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Historic apartment buildings receive $24M investment, re-open as affordable housing complex

In November 2013, Detroit Police called the Colony and Fisher Arms Apartments the most problematic addresses in the city. It was then when a combined force of 150 officers from different law enforcement agencies raided the east side apartment complex, arresting 33 people.

Just over three years later and the historic apartment complex is in the news for completely different reasons. On the morning of Jan. 28, 2017, more than one hundred people, including Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig, and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, gathered to celebrate the rehabilitation and re-opening of the 161-unit affordable housing apartment complex.

A combination of financing pieced together by Cinnaire and Chesapeake Community Advisors made the project possible, having secured $24 million dollars in financing. That multi-tiered financing included Federal Historic Tax Credits, Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, an FHA loan, a renewal of Section 8 rental subsidy, and Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis Affordable Housing Program Funds. The city of Detroit contributed vacant city-owned property for secure parking for the residents.

"It is a completely different place," says Mayor Mike Duggan. "This is the quality we're going to continue to build for the people of the City of Detroit."

To reflect the new and improved apartments, the historic Colony and Fisher Arms Apartments have undergone a name change and have since been re-branded as the River Crest Apartments.

Cinnaire, a non-profit community development group, has contributed $500 million in investment in Detroit over the last 23 years. Cinnaire, Chesapeake Community Advisors, and Building Blocks received Spirit of Detroit awards from City Council President Brenda Jones.

River Crest Apartments is located at 9333 and 9303 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Bakery and cafe to open in Midtown this spring

Cake Ambition is coming to Third Street.

In the seven years since starting her business, Cake Ambition owner Jessica Bouren has baked and crafted her specialty cakes out of a number of shared locations, from family kitchens to Traffic Jam & Snug, where she currently rents kitchen facilities. But this March, Bouren will finally have a place to call her own.

Cake Ambition will open a storefront at 4154 Third St. this March. The shop will operate as a bakery and cafe, allowing Bouren to bake in the back while customers enjoy cake and coffee at the cafe tables up front. There will also be a retail area where Bouren will carry products from local makers: coffees, teas, jams, and nuts will be complemented by a wall of old-fashioned candy.

The main focus, of course, will remain on her cakes.

Bouren can make a cake shaped like just about anything. She's made cakes that look like pirate ships and basketball sneakers, Mad Hatter hats and Jeeps. She's even made a cake in the shape of Lionel Richie's head.

She's been eyeing this particular location for five years, having first spotted the distinctive lime green storefront while out walking her dog. And it just so happened that the building's owner has been keeping their eye out for Bouren, too. Her landlord owns the floral shop Blossoms right next door.

"The owner was very interested in Cake Ambition as a tenant. It's a good combination for a cake shop to move in next to florists," says Bouren. "He held that space for me for a year."

Bouren is designing the shop to reflect her own style, which she characterizes as eclectic. She says it will have a vintage mid-century vibe mixed in with bright pops of color.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Mini-grants awarded to community groups seeking to transform vacant lots throughout city

Ten community-led projects have been selected by the Detroit Future City Implementation Office as mini-grant recipients. Each group received a $6,500 grant to jump-start their plans for vacant land revitalization projects.

In October 2015, the DFC Implementation Office released "Working with Lots: A Field Guide." The book featured 34 different design suggestions for vacant land use in the city. Rain gardens, native butterfly meadows, and natural ground pollution remediation techniques are just some of the projects found in the 74-page guide.

The Field Guide is available online and print editions can be found at the DFC Implementation Office in New Center.

Ten projects were selected from the more than 30 applicants entered for the mini-grant competition. While it's up to the community groups how to build and spend on their projects, the DFC Implementation Office does stipulate that from the $6,500 awarded, only a maximum of $5,000 can be spent on project implementation and that at least $1,500 must be reserved for maintenance, programming, and education.

The winning groups are GenesisHOPE Community Development Corporation, Mack Avenue Community Church Community Development Corporation, Manistique Block Club 200-300 Block, Southwest Detroit Business Association, Minock Park Block Association, O'Hair Park Community Association, Popps Packing, Wyoming-Kentucky-Indiana-Wisconsin-Ohio Block Club, Motor City Grounds Crew, and Mecca Development Corporation.

