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Kresge commits $2.2 million for Detroit revitalization, neighborhoods


The Kresge Foundation Board of Trustees has approved 10 grants totaling nearly $2.2 million that will flow to revitalization efforts across the city of Detroit and its neighborhoods.

“Now is the time to advance the recovery of neighborhoods across the city,” Kresge President and CEO Rip Rapson said following the conclusion of the board’s last meeting of the year at the foundation headquarters in Troy on Thursday.

“The explosion of commercial and residential activity extends well beyond downtown and the Woodward Corridor, yet the tangible results are not yet felt as strongly in neighborhoods as they should be,” Rapson added. “These latest grants support the shoulder-to-wheel attitude that we see in Detroiters from southwest to northeast.”

In all Kresge has made more than $30 million in new grant commitments to Detroit’s revitalization in 2015, in areas from mass transit to early childhood development. 

Grants for planning and development go to four current and potential hubs of activity:

  • Eastern Market:  In addition to operating support for the Eastern Market Corp., this grant will facilitate the creation of a new community development corporation to spur development in the market district and surrounding neighborhoods. ($550,000, three-year grant)
  • The Detroit riverfront: The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will work with a broad coalition of partners to update plans for the riverfront district from the MacArthur Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge.  ($250,000, one-year grant)
  • Corktown: The recently formed Corktown Economic Development Corp. will lead planning to establish Michigan Avenue as the main artery of a walkable neighborhood and a regional attraction.  Planning will follow the “complete streets” philosophy of safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders regardless of age or ability. ($100,000, two-year grant)
  • Southwest Detroit:  The Southwest Detroit Business Association will collaborate with the city of Detroit on plans for redevelopment of the Detroit Public Works’ former vehicle maintenance yard at West Vernor and Livernois as a regional economic stimulus. Now blighted and abandoned, the seven-acre site sits near the landing for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge and has been recommended  as a potential retail, business incubator and community gathering space. This is also one of four Detroit sites that the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning will exhibit plans for at the 2016 Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy.  ($70,000, one-year grant)

Four additional grants fund organizations bringing innovative new tools to tackle the interwoven challenges of blight, abandonment and neighborhood-level revitalization:

  • The Trust for Public Land: This national nonprofit that works to protect parks and open space will launch the Detroit Greenfield Competition, the first of its kind anywhere.  Working with the city of Detroit, Detroit Future City and University of Detroit Mercy’s Collaborative Design Center, the Trust for Public Lands will identify several areas that range from largely vacant to vacant. Teams will be invited to engage the surrounding communities and create self-sustaining strategies that preserve open spaces while providing social, environmental and economic benefits. Finalists will receive support to complete their plans. Details and areas will be announced at a later date. ($300,000, one-year grant)
  • ioby: ioby’s core concept is “crowd-resourcing,” a variation on crowdfunding. The nonprofit’s name is derived from “in our backyards” or the positive opposite of NIMBY. ioby works in a number of cities to connect neighborhoods with various forms of capital – including cash, social networks, in-kind donations, volunteer time and advocacy – for a cause or project. The grant supports ioby’s work to create short-term transformations in public spaces and to position neighborhood leaders to connect and build capacity to each other. ($300,000, three-year grant)
  • Urban Institute: Founded in 1968 to understand problems facing America’s cities, the Urban Institute will work with Data Driven Detroit in a National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership pilot project to monitor neighborhood change, and examine tactics for inclusive revitalization. This project is in collaboration with the Federal Reserve/Philanthropy Initiative, a project of the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities’  Older Industrial Cities Working Group. ($190,000, one-year grant)
  • Detroit Land Bank Authority: Vacant Detroit Public School buildings are a problem in many parts of the city. Representatives of the Michigan Building and Construction Trade Council trained and supervised 40 Detroiters, ages 18-21, to prepare and install materials to secure 26 vacant schools in a pilot program. Kresge supported transportation for participants in the program, which was a joint effort of Detroit Employment Solutions, the Detroit Building Authority; the Detroit Landbank Authority played a coordinating role. ($10,000 grant for one year)

Two Kresge grants renew operating support for organizations working for citywide revitalization:

  • Detroit Economic Growth Association:  The DEGA and the related Detroit Economic Growth Corp. lead the city’s efforts for the retention and attraction of businesses and other economic development activity in the city. In addition to operating support, this grant funds the creation of a high-level framework for economic development and opportunity to replace a traditional project-by-project approach. ($350,000, two-year grant)
  • Community Development Advocates Detroit: CDAD works with its member community development organizations and neighborhood improvement associations across the city, connecting them with one another and citywide organizations, including the city of Detroit and Detroit Future City. Operating support will continue CDAD’s work. ($75,000, one-year grant)

“These grants are the latest addition to the foundation’s work toward the revitalization of Kresge’s hometown,” Rapson said. “And the revival of neighborhoods is necessarily a basis for revitalization of the city as a whole.”

The new grants complement other work in Kresge’s Detroit Program to stimulate green, healthy, active neighborhoods. For instance, the $5 million, three-year Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit initiative is currently evaluating proposals for scores of neighborhood-based projects in its second year; grants are to be announced in March. In August, the Live6 Alliance was launched to spur development in the Livernois-McNichols area  with $400,000 from Kresge and additional support from the University of Detroit Mercy.

The neighborhood grants, in turn, are one component of the work of the foundation’s Detroit Program, which also includes work to advance the Woodward Corridor, to create a 21st century regional transit system and a high-quality early childhood development system, to support a robust arts and culture ecosystem,  and to enhance civic capacity.

 “Look for further grants and announcements in 2016,” said Rapson. “Kresge believes this is a unique time to join with partners from the private, public and philanthropic sectors to leverage resources and bring positive change to more and more areas of the city.”