Kilpatrick rolls out neighborhood fix up plan

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May 16, 2007

Neighborhood fix-it plan: Mayor wants $225M to clean up six areas

Amy Lee and David Josar / The Detroit News

DETROIT — The city will spend $225 million, including $125 million of its own money, on six hand-picked neighborhoods in a bold experiment Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick hopes can halt decades of neglect and decay.

“We need some continuity to get out of this 40-year rut,” Kilpatrick said Tuesday as he unveiled long-awaited details of his Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative.

The plan stresses community involvement, as well as the need for $100 million from foundations and other investors, to become a success. None of the outside money has been committed yet.

Kilpatrick is seeking six project managers who will be accountable for the success and failures in each neighborhood. Those managers, who should be hired in the next few months, will be expected to file quarterly reports, showing that customized goals set for each area are on track.

The mayor, who announced Tuesday he’ll run for re-election in 2009 and see the five-year initiative through, said Detroit neighborhoods that aren’t on the project list won’t suffer or lose services.

The plan requires levels of involvement from the neighborhoods, businesses and city agencies such as police and code enforcement officers.

“This is really the first time everyone is coming in the room and talking together,” said Linda Smith, executive director of U-SNAP-BAC, which will team with the city and others in East English Village to attract businesses and provide youth training. “It’s making a difference.”

The mayor and his staff will visit the neighborhoods today and tell residents what to expect from the plan he announced in general last December.

The six targeted neighborhoods — the Northend, Brightmoor, Grand River-Greenfield, the Osborn community, Seven Mile-Livernois and East English Village — cover about 13 square miles, roughly a tenth of Detroit’s entire footprint.

Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, his chief of staff, said the easiest parts of the ambitious makeover are things the city can control, such as demolishing buildings and cleaning up vacant lots. The hardest are improvements that hinge on others, such as convincing businesses to locate in the target communities.

“Some of these things just take time,” Beatty said.

Each neighborhood, the mayor said, has a “bible” that lists, in some specifics, what the city hopes to achieve. Among the goals:

  • Public safety: Invariably, residents want illegal activity to stop. The mayor’s staff has pledged to reduce prostitution and loitering up to 50 percent in some areas, work with Wayne County prosecutors to boost convictions 10 percent and fix traffic lights.
  • Children: Reduce truancy at select schools 15 percent, provide year-round youth-employment training and improve areas for children to play.
  • Quality of life: Remove 50 percent of abandoned vehicles within 10 days in some areas, demolish all dangerous buildings within one year in the Osborn community and establish community gardens in all neighborhoods.
  • Business: Acquire land for new stores, foster façade improvements and improve relationship with business groups.A longtime homeowner in the Northend neighborhood, Thelma Grissom, 75, embraced the mayor’s plan to target prostitution.”We need the policing,” said Grissom, who lives in a neighborhood where 20 percent of the 1,977 buildings are vacant, according to a Detroit News survey last winter. There are no grocery stores and 11 liquor stores. “But the police have to be good and do their jobs.”City money will be used in conjunction with cash from foundations, said Anika Goss-Foster, the city’s director of philanthropic affairs.

    She said there are no firm pledges of cash but foundations — such as the Skillman Foundation — are ready to step up.

    The plan is ambitious. Kilpatrick and his predecessor, Dennis Archer, have had some success in reviving the Central Business District that roughly follows Woodward from the Detroit River north to Wayne State University.

    But fixing the neighborhoods is a daunting task in a city that is losing population, where three of every four children live below the federal poverty level and 47 percent of adults are functionally illiterate.

    His targeted neighborhoods contain 23,759 buildings of which about 15 percent — 3,518 — are vacant. There are five times as many party stores as grocery stores, about four of every 10 commercial buildings are vacant and there are more check-cashing shops (19) than banks (15).

    Coney Island operator Antonio Harry welcomes the mayor’s vision and hopes it will bring added prosperity to his restaurant on Livernois just south of Seven Mile.

    “We need more retail that draws customers from all over the city. If any retail comes in, it will help us,” said Harry, who thinks getting rid of vagrants and graffiti, as Kilpatrick has pledged, will be a good start.

    “The dollar stores and places like us are fine, but if you can get some bigger places in here — the Gap, maybe — that would help.”

    You can reach David Josar at (313) 222-2073 or djosar@detnews.com.


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    ~ by Keith A. Owens on May 16, 2007.

    4 Responses to “Kilpatrick rolls out neighborhood fix up plan”

    1. Sounds like a good plan, especially if it helps get children in school, I think.

    2. Tamiki,

      I agree. I think this one might actually have some traction. God knows we need something that’ll work.

    3. In my opinion the mayor has not really taken care of the neighborhoods. His focus on downtown and the glamorous side of things has been a detriment to regular residents. Just like a smooth-talking boyfriend who goes out on you, Kilpatrick has ignored many of core issues. I am looking forward to his ouster as soon as we can get the recall petitions out there.

      Then maybe the region can get along together.

      …and take your mama with you Kwame Malik.

    4. Hey Dtroiter.

      Well, quite a bit has transpired since this post was put up a year ago. For one thing, I’m no longer a supporter of the man like I was. But I do think you’re wrong about the neighborhoods. Although the focus has certainly been on downtown, there are more than a few housing developments and other neighborhood upgrades that were done on his watch that can be documented.

      Thanks for dropping by.

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