The Cost of Doing Nothing

Much of the time, when I talk about infrastructure, I get the sense that folks think I’m doing this for aesthetic reasons.  For things to be ‘nice.’  And while that’s true, I think it’s important also for financial reasons.  Infrastructure, be it storm drains, fire hydrants, sidewalks, alleys, utility assets and City trees are some of the most critical physical pieces of what makes neighborhoods feel inviting, safe and welcoming.  But, in some ways, even more critically, the lack of coordinated investment in infrastructure in a thoughtful, systematic and concentrated fashion costs the City opportunities, slows growth, and places unnecessary burdens on residents.

The first example has to do with an alley located between East Grand Boulevard and Field Avenue in Islandview.  For years, friends of mine were trying to have the City correct issues with a collapsing alley adjacent to their house.  The problem was never correctly acknowledged issue.  In fact, two departments, Public Works and Water and Sewerage, actively ignored it for a few years.  They both said that the other department was responsible for it, and let the problem get worse and worse.  The situation was a sink hole that was growing larger and larger due to a residential connection that was never properly sealed.  Eventually, the homeowners ended up taking the bull by the horns, and when they were making repairs to their own connection, just took care of it in the alley.  The additional cost to them was $30,000.  They had no choice but to pay, otherwise they were going to lose the use of their alley.  The picture below shows the alley afterwards.  0712181927

Doesn’t look like $30,000 worth of work, but it never does when you’re dealing with below grade connections. 

The second example has to do with a house located on Seminole in Indian Village.  It caught on fire this past February, and when the Detroit Fire Department arrived (who, we might add, did so in a very timely fashion), the first two fire hydrants that they tried to hook up to didn’t work.  Because of this, the fire continued to burn, in my view, unnecessarily, due to the fact that in Detroit, in Indian Village, in 2018, after emergency management and bankruptcy, we still don’t have working fire hydrants on every block in Detroit.  Now, this is not to say that the fire is the fault of the City, clearly it’s not.  But if they had their act together, the damage would not have been nearly as severe, as the fire would likely have been extinguished 15-20 minutes earlier.  I might also add that even through the depths of the mortgage crisis and bankruptcy in Detroit, we didn’t lose a house in Indian Village.  To have witnessed this level of damage to a structure in the neighborhood after experiencing both of those earlier catastrophes added insult to injury.

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We didn’t have to lose the roof on this.  And, even today, if you go by this site, the roof is still open to the elements.  Totally unnecessary. 

The third example is a personal one.  About two months ago, I was driving on I-75 when I noticed that my transmission was doing something odd.  It was almost as if it was cutting in and out intermittently.  Now, for anyone who knows about cars, you don’t just ignore problems like that.  So I immediately took it into the shop.  Whereupon I was told to be glad that I didn’t have to replace the entire transmission, but just the switch.  The reason: it had gotten soaked.  Hm.  Where might that have happened?  Why, in front of my old house, on Seminole, of course.  Because we get street flooding every time there’s a heavy rain because the storm drains (that we all have the honor of paying for, mind you) don’t work, it becomes necessary to dive through giant puddles that look more like ponds than anything an urban motorist should reasonably have to deal with.  So, because the storm drains (again, that we pay for) didn’t work, I had the honor of paying an additional $370 for a drenched transmission switch.

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This is Lake Seminole.  It appears any time there’s a moderate rain.  In addition to the $240 a year I paid for drainage, combined with the fact that DWSD wasn’t able to fix that in four years (2014-2018), I had to pay another $370 for automotive repairs.  