"The Southwest Detroit Business Association is going to use the DFC grant to transform a currently vacant lot into an eco-friendly parking lot," says Greg Mangan, Real Estate Advocate at Southwest Detroit Business Association.

Being eco-friendly is definitely a theme. O'Hair Park Community Association, for example, is building the 8 Mile Rain Garden. "The 8 Mile Rain Garden lot design will help to manage stormwater runoff and will be a model for community members to duplicate as we begin to restore nearly 100 vacant side lots with purpose and beauty," says Joyce Daniel, O'Hair Park Community Association Treasurer.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Places to check out green infrastructure in Detroit

At Model D, we’ve been writing a lot about green infrastructure in the last few months, a topic which includes home-scale rain gardens as well as large public initiatives like catchment basins in parks. 
 
But no matter how well we write about it, a-hem, there’s no excuse for getting outside and seeing some of this stuff in action with your own eyes. Luckily, there are several places to check out green infrastructure in the city and perhaps get ideas for your home projects.

One of the best places to see a beautiful and environmentally friendly landscape is at William G. Milliken State Park on the Detroit waterfront. In the area near Atwater and Rivard streets, a compelling landscape of ponds, channels, wetlands and prairie creates the sort of environment needed to slow down the movement of water into the river that cleans the water prevents flooding. 

Highlights of the area at Milliken Park include the boardwalks and walkways that go along and over the wetlands, allowing visitors an up-close look at the various species that inhabit the space. These include a number of native flowering plants, insects, birds and even muskrats. 

You may be unlikely to install a muskrat-sized wetland on your own property, but this park is still a great place to visit to get ideas for rain gardens and prairie landscapes. It’s also a great place for kids. This writer has heard stories of children so distracted by the birds and butterflies in the wetland that they couldn’t be bothered with the nearby carousel. Surely this is a sign of progress.

Rouge Park and the surrounding area are another great areas to check out green infrastructure projects. Bio-swales installed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on Tireman to the west of the park line the road and catch water with the help of deep-rooted native plants.

In the park itself–which is the largest park in the city–there is a wildflower trail to the west of Outer Drive near the junction of Tireman. This is an excellent example of the kind of low-cost, low-maintenance landscape that can be used to catch and sequester water in a prairie landscape.

Nearby, off of Tireman itself is the Stone Bridge Trail, one of the nicer trails in the city. It wanders through the woods and wetland near the Rouge River. On a recent walk, I spotted a great blue heron here among other birds. There are also many examples of trees and understory species that thrive in wet environments, giving the gardener some ideas for the home garden. 

Also be sure to check out the bioswales at Cody Rouge's Stein Park, planted by high school students.

Seeing these spaces first-hand also helps homeowners and gardeners see how their efforts connect and support the larger ecosystem. If we are going to protect our local waterways from flooding and pollution, we all need to do our part. The reward for this work will be a more beautiful and abundant local landscape–and above all, cleaner water

This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.
 

Detroit to receive grant money and Innovation Team from Bloomberg Philanthropies

Detroit has been named a member of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team program, making the city eligible for up to three years of $500,000 grants. The money is to be used to fund an in-house Innovation Team, which will focus on improving city life through the development of new and novel solutions to issues faced by city residents.

The organization says that the Innovation Team will take a measurable approach, one with clear plans and goals. By funding an in-house group that could stay for as long as three years, the team will be better able to understand the complexities local to Detroit. Bloomberg Philanthropies will also provide implementation support and facilitate an exchange of ideas between the different Innovation Team sites.

Detroit was selected from a pool of cities from all over the world and joins a group that includes Be'er Sheva, Israel; Toronto, Canada; Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; and Durham, North Carolina. Eligible cities must have at least 100,000 residents and a mayor with at least two years left in office.

"I am happy to welcome the Bloomberg Innovation Team into our city to help create new ideas to better the lives of Detroiters across our city," said Mayor Mike Duggan.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg's umbrella organization for his charitable activities, which includes personal gifts and his foundation. The organization has five focus areas: Public health, environment, education, government innovation, and the arts.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Northwest Detroit businesses win Motor City Match funding

On Tuesday, January 10th, fifteen Detroit businesses and organizations were awarded funding through the Motor City Match grant program. A special guest was on hand for the ceremonyVice President Joe Biden joined Mayor Mike Duggan for the big announcement of winners.

