit's neighborhoods

The Detroit Works project is the name of Mayor Bing's revitalization plan. The Detroit Free Press reports the team is getting closer to putting forward a set of recommendations for the city. The recommendations could include urban farms, gardens, and reforestation in parts of a city with a little more than 20 square miles of vacant land:

The team is expected to produce a final report by late summer, offering options for residents and civic leaders to consider rather than strict recommendations about what should happen where.

"There is room for a broad spectrum of interventions to be played out," said Toni Griffin, a City College of New York professor of urban planning who co-chairs the Detroit Works technical team developing the list of options.

Karla Henderson, Bing's group executive for planning and facilities, said the mayor and his aides are looking forward to receiving the report from the planning team.

Michigan voters head to the polls today

Voters will head to the polls today to decide a variety of issues for their communities. Many communities will decide whether or not to tax themselves more to pay for school improvements, or, as Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported, to help pay for a "sludge dryer":

Not everything on the ballots involves schools. The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge. Or more accurately, what to do with it. The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

In an effort to lure people back to the city, Detroit officials have unrolled generous housing incentives programs for police officers and city employees.

That’s left many current residents asking about similar help for people who never left the city.

Now, Mayor Dave Bing has announced such a program. It’s a grant program through Citizens bank to help homeowners make exterior improvements.

Bing says improving how neighborhoods look can start a positive domino effect.

Nobody can dispute that Detroit doesn’t work very well anymore. There is vast poverty, unemployment, and blight. Plus a litany of other problems, most of which are well-known.

The question is, what do we do about them? What can anyone do about them? Within the last few years, the city has also been forced to face another unpleasant truth. There are too few people.

Too few, that is, for a city of Detroit’s physical size. You could tuck Manhattan and Boston within its borders and still have room left over. Once, Detroit was a bustling city of nearly two million people.

They weren’t packed together like sardines, but were spread out, largely in well-maintained single-family homes. That was sixty years ago, and pretty much everything is different now.

The census showed that there are barely seven hundred thousand people left. In some cases, one of two families remain on blocks otherwise filled with vacant or burned-down homes. There began to be talk about “shrinking” or “consolidating” the city.

People talked about ways to get people to move from the worst areas to more hopeful neighborhoods, to make it easier to provide city services. The mayor announced that his team would identify four to ten stable neighborhoods as part of a project he called “Detroit Works,” and then build up and further strengthen them.

This all made good, sound logical sense.

detroitworksproject.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has unveiled a big part of his “Detroit Works” Project to strengthen city neighborhoods.

The strategy involves dividing neighborhoods into three categories: Steady, transitional, and distressed.

The city will focus on code enforcement and infrastructure improvement in the more viable areas, and on demolishing dangerous structures in more blighted ones.

Via detroitworksproject.com

The federal government is throwing its support behind Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project.

That’s a controversial effort to focus resources on Detroit’s more vibrant neighborhoods. It appeared to have stalled in recent months.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's plans for reshaping the city as it deals with a shrinking population have been delayed.

The Detroit News reports Wednesday that Bing had been expected to deliver details of a plan this year but that has been pushed back to 2012.

Bing spokesman Dan Lijana says short-term solutions could be released in a "matter of weeks" along with detailed analyses of neighborhoods and the economy. The look at the city's neighborhoods was first expected in April but also was pushed back.

Lijana says the Detroit Works Project is trying to respond to residents who want immediate help.

Bing is working to strengthen the most viable neighborhoods and deal with some nearly vacant parts of the city.

Greening of Detroit

Detroiters who want a say in how the city manages its land gathered for an environmental summit last week.

Activists and community leaders organized the summit so citizens could provide input on environmental aspects of the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project to deal with the city’s huge swaths of vacant land.

Jackie Victor lives and owns a small business in Detroit.

She says city planners need to look at Detroit’s land and natural resources as assets rather than liabilities.

Ron Reiring / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is in New Orleans gathering ideas on how to rebuild a devastated city.

The Associated Press reports:

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is meeting with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss that city's recovery more than five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the 9th Ward and

other parts of the Gulf Coast. Bing spokeswoman Karen Dumas says that both mayors were

preparing to take a walking tour of parts of New Orleans on Monday, and that the city bears "a lot of similarities to Detroit."

Bing is working to strengthen Detroit's most viable neighborhoods while formulating plans to deal with huge swaths of vacant land. He has said incentives will be used to encourage people to move into certain areas of Detroit, which has lost more than half its population since peaking at nearly 2 million in the 1950s. He plans to present a study April 1.

Michigan Radio traveled to New Orleans last year to learn some lessons as well. Rebuilding Detroit Schools: ATale of Two Cities looked at school reform in Detroit and New Orleans. The program explored successes and failures in New Orleans to see whether the lessons learned in New Orleans could offer some insights for education reform in Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has rolled out a new incentives program for Detroit police officers.

“Project 14” aims to pull some officers living in the suburbs into city neighborhoods. The phrase refers to a Detroit police code that means things are “back to normal.”

Bing hopes to restore something like normality to Detroit neighborhoods by making more Detroit cops city residents. Fewer than half are right now.

The project’s pilot phase will give officers chance to get a tax-foreclosed home for up to a thousand dollars. They’ll also be eligible for federal funds to fix them up.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee calls moving to the city a “highly personal decision” for officers. But he thinks many will consider it.

“I’ve fielded a number of calls to my office wondering what the incentives were. So now that they’ve been laid out I think we’re going to see a lot of officers take advantage of it.”

Project 14 will initially offer 200 homes in two relatively stable Detroit neighborhoods.

Bing says the program also complements his Detroit Works Project, which aims to strengthen the city’s more viable communities.

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

"If you walked up to him on the street, you wouldn't know that he was a land baron. He's a guy in blue jeans walking around looking like he's working on somebody's building."

- Detroit city attorney Avery Williams talking about Detroit land speculator Michael Kelly.

Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News has a story on how land speculators make money in the city of Detroit.

MacDonald profiles one of the more prolific speculators, Michael Kelly.

The business model for a successful land speculator in Detroit is simple - buy a lot of land for a little money, then sit on the property until it sells for more than you paid for it.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

The second round of meetings in a project to re-imagine Detroit starts tonight.

Downsizing Detroit

Dec 9, 2010
City of Detroit
Pablo Costa - picasa user

Detroit is a city built for 2 million people, but now has around 800,000. It's ruins have become famous. And some people, like artist Lowell Boileau, have said the problems Detroit faces are like a "slow moving Katrina."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is leading a plan, called the Detroit Works Project, to shrink the city down to size. To make the city's 139 square mile footprint more manageable for city services like police, fire, sanitation, and water.