I was planning on writing this piece for some time.  And then, yesterday, a water main literally exploded on West Canfield Street in Midtown.  It flooded the street, and I’m assuming probably some of the basements.  It’s looking likely that some of the cars are going to be total losses (we’ve had storm drains take out cars on Seminole in the past before; insurance companies usually consider them total losses).  It wasn’t until this last episode yesterday appeared that I actually realized every single one of my gripes had a direct link to one department: Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

I do projects with the Department of Public Works, and they’re pretty responsive (except for item one in this posting).  I have a lot of asks of the General Services Department, and they’re fantastic.  Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department is kind of a mess, but I’m able to get them to do their jobs, at least on occasion.  And I have nothing but kind words for the Detroit Fire Department.  I know that I have the reputation of being overly critical, which I think isn’t actually true.  I just think I have higher expectations of how some of our departments operate.

In closing, my point is this: when we do not take care of our infrastructure, particularly our water infrastructure, there’s a real cost to it.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not cheap.  It really, only is noticed when it doesn’t work.  And I’m going to be meeting with DWSD leadership to hopefully get a green alley permitted in the West Village this coming week.  The more politic thing for me to do would be to remain silent, and get that permit, and proceed.  But, these issues need attention, and it’s not right that not only is the lack of a coherent infrastructure strategy holding back development, but it’s costing Detroiters money and opportunities.

In my next post, I’ll explore more about how it’ll be increasingly challenging for development to take place outside of the 7.2 square miles of downtown and midtown, and how it saps the resolve of long term, black Detroiters the most.

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Infrastructure Drives Investment

The City planning projects that have taken place in the Villages, in Southwest and around Livernois and Six Mile have been a learning experience for everyone.  The City has reasserted control over the planning process, which has left many nonprofits chagrined, because that what community development organizations in Detroit historically have done, planned things.  Which, in my view, is fine.  The City should have been the lead planning agency all along, as they’re the ones that actually have the resources for implementation.  Planning without implementation behind it is just disappointing and frustrating for residents.

And I think that the results of the planning process, at least in the Villages, are pretty good.  The joint effort between Planning and Development along with the Housing Revitalization Department seems to be leading towards projects along Kercheval that will help drive development along with stabilizing housing markets in neighborhoods that traditionally haven’t gotten either the attention or the resources that they need.  And that is all very necessary, and proper and fitting and just.

But nowhere does the City’s plan, aside from certain elements contemplated on Kercheval, put forth an infrastructure element.  There’s nothing about sidewalks, or making sure fire hydrants work or that the storm drains work (for which we all now have the honor of paying).  There’s nothing about residential alleys, and there’s nothing about forestry or having DTE clear out the trees from their lines.  There’s nothing about board ups of vacant houses next to the proposed sites for housing investment, and there’s nothing about coming with an enhanced strategy for illegal dumping.

As of now, the plan appears to consist of pushing development, which is fantastic, which will bring in more people and traffic, but not do anything about the infrastructure that will serve that population, or, perhaps even more critically, the population that has been here all along.  And that’s a massive shortcoming on the part of the City.  While staffing moves have been made to at least contemplate some of these matters, to push development without addressing infrastructure isn’t a sustainable plan.  Case in point: this Crain’s article outlines some of the costs associated with failing infrastructure to local businesses and residents, in particular the water main that exploded on West Canfield Street last week, shutting down roads, businesses and costing God only knows how much in damages.

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DWSD Director Gary Brown had a quote in this about how this didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t get fixed overnight.  And while that’s very true, the faith of residents would be best sustained if we were to see the City agencies responsible for infrastructure, along with DTE, actually come up with a coordinated plan to make it so that those very infrastructure issues don’t get in the way of the City’s recovery unnecessarily.