"Vice President Biden and the Obama administration have been tremendous friends and supporters of the city of Detroit, so it's great to have the Vice President in our city one more time to participate in this great event," said Duggan in a press release about the event. Every quarter, Motor City Match gives away $500,000 in grants and resources to business owners and organizations in Detroit.

Of the fifteen businesses awarded grants, at least two will be on the Livernois commercial corridor, also known as the "Avenue of Fashion." Narrow Way Cafe, a coffee shop, won $45,000 and will be located at 19331 Livernois Avenue. Loose Massage Therapy won $35,000, and will provide massage therapy services at 19485 Livernois. The Trust Book store, located at 16180 Meyers Rd, is stationed just outside of the Fitzgerald neighborhood, which is the locus of ongoing city-focused development.

All three businesses will bring much needed "third spaces" to the Livernois/McNichols corridors, which have a large number of strong, densely populated neighborhoods, but are bounded by commercial spaces that continue to struggle. Diverse businesses, such as those represented by the winners of the sixth round of Motor City Match's grants, will provide residents more opportunities to shop and spend locally.

Read more about the Motor City Match program's sixth round of funding here.

How to evaluate your property for green infrastructure

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is changing the way it assesses drainage fees so that businesses and residential properties will be charged for impervious surfaces that contribute to stress on the city’s combined sewer system, rather than paying a flat fee. Anything that doesn’t allow water to flow into the ground like a roof, parking lot, garage or driveway is considered impervious. Fortunately, there are several things businesses and homeowners can do to receive credits to offset these charges.

The simple calculation for the stormwater charge is as follows: the city’s monthly rate x the number of impervious acres. The monthly rate is currently $750 per acre.That number is expected to decrease to $614 per acre next year.

You can make a simple measurement of the area you will be billed for by measuring the length and width of any impervious surfaces, including houses and garages on your property,  Then multiply each of these to get the square footage and add them all up for the total square footage. Divide this by 43,560–or the square feet in one acre–and multiply by the city’s rate to find out what your charge will be. You can also view the city's assessment using this parcel viewer tool. If your estimate differs from the city's, you can request an adjustment.

DWSD has been hosting workshops to help property owners find the best ways to receive credits to offset their stormwater fees, the slideshow for these presentations can be found here. Attending one of these is no doubt one of the best ways to figure out exactly what you will be charged for and how to get credits. 

However, some of the strategies worth considering include installing a rain garden–addressed in the previous post–installing pervious pavers on driveways and parking areas, disconnecting downspouts to connect to rainwater catchment devices, rain gardens or bio-retention areas.

Pervious pavers have become increasingly popular. They include various types of concrete-based paving materials that allow water to infiltrate beneath the parking surface rather than running off to surrounding areas and drains. Generally, this is something that has to be done by a professional, although serious do-it-yourselfers may give it a try. A growing number of landscaping companies in Michigan are doing this work. 

Catchment areas installed beneath permeable surfaces and elsewhere have also become popular. These are essentially hollow matrices made from reinforced plastic or other materials that hold onto large quantities of water and slowly release it back into the ground. 

As for disconnecting your downspouts, it’s not enough to cut off your gutter and let it run into your basement our out onto the street. These water sources can either be channeled to rain barrels or other storage tanks, rain gardens, landscaped bio-retention areas or some combination of all three. 

If you’re planning on using rain barrels or other tanks, remember that the average roof sheds a lot of water, so coming up with a plan for the overflow–like a rain garden–is important. Landscaped bio-retention areas are essentially depressions in the soil with well-draining soil that allows water to infiltrate. For the purposes of the credit, all water should be able to move into the soil within twenty-four hours. 

Other more advanced practice would include installing green roofs or bio-retention ponds as a landscape element or for irrigation. 

DWSD has plans to implement a “credit calculator” to help you determine what your offsets could amount to, as well as office hours where you can talk to someone about the best ways forward. 

This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.

Museum honoring nation's first African American-owned TV station to open on MLK Day

In 1975, the nation's first African American-owned and -operated television station opened on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. This Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, January 16, the doors of the old WGPR-TV 62 studios will re-open as the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center, honoring the station's historic legacy as well as its founder, Dr. William V. Banks.

