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New solar-powered centers to serve Detroit’s east side during flooding and other emergencies

Detroit, Environment

Partners in Detroit’s new Resilient Eastside Initiative have announced plans for a pilot network of hubs with solar power, battery backup and other critical systems to support city residents in the event of power outages, floods, heatwaves and other climate events or emergencies.

The initiative network’s first three “resilience hubs” will be the new Lenox Center, a city facility under construction at A.B. Ford Park on the riverfront; the Eastside Community Network’s headquarters at the Stoudamire Wellness Hub, on Conner near Warren; and a literacy center operated by Brilliant Detroit in the Chandler Park neighborhood.

The Resilient Eastside Initiative is comprised of the Eastside Community Network (ECN), the city of Detroit, Brilliant Detroit and Elevate, a Chicago-based nonprofit that works toward equitable access to clean and affordable heat, power, and water in homes and communities across the country.

The recent announcement was led by ECN, Elevate and The Kresge Foundation. The city of Detroit’s new director of sustainability, Jack Akinlosotu, joined the media event held at ECN headquarters.

The Stoudamire Wellness Hub, headquarters of ECN, on Detroit’s east side. (Photo by Montez Miller for The Kresge Foundation)

Kresge, General Motors Climate Equity Fund, Urban Sustainable Directors Network and Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project have committed $2.7 million for work at the Stoudamire Wellness Hub and the Brilliant Detroit Chandler Park site, plus some of the related community engagement work and support for a Detroit Clean Energy Contract Accelerator to engage Black and Brown contractors in the solar, battery story and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The city of Detroit’s new community center at A.B. Ford Park on the Detroit Riverfront – replacing the old Lenox Center – is a $6.7 million project funded by the city, and through the Penske Corp.’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund donation.

“Poverty, poor housing conditions and lack of transportation, those three evils mean that people in our community are vulnerable,” said ECN President and CEO Donna Givens Davidson. “We need a network of mutually supportive hubs throughout the community, and these first three sites on the east side are just the beginning.”

Davidson noted that the Stoudamire Wellness hub and the Brilliant Detroit Chandler Park facility already provide a number of ongoing services to their surrounding neighborhoods and communities. Brilliant Detroit concentrates on early childhood education, including at its Chandler Park bungalow location. ECN’s 17,000-square-foot headquarters is a site for youth engagement, wellness activities and other services.

ECN's Donna Givens Davidson is standing at a podium and speaking with at microphone at an event the Resilience Network.
ECN’s Donna Givens Davidson at the Resilience Network announcement. “Ultimately, we want everybody in our service area to be able to walk or get a ride to a resilience space within 15 minutes, which will keep them safe,” she said. (Photo by Montez Miller for The Kresge Foundation)

Davidson pointed out that during the flooding of 2021, ECN was one of the organizations that residents turned to for a range of supports from finding help to pump water from basements to filling out applications for federal assistance. As a resilience center with solar power and other infrastructure, the Stoudamire Wellness Hub will be able to do more to meet residents’ critical needs.

In a time of crisis the Stoudamire – like the other hubs – will be a place where residents can go for device charging and refrigeration of critical medication. They can be sites for distribution of food and water, and for shelter. They can also be points for sharing information on the crisis and responses.

Kresge’s Detroit, Environment, Health and Human Services programs have been longtime supporters of the Eastside Community Network.

Meanwhile, the city’s new 8,116-square-foot state-of-the-art community center being built at A.B. Ford Park on the riverfront – to open this year – is being equipped with solar installations, diesel generator and battery storage to ensure access during times of emergency, such as floods, power outages or weather-related emergencies. During these crises, the community center will be a place where residents can go to charge devices; access the internet; get cool, warm, or dry; and get equipment and supplies for addressing the emergency.

“The strength of the Initiative is that it is centered around the community-based organizations that are doing important work providing for their neighborhoods and have been trusted centers of the community for years,” said Tim Skrotzki, Elevate’s associate director of strategic consulting. “These organizations are already addressing climate emergencies – this partnership connects these them with further resources and support to build a robust, strategically planned network across the city.”

Additional sites for the east side will be announced later, and the organizers see this a potential model to be expanded citywide.

“Climate emergencies create the greatest burden on those with the fewest resources, the most vulnerable. That includes individuals of low-income, people with disabilities, those who are elderly, Black residents already impacted by historic disinvestment and environmental racism,” said Kresge Detroit Program Managing Director Wendy Lewis Jackson. “These resilience hubs will reach out to everyone in the geography of Detroit’s east side with a particular awareness of bringing equity to the forefront in service to residents.”

Added Jackson: “These resilience hubs – and those to follow as the network expands – are designed in response to crises we’re experiencing now and in anticipation of the more severe weather to come.”