There’s a few points in this that I’d like to strike:

  1.  The following agencies need to coordinate better: Department of Public Works, DTE and Detroit Water and Sewerage.  Whenever DPW wants to repave any flatwork, there has got to be some working group amongst the three that can make it so that we see DTE and DWSD crews ripping stuff up right after DPW finishes.  It breaks my heart that we in Detroit accept that level of re-work.  With resources being finite, that means there are neighborhoods that won’t get what they need because we accept this lack of efficiency as a given.  I won’t assign all the blame to DPW in this instance, but I think the three can do a better job.  Recent examples of this was pointed out in the Crain’s article about how Second Avenue was just repaved, but it seems like maybe, just maybe, because of some of the infrastructure issues in the area, like mains exploding, we should be doing subgrade work before we repave anything.  And while all of that is daylighted, get DTE in there to upgrade their lines as well.  Hell, go for the moonshot and see if you can get more of their infrastructure sunk below the ground if you’re going to open it all up.
  2. Residents getting things that they need, like functional storm drains (again, I’ll note here we all pay for this, and a full third of the storm drains in the City don’t work).  In addition to this, there’s still fire hydrants that aren’t working in the City.  Both are critical to, well, just not being a third world country.  They have to work.
  3. Making it so agencies like DPW, DWDS, the buildings department (BSEED) and GSD coordinate between them to that they deliver their services in a geographically focussed area (centering on neighborhoods that can sustain and continue to deliver growth) while simultaneously compressing the delivery schedule. If you layer in other initiatives to make more housing resources available, along with enforcing code to clean up blight, you’re pairing the infrastructure piece (carrot) with the code enforcement (stick), while addressing some of the equity issues around this with the resource availability portion.

None of this is rocket science.  But it is new.  For years, there simply wasn’t a lot of this sort of capital project activity going on.  Now there is.  That’s due in part to growth taking place in Detroit.  It’s also due to the fact that bankruptcy cleared up the balance sheet and freed up a lot of cash that had historically been going to debt service for investments in improving city services and infrastructure.  So when these agencies were suddenly tasked with rebuilding century old infrastructure on a citywide basis, they hadn’t had that level of experience with managing projects that expansive.  Or coordinating with other agencies to make sure that the execution piece was being managed in a fashion so that you wouldn’t have to dig up what one agency just did a few weeks before because someone forgot to ask.

All of these are good problems to have.  They are problems of growth.  And there is a way around them.  But the fact of the matter is this: the development planning the City is contemplating, in and of itself, is insufficient.  In order to make permanent the gains from these developments, there needs to be a much more robust mechanism in place that addresses the underlying infrastructure deficiencies, both for Detroiters yet to come, and the Detroiters who never left, and who are already here.  It’s the moral policy, and it’s the right policy.

Lessons from Beals Street

Throughout the past few posts, I’ve been using lots of words to describe changes to how the City of Detroit should operate and what the impact of that would be.  This post is going to depart from that in that I’m going to use pictures to demonstrate some of the proposed changes that residents are increasingly advocating for.  By this point, most of you understand my shtick.  Fix the infrastructure, make resources available, eliminate blight, and you have a neighborhood where growth is much more likely to take place.

What I want to show you today are images of that approach in the context of a specific block: Beals Street between East Vernor Highway and Charlevoix Avenue.  It’s fairly representative of a block on the east side.  Lots of vacant lots, no pun intended.  When I drove down it on my bike last year, I stopped and asked residents what neighborhood they considered it to be: Islandview or the North Village.  They laughed and just said ‘the hood.’  I laughed too and we chatted some.

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One of these is not like the others.

Since then, Detroit Village Iniative, LLC* have purchased and begun renovations on this block.  They’re doing a good job, and are working relatively quickly.  The improvements in the housing stock on this block are both occurring rapidly and creating a much different feel on the block, all for the better.  But there’s a piece that’s missing: infrastructure.  The picture above is of a house that is nearly complete.  The picture below is of a house that was just started and seems to be progressing nicely.

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Not everything is growing.  Like this tree.  

We need to do more to help bolster investment in areas like this for a few reasons.  First, the gains made by these developments aren’t complete if we just leave things like this.  Second, we owe it not just to developers, but, most importantly, to residents who have stayed and waited things out over the course of decades in Detroit.  Lastly, these investments are not as durable as they could be, compared to if they built new sidewalks, functioning storm drains, working fire hydrants, and new trees.  I fear that if people come to Detroit on a lark, and stay for a bit, people will begin to leave again unless we substantially elevate the quality of life in the neighborhoods.