WGPR-TV 62 was a station of many firsts. In addition to being the first African American-owned and -operated television station in the United States, the station was the first Detroit station to stay on air 24 hours a day, broadcast programming in Arabic, and use Electronic News Gathering equipment.

The station stayed on air from 1975 to 1995, until it was purchased by CBS.

Museum attractions will include interactive video exhibits, memorabilia displays, and archival program footage. Displays of former TV and radio personalities and employees of both WGPR and the city at large will also be present. Additionally, the topic of Black media ownership in general will be explored.

A second phase of development will build a media training center for middle school and high school students.

"We are extremely excited to see this long-awaited project come to fruition," says Joe Spencer, former WGPR program director and current president of the WGPR-TV Historical Society. "WGPR-TV was a trailblazer in many ways, and visitors to the museum will see the amazing ways the station paved the way for minority programming and updated technology, as well as launched the careers of many successful African Americans in the media."

Spencer left the television business following the CBS buyout, turning his focus to his Louisiana Creole Gumbo line of restaurants, as detailed in a recent Model D profile here.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Historical Society executive director and CEO Robert Bury will be on hand for the grand opening on Monday, January 16, at 9:30 a.m. The museum will remain open to the public following the ceremony.

The William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center is located at 3146 E. Jefferson Ave. Regular museum hours of operation are every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Q&A: Dean Hay of The Greening of Detroit talks green infrastructure in the city

Dean Hay is director of Green Infrastructure at The Greening of Detroit, a group dedicated to increasing the amount of trees and green spaces as well as jobs and education opportunities throughout the city of Detroit. As such, we figured him to be an ideal person to talk to for our series on green infrastructure.

Model D: How big of a priority is green infrastructure to the Greening of Detroit?

Hay: Green infrastructure is very important to The Greening of Detroit. We envision GI as a community development tool that improves the quality of life for Detroit residents because of its cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts. Plants and trees not only reduce flooding, but improve air quality and recreational access to nature. Green infrastructure provides the community with a variety of economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Model D: When did it become a priority?

Hay: The Greening of Detroit began implementing community tree plantings 28 years ago in response to the tremendous loss of trees to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s and 80s. Trees, as an urban forest network, are a highly effective GI treatment, especially when used with other GI treatments. The Greening of Detroit has always used a multi-faceted approach to green infrastructure.

Model D: What is Greening of Detroit's role in the strengthening of green infrastructure in Detroit?

Hay: The Greening of Detroit continues to be a strong advocate for community-based green infrastructure, as well as treatments that perform well without excessive implementation and maintenance costs. We believe the most effective GI treatments incorporate robust community engagement, education, and design. This helps to ensure that each treatment is understood and accepted by each neighborhood.

Model D: What green infrastructure projects does Greening of Detroit have planned in the future?

Hay: We are developing new prototypes with neighborhood leaders that focus on the establishment of natural ecosystems on vacant land. These prototypes will emphasize education, stormwater infiltration, natural resource career development opportunities, and place-making experiences.

Model D: What would you like to see happen with green infrastructure in Detroit?

Hay: GI treatments don't have to be complex and/or expensive. I would like communities to prioritize according to their needs, partner with organizations like The Greening, and develop GI methods that effectively work in their neighborhoods. This will mandate that more funding and access to vacant land be made available to those leaders and groups that want to bring natural ecosystem solutions and improved quality of life to their residents.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Use the winter to plan for your rain garden

With the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage bringing on new stormwater drainage fees, a lot of people are looking into ways to get credits for rainwater mitigation on their properties. One easy and beautiful thing that you can do is to create a rain garden.

Rain gardens have come into vogue in the last few years as a way to keep water from inundating local waterways and sewer systems, which can cause problems with flooding and pollution when combined sewer systems overflow. These gardens also usually feature native flowering plants that provide a beautiful color palette and provide food and habitat for birds and insects.

Rain gardens are built by digging a shallow depression that collects water from a downspout or off of a paved surface. They are often planted with a well-drained soil mix containing sand, topsoil and compost. The native plants employed have deep roots that create further channels into the ground to help keep it out of sewers, basements and other places where it’s not wanted. 

