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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.