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Investments will not waver as Detroit undergoes reorganization, says Kresge CEO Rip Rapson

General Foundation News

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, today issued a statement concerning the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.

It’s been a week now since the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy. As the reality sets in for all of us here in metropolitan Detroit and for observers across the nation, I want to be clear: We are putting our trust in the reorganization process and remain focused on our current and future work in Detroit.

The Kresge Foundation was founded in Detroit. It is our hometown, and we are here for the long term. Although we are a national foundation, we have a dedicated Detroit Program that works comprehensively to promote the city’s long-term economic health and reestablish it as the center of a vibrant region.

Our board of trustees makes this possible. Board members approve approximately $25 million annually in grants to organizations devoted to these ends and oversee a wide-ranging suite of activities beyond our grantmaking that contribute to Detroit’s renewal.

We have worked, and will continue to work, in close partnership with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations who are contributing in ways large and small to a new municipal trajectory – local and national foundations, community representatives, the business and public sectors, nonprofits, academic institutions, and countless others. We are collectively committed to harnessing the energy of arts and culture, building a robust ecology of entrepreneurship and innovation, improving the effectiveness of public education, transportation, and land-use systems, strengthening the fabric of residential neighborhoods, and creating on-ramps for Detroit residents to enter the economic mainstream.

Over the last five years, we have worked with our partners to construct scaffolding that is positioning the city for rebirth. Consider:

  • A light rail line, to begin construction this fall, is the first step in the creation of a regional transportation system.
  • Business leaders have injected hundreds of millions of dollars of investments and thousands of employees into the revitalization of the central business district.
  • A bold revamping of Detroit’s elementary and secondary education system is taking its bearings from the innovation of districts like New Orleans.
  • A comprehensive land-use, decision-making and investment framework – Detroit Future City – identifies opportunities to strengthen existing nodes of vitality and convert underutilized land to productive uses; and a project office is in place to drive those opportunities forward.
  • A critical mass of entrepreneurial energy in the city’s Midtown is being fueled by a national consortium of foundations.
  • A vibrancy in the arts and cultural community has been catalyzed by philanthropic fellowships, festivals, organizational supports, and opportunities to re-purpose land and structures as a cultural canvas.

There is no minimizing the hardship, pain and uncertainty that is to come as the city brings its revenues and expenditures into balance, reforms the delivery of essential municipal services, and restructures its long-term obligations.

But the machinery of financial restructuring will, more and more, become intertwined with a second propelling energy, one in which a shared civic vision, investment, and commitment is crystalizing around reinvention and renewal.

I can vouch one thing: The Kresge Foundation will be here, in Detroit, working day-in and day-out to propel both energies toward outcomes that improve opportunities for Detroit residents and reinvigorate civic life.

Everyone working at our foundation is committed to that end. We have every faith that Detroit can, and will, resume its rightful place among cities like Boston and Pittsburgh and Portland and Seattle that have reinvented themselves and now rank among America’s greatest places.