Winter is an excellent time to plan next year’s rain garden. Think about where you might want to have a new garden, making sure that it’s at least ten feet away from the house. The garden doesn’t have to be that big to absorb most of the water from your roof. However, people usually build their gardens to be at least 150 to 200 square feet, so they are big enough to make a visual statement in the landscape.
 
Use a garden hose to test possible shapes for the garden. From there, take a measurement of the area taken up by the hose and transpose it to a rough scale drawing. Using graph paper can help with this process.
 
Here is a list of plants for use in rain gardens. Plants that are most tolerant of standing water should be placed at the center of the garden. When planning the garden follow basic design rules. Clump perennials and smaller plants in groups of three or more, aim for a variety of leaf texture and flower color and, if possible, select plants that bloom at different times to create continuous interest.
 
Once you have dug or mechanically excavated the depression for your rain garden, you will need to add soil, plants and then mulch. Use the winter to get quotes on prices for materials from local retailers. Also keep an eye out for help from local organizations like the Friends of the Rouge and Keep Growing Detroit’s  “Rain Gardens to the Rescue” program and contact friends and neighbors who may be able to help out. 
 
The result will be a win-win-win garden that is good for your yard, your pocketbook and the health of your local waterways and the Great Lakes. 

This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.

Q&A: Kimberly Hill Knott on using green infrastructure for environmental justice in Detroit

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice is a nonprofit organization that has launched the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative (DCAC), which is leading the development of the city of Detroit’s Climate Action Plan.  DCAC is focused on how climate change affects Detroiters, especially those living in low-income, marginalized communities. They've identified areas of the city that are most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change--which in Detroit come in the form of heat and flooding--and are focused on helping the communities in these areas build resilience.

Model D spoke with Kimberly Hill Knott, DWEJ's policy director and DCAC’s project director, to find out more about why the organization is turning to green infrastructure as a solution.

Model D: How does green infrastructure play into the work that you're doing with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice?

Knott: Because we're leading the development of the city of Detroit's Climate Action Plan, which focuses on weather extremities, including heavy precipitation and extreme heat, we've had no other choice but to examine the role of green infrastructure. Our climatological research is showing that not only is it raining more frequently, so precipitation is increasing, but it's also more intense, and when you have aging infrastructure combined with older homes and a combined sewer system, it's a recipe for disaster.

Model D: How are you engaging the communities most affected?

Knott: We recently held a green infrastructure training with the community, in district four which is Detroit's Lower Eastside, and is most susceptible to flooding. That's the Jefferson-Chalmers community.

At the meeting, we gave an overview of Detroit Climate Action Collaborative. One of our Detroit climate ambassadors is from that community and had been talking to us about doing a green infrastructure training in that neighborhood, which has been experiencing severe flooding.

One of the reasons that we decided to do this training is because the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) will be rolling out stormwater drainage fees this year to residential customers. Late last year, DWSD provided informational workshops to non-residential customers, so we wanted to get ahead of the game to prepare residents for the new impervious acreage rate and to show them how to install green infrastructure so that they can receive the appropriate amount of drainage credit.   We partnered with two of our climate ambassadors to do the training for a train-the-trainer style workshop, and then planted a rain garden at a church and also installed a rain barrel.

Model D: So is the idea that you're trying to encourage people to do this on their own properties?

Knott: Yes.  Green infrastructure is not only important because it reduces the risk of flooding and ultimately the cost of repairs, but it's also important because of climate change. As the intensity and frequency of these storms increases, it just makes sense to mitigate the risk.

Model D: Do people in that community understand the connection between flooding and climate change or is this sort of something that is new to them?

Knott: I think that what they're most familiar with is the combined sewer system because all of the sewage that keeps backing up into their basements. I don't know if they believe it's as much an issue of climate change as it is where they're located, and it being an issue of an aging infrastructure. Our job is to connect those dots, because whenever there is heavy rain, the sewer system will be overwhelmed, causing flooding.  

Model D: What are some of the green infrastructure tactics or types of applications that are most relevant to residents that are facing flooding?

Knott: The tactic that we have focused on during our training and the ones that are being used the most in that community are rain gardens. Rain gardens are one of the most commonly installed green infrastructure measures, because of the amount of water that they can capture.

Model D: How else does green infrastructure fit into the larger climate action work that you're doing, and what other groups have you or do you plan to reach out to?