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This has curb appeal, but next to the curb needs work.

Another concern I have is that we are going to be welcoming all of this new development into the Villages area, in particular, and we’re not going to have the necessary accompanying investments in infrastructure.  What I’d love to see is for the City to make those investments in their infrastructure.  Let developers develop.  Let the City take care of their infrastructure.  And then we’ll see real growth that’s inclusive, and sustainable.  But if we neglect the infrastructure piece, along with code enforcement, new development, in and of itself, isn’t going to be all that great.  It’s not that we don’t want to see development.  We do.  We want to see it done right.

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*The principals in this entity are Alex DeCamp and Reimer Priester.  Alex is on my board of directors.  I rent an apartment from Reimer.  Full disclosure, blah blah blah.

The State of the Alleys: Part II

In part one, I spent a lot of time talking about what alleys are for, what they’re like, and the immediate steps that can be taken to begin making improvements in the near future. Basically, clear them out, send DTE back through to trim up the branches and have DWSD come in and fix the storm drains and sink holes.  It’s straightforward enough so that you can begin those measures anytime, they’re all projects that are already funded (except for the clearance piece) and they can be deployed simultaneously in order to make more of an impact in areas where such levels of density exist that justify making these expenditures.

But what beyond that?  Getting them open, clean and safe is a good first start, but in addition to all of the basics, there’s a lot that we can do to our alleys in Detroit.  It would require a lot of collaboration between DWSD and DPW, along with fostering a degree of consensus amongst the utilities (Comcast, AT&T, Rocketfiber, DTE).

  1. Excavate the alleys to replace the below ground infrastructure.  Now, I’m not an expert, but I would imagine that everything below ground in an alley is going to be at least a century old.  The gas lines (DTE), storm drains and and sewer lines (DWSD) are all old, likely well past the end of their useful lives, and should probably be replaced.
  2. Drop the above-ground utilities below ground as well.  This one, honestly, I’m not sure about.  This would probably be very expensive, but if we have the alleys all demolished for the period while they’re doing the below grade infrastructure work, at least assess the viability of doing this.  It may be that doing it in this context, while you’re completely renovating an entire alley and all of the utilities in it may be the only way that it would work.
  3. Use that opportunity after excavating all of the infrastructure to drop stormwater management technologies in all of the alleys to reduce  runoff.  This one is somewhat out of the box.  I’m currently in a bit of a holding pattern with DWSD on this one.  They don’t want to do any more green alleys, which I think is the wrong call, but we’ll get them there eventually.

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This is a green alley in Detroit, which is a commercial alley, but we could use the same concept in a residential setting just as easily.  

Any one of these matters is going to be a massive project, and trying to line all of these up would be like hitting a hole in one.  But, from time to time, miracles happen, and there’s three ways that I can see this actually coming to fruition.

  1. The City could find a way to use the stormwater credits to pay for the project buildout.  If you put enough stormwater management technology in the alleys, you could possibly use those savings from diverting rain water into the sewer system to pay for some of the added expense of building out this project.
  2. There’s legislation already in the City Code that provides for special assessment districts in order to pay for infrastructure, specifically what is called ‘Green Belts.’  If the City closed the alleys, paid a portion of the project outlay, and had homeowners pay another portion of it, you could possibly allocate the stormwater credits to the homeowners to offset that added property tax assessment.
  3. See if the utilities wanted to pitch in to fund elements of the plan.  I can easily see DTE, AT&T, Comcast and Rocketfiber wanting to pay in order to help out to make it easier for them to access their assets, and possibly put them underground so as to reduce outages (and their maintenance costs).

I think that if the City tried to do just one of these elements of a potential phase II, it would be easier to do all of them than just one.  We have a massive need for alley repairs, and by combining the ideas of special assessment districts, collateralizing the stormwater runoff credits and asking utilities to put some skin in the game, you might just have enough money to pull off the whole thing.  And, the beauty of the project is that you could scale considerably, which would ultimately bend your cost curve downwards.