Knott: When we release the Detroit Climate Action Plan, some of the adaptation and mitigation goals and action steps will focus on some aspect of green infrastructure. In the future, we may have a workshop for industrial and commercial business customers, but for right now, that's not as much of our focus. Right now we're just focusing on the residential.

Model D: For residents who want to implement green infrastructure on their properties, whether it's to save money on their water bills or what have you, what advice do you give to them to get started on doing something?

Knott: The first thing that they can do is to purchase a rain barrel, which is relatively inexpensive or can be free, depending on where you get it. Some rain barrels will need to be retrofitted to capture the rainwater.  We also believe it is important for people to make sure that their basements are waterproofed.

A bit more technical to install, rain gardens are also very helpful. You can't just use any plant in a rain garden.  You can’t just say, 'You know what? I like these flowers. I'm going to make a rain garden.' There are certain types of plants that must be used.  Education is key.  
 
It will be very important that DWSD has some hands-on training in the communities. They cannot just invite people to a meeting to talk to them about the new impervious acreage fees and the importance of installing a rain garden. Residents are not familiar with this tactic. 

The city is going to have to roll up their sleeves and heavily invest in community engagement. Partnering with local organizations to assist with community outreach and green infrastructure training will be very important.   

Q&A: Todd Scott on the link between Detroit's greenways and green infrastructure

Todd Scott is the executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition. One of his big projects is to complete the Inner Circle Greenway, a 26-mile series of bike lanes and greenways that will connect the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, and Dearborn. We asked him a few questions about green infrastructure and the Inner Circle Greenway.

Model D: How does non-motorized transportation, and perhaps transportation itself, benefit from green infrastructure?

Todd Scott: Both complement each other. Trees, plantings, bioswales and the like provide the shade and aesthetics that makes biking or walking more pleasant and more enticing. Off-road paths, wider sidewalks, and even on-road protected bike lanes provide more opportunity to introduce green infrastructure into the urban environment. It makes sense that both are considered together as a package.

Model D: What's the state of green infrastructure within the Inner Circle Greenway today?

Scott: The built portions of the Inner Circle Greenway include the Detroit RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut. Both are fairly green, and of course, there's the natural stormwater filtration system at Milliken State Park. The on-road bike lane portions along W. Vernor (SW Detroit) and St. Aubin (Eastern Market to Hamtramck) could certainly benefit from additional green infrastructure, but especially street trees. There have been some informal discussions on how those bike lanes could be improved. That would be a good opportunity to address green infrastructure as well.

Model D: What sort of green infrastructure projects can benefit the Inner Circle Greenway? Any planned?

Scott: The largest unbuilt portion of the Inner Circle Greenway is the abandoned Conrail railroad corridor that runs from Warren near Lonyo to Jos Campau near McNichols. Nature hasn't taken back much of the corridor. Still, there are significant opportunities to further green this corridor and process stormwater from adjacent roads and other impervious surfaces. Portions of the rail line were built on former drains which remain wet to this day. Not only can the greenway process this stormwater; it can tell the history of how we've dealt with it.

There's increased discussion about the proposed May Creek Greenway between the West RiverWalk and Corktown. Being that it is a former creek bed, there is a significant opportunity for green infrastructure here as well. Obviously, its connection to the Detroit River is much more direct at this location. We can tell the story of Detroit's former creeks and how they were transformed into stormwater drains.

Model D: What are the plans for next year for the Inner Circle Greenway? Anything as it relates to green infrastructure?

Scott: The City of Detroit is still negotiating the purchase of the Conrail property, so nothing can move forward until that is complete. We're also looking to confirm city ownership of the abandoned rail corridor for May Creek.

Once the land is secured, additional environmental testing will be necessary. We're hopeful that large scale soil remediation (i.e. removing contaminated soil) will not be necessary. That would add delay and cost to the eventual development of these trail corridors.

The City was not awarded a federal TIGER grant to construct the greenway this year. Our fingers are crossed that this program will continue with the next administration.

Model D:  What would you like to see happen with green infrastructure in Detroit?

Scott: We're interested in using greenways not only for trails but to manage stormwater from adjacent properties. We've participated in the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) conversations about offsite stormwater management and drainage credits. We may be able to monetize those credits to help offset greenway operational costs.