So, what say you Detroit?  You think this is something the City would be up for?

The State of the Alleys: Part I

Much of Detroit has alleys.  Most of them are in a state of total disrepair.  With the City attracting more residents and investment, it’s going to become necessary for the City government to come up with a coherent and comprehensive strategy for alleys.

Alleys were originally laid out as part of the fabric of the City for a few reasons.  The first was to provide access to detached garages in the form of a secondary right of way.  Not only do/did they provide resident access, but garbage was picked up in them as well through the early 1990s, when the City switched over to curbside. The second reason was to provide space in which to run through various utility assets, such as sewer lines, water lines, gas lines, and above ground utilities, such as power, telephone and now internet and cable.

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The commercial alley running south of Mack, between Baldwin and Seyburn.  Not pretty, but it gets the job done.  

As of now, the City of Detroit does not have a strategy for how they plan to address the network of alleys that they have largely abandoned, from utilities maintenance to surfacing issues.  There appears to be vague glimmers of recognition in some development circles that we’re going to have to come up with a solution as to how to ‘fix’ them, what exactly that ‘fix’ entails and how we can go about organizing and financing that.  And I will specifically give props to Chelsea Neblett in the Department of Neighborhoods for beginning to lay the groundwork on this very important topic.  Not only is she a hard worker, but she’s an absolute sweetheart, and she’ll get her hands dirty  clearing out alleys with you, as demonstrated by her coordination of an alley cleanup this past Saturday.

With more residents coming back into neighborhoods outside of the downtown core, theres a few phenomena that will actually make alleys important again:

  1. We’ve gotten used to abundant and free street parking in residential neighborhoods.  With new residents, increased investment and just generally more people and traffic, there will be a need for homeowners to rebuild their garages in which to park their cars.  While families may be willing to make that investment, without a clear right of way with which to access that garage, they would not actually go so far as to rebuild garages that have since fallen either into disrepair or been demolished entirely.  This is an issue of access.
  2. The physical conditions in most of the alleys are dilapidated.  From plant overgrowth to illegal dumping, from broken pavement to other issues, they’re both not passable, unsightly and a blight.  This is an issue of appearance.
  3. The overall state of the infrastructure is deplorable.  From the state of the surface pavement to utility lines being overgrown with tree branches to the myriad of issues with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department sinkholes and storm drains not  being repaired, despite resident complaints, in some cases, for years, these alleys are crying out for massive investments.  This is an issue of accountability.

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The residential alley going south, between Baldwin and Seyburn, south of Mack.  Neither pretty nor functional.  

Thus far, in Detroit, work on alleys has been largely framed in terms of commercial alleys either downtown or in midtown.  The crux of this series will be on the alleys that everyday people, Detroiters, use and rely on in the neighborhoods outside of downtown and midtown.  In the next two posts, I’m going to write about what I think we can do about them, and how we can begin making that happen.  This project will take years, but it is doable, and it should be residentially driven and focussed.

Fixing the Neighborhoods: Part II

In the preceding article, I talked about how we can go about lining up different toolkits to upgrade the look and feel of the neighborhoods.  The three categories are: 1) making resources available to residents to try to keep folks in place, 2) the City upgrading infrastructure and 3) code enforcement.  Much of what I’m going to talk about here is the mechanics of how to do this, the whys behind it and how I’m planning on getting the City and various neighborhood groupings to take note to try and actually make this happen.

In the Villages CDC Neighborhood Plan, I’m not proposing anything new.  All of the activities are items are already up, running, funded, staffed and programmed.  It’s merely a question of trying to link up existing programs, compress the delivery schedule, and target neighborhoods that have enough of an existing level of density and stability upon which to grow.  For example, the impact of deploying City infrastructure resources in many areas without any sort of coordination between the various departments is akin to boiling the ocean.  Say you had Buildings, Water, Housing, and Public Works all focus on nodes of development in the City.  The overall impact that having each of these departments focus on targets rather than making each of their own capital investment plans independently of one another would be significant.  In this instance, the whole would be substantially greater than the sum of its parts.

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The Department of Public Works loves trees.

There’s real benefits to that.  You’d have situations where DPW could truly coordinate with DWSD and DTE so as to ensure that all of their scheduled repairs are completed before DPW goes into a neighborhood and resurfaces roads or pours new sidewalks.  By having multiple City infrastructure investments take place simultaneously, the overall magnitude of the impact is greater than if they were just making them individually.  BSEED could focus on eliminating blight simultaneously, HRD could corral development into the zone, and DWSD could focus on repairing their infrastructure.  

And in areas where you have the City upgrading services and infrastructure, you have a greater likelihood that residents and business owners would comply at a greater rate with code enforcement.  By changing the look and feel of neighborhoods, not only does the City reclaim the moral high ground, you’re winning hearts and minds in the process.

One element of how I imagine this would be staged is by gradually beginning in those neighborhoods that already have a level of density and stability.  Initially, the focal point could be those neighborhoods and then working outwards.  For example, many of the practices that I tested out I developed in Indian Village with an eye towards gradually expanding them towards the West Village, Islandview, the East Village, and the North Village.

And not all neighborhoods are going to need the same things.  For example, in the East and North Village, there’s a real need for boarding up vacant buildings and demolishing fire damaged properties, along with cleaning up illegal dumping.  You’re not going to need that in either Indian or the West Villages.  My goal is to get all of the neighborhoods to the same level eventually, but with a recognition that they’re all going to need different tactics and interventions.  In this plan, not all neighborhoods are going to get the same initiatives, but they’re all going to get something.

So how are we going to do this?  At this point, one of the biggest challenges we face is getting cooperation from the City.  For the most part, I believe that City workers and leaders are diligent people who have nothing but the best intentions.  They are largely dealing with problems the scope and scale of which most members of the public have no idea, and they’re doing so on budgets that are minuscule relative to the challenges they address.  However, at this point, the perception in the City is that it’s just Mac Farr that’s asking for a lot of this stuff.  So in order to continue with making progress on multiple fronts, I’m going to need residents, neighborhood association and block club leaders, developers and business owners to stand with me in order to get these elements nailed down.

Because, at the end of the day, if they think it’s just me, it’s not going to happen.  If leaders in the City realize that we have nearly 20,000 residents crying out for City services with a healthy dose of equity, sustainability and inclusion, we have a far greater chance of seeing this unfold in a rapid fashion.  If you’re interested in attending a meeting for Villages leadership on this topic in terms of how we can make this happen, please join me this coming May 30th at 7900 Mack Avenue at 6:30 p.m.  This is doable.  Help us make it happen.

Fixing the Neighborhoods: Part I

‘You’re not from here, you don’t know what it’s like dealing with the City, and, besides, they’re not taking care of their stuff,’ an angry neighbor was busy informing me after they learned that we were asking for residential blight enforcement in Indian Village.  After moving to the neighborhood, I joined the Indian Village Association board, and began trying to make myself useful by asking for building code inspections.  This neighbor, however, was having none of it.

Indian Village, like many neighborhoods in Detroit, needs a lot of work.  While it’s charming and quaint and has lots right with it, including, again, like many neighborhoods in Detroit, amazing residents, the physical conditions need work.  Naturally, when I arrived, I decided that we needed to work on blight, and the response of that one neighbor wasn’t uncommon.  While I didn’t agree with the reasoning, that because the City wasn’t taking care of their infrastructure, residents should get a pass on the condition of their properties, their was a valid point in there.  So instead of us just doing what we wanted to do, we listened, and came up with other infrastructure projects that both residents and the City could work on, in some cases together.

So, a colleague and neighbor of mine, Elizabeth Findeis, began a program of clearing out every single alley with the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Greater Detroit Resources Recovery Authority, who was kind enough to provide lots of free dumpsters.  We engaged DTE to come back and clear out tree branches from the power lines.  We worked with DPW to repair sidewalks, which is actually happening now, at no cost to homeowners, and they were a joy to work with.  Other elements, like getting storm drains and fire hydrants fixed with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and residential code enforcement with Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department have been a bit bumpier, but I’m confident that we’ll get them done eventually.  And throughout, the Forestry Division of the General Services Department (GSD) has been fantastic to work with in removing dead trees.  And it’s not just even about tree removal, we’re working with GSD to add trees as well.

So, after we addressed some of the infrastructure issues, we returned to our original goal: blight.  We decided to work on the most severe cases of blight, and in concert with the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), managed to have them seize a house that was literally falling down.  It wasn’t occupied, and it had successfully evaded code enforcement for years.  We had finally reached the right mix.  Lots of City services with using City agencies to target the most severe cases of blight that weren’t safe and dragging down property  values.

It was at this point that I began trying to scale some of what it is that we were doing in Indian Village and apply it to all of the Villages.  There were going to be other needs, such as removal of illegal dumping, boarding up of vacant properties that are open to trespass and demolition of fire damaged properties.  And I began testing that out in the North Village (that area along Van Dyke between Kercheval and Mack, organized by a group of residents who wanted a more distinct neighborhood identity than just being lumped in with Islandview).  The DLBA was amazing at demolitions.  DPW was great at removal of illegal dumping.  And while we haven’t seen any of the board ups taking place yet, I’m confident that we’ll see some soon from GSD.

Now, we had something that was coming together.  It was a coherent, workable plan that produced an immediate and tangible impact by compressing the delivery schedule and geographic footprint of how City services would be directed.  Start in those areas where the City is already doing a lot of planning, where investment is present, and watch them grow.  And when I began to talk about this to folks in the East Village and Islandview, there was, however, reticence.  The thinking was that code enforcement, the part that would complement the investments in City infrastructure, would be used as a pretext to drive folks out.

Again, while I didn’t agree with the sentiment, I understood it.  So, we began working with the Housing Revitalization Department (HRD), specifically Jason Friedman and Beth Kmetz to layer in a more robust resources page to the program.  Meaning, we want to make those resources available to all Detroiters.  Tax foreclosure prevention, homeownership programs, zero interest loans, all of these were vital to keeping residents in place and helping to get them the resources necessary to cope with some of the changes that improvement in the neighborhoods would bring.  And even in reviewing some of the items on the list, I suggested to Jason that they ought to include assistance for utilities (given everything we’ve hear about challenges with water) and lead abatement programs (again, given everything we’ve heard about that).

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So, we had a program: City services, complemented by making more resources available, rounded out with code enforcement on severe blight, that would gradually escalate.  And even then, I began road showing this to various community folks who were extremely helpful in making suggestions.  Edythe Ford from MACC Development, Jeanine Hatcher and Jennine Spencer from Genesis Hope, Barry Randolph and Wally Gilbert from Church of the Messiah and Sandra Stahl, a Pingree Park resident and former Villager all gave amazing insights as to how we could do a better job of packaging this and conveying it to residents.

If you’re interested in reading the whole plan, click to read it.  It’s mostly graphic.  A lot of work went into it from a number of different people.  My hope for it is that neighborhoods and developers can come together, and, in concert with the City and its agencies, take this as a template for how we can strengthen the communities to link up the places and the people in our City.  The most encouraging sign to date is that there are very capable individuals all throughout the Villages that are responding very positively to this vision of rebuilding.  Particularly in the West Village and in Islandview, there’s a lot of momentum, and we will be looking forward to seeing how this program rolls forward in 2018.  If you want to talk about it, drop me a line, and I’d be glad to chat or make a presentation to your neighborhood group or association.