We'd also like to see both non-motorized and green infrastructure projects implemented together as a standard practice within the city. Detroit has significant open space whether it's vacant parcels, abandoned rail corridors, or extra wide roads. We can use these to create safe and convenient non-motorized transportation options and green infrastructure in a way that most other cities can't. It's an exciting opportunity to build a better city.

This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model  D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Q&A: WSU's Carol Miller on the interplay between green and gray infrastructure

Carol Miller is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. She's also Director of Healthy Urban Waters, a program that advocates and researches clean water resources in the Huron-Erie Corridor. We asked her a few questions about how green infrastructure in Detroit can help sustain our larger, "gray" infrastructure water systems.

Model D: What is the current state of Detroit's water infrastructure?

Miller: The current situation is in flux; in transition. As we all are well aware, much of the water transmission and distribution infrastructureincluding pipes, pumps, and valveshas served the city for a very long time. In some instances, for 100 years and more. 
 
In addition, the stormwater and sanitary infrastructure have been a significant environmental problem in the past. Many of these issues are much more at the forefront of political, social, and environmental justice discussions these days. This heightened awareness of the critical nature of our water infrastructure has led to some relatively recent and well-deserved attention on this issue.

Model D: How can green infrastructure ease the pressure on water infrastructure in Detroit?

Green infrastructure can ease the pressure on some of the urban flooding issues associated with high flows within the combined storm/sanitary lines. Green infrastructure can hold back some of the storm runoff, allowing it to pass into the piping system after the peak discharge has receded. 
 
Also, green infrastructure can reduce the total runoff that exits a property by allowing more to drain into the soil and be used by plants. Green infrastructure can also, in some cases, improve the quality of the stormwater runoff by allowing particulates to settle out.

Model D: What will it take to create a green infrastructure that improves city water infrastructure?

It will take leadership within the city and within the communities (residential, business, and industrial) of the city. We are seeing some of that leadership come together presently, with DWSD and the Great Lakes Water Authority, as well as citizen leaders in the communities. Wayne State University, through its Healthy Urban Waters program, is also playing a key role; as are SEMCOG, MDEQ, and others.

This is critical because this is an all-encompassing and all-effecting problem, and adequate attention will require leadership from the citizens, government, academic partners, and regulatory community. For green infrastructure, often the most important component is the citizen component.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model  D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.

Q&A: Victoria Byrd Olivier on Detroit Future City and green infrastructure

Victoria Byrd Olivier is director of land use and sustainability for the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, where she works on strategies to implement the Detroit Future City Strategic Plan. The office has been active in working on green infrastructure, particularly through its Field Guide to Working with Lots and its mini-grant program.
 
With an undergraduate degree in Urban Planning from the University of Virginia and a Master's Degree, also in Urban Planning from the University of New Orleans, Olivier began her career in New Orleans, focused on post-Hurricane Katrina recovery work with an emphasis on neighborhood planning, adaptive reuse, and historic preservation. She began working at Detroit Future City in August of 2013. She's also a co-founder of Brick + Beam Detroit, a project to help residents restore historic homes in the city.
 
Much of Olivier's work involves strategizing on how to deploy green infrastructure across the city best. Model D chatted with Byrd to find out more about her work.
 
Model D: Why did you want to leave New Orleans to come to Detroit?
 
Victoria Byrd Olivier: There are many connections with New Orleans' circumstances and the types of challenges that both cities were going through. But it was really about the energy that was going on in Detroit; the type of people who had been working here and who were starting to move here, that were collaborating. I was interested in being able to apply the skills that I had picked up in the New Orleans' environment to Detroit, and having an opportunity to explore a whole new part of the country.
 
In Detroit, you can't ignore what an amazing opportunity we have. We've started with the assumption that there were 20 square miles of vacant land and that continues to grow every day with demolitions throughout the city. We're looking now at 30 square miles of vacant land. Vacant land can be a blight, and we can't assume that just having a building down makes it a more positive environment for that neighborhood.
 
Model D: Talk about the role green infrastructure plays in the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework and the Implementation Offices' operations?
 
Byrd: The strategic framework was the first planning document where Detroit had focused on acknowledging the realities on the ground. One of those realities was the amount of vacant land. It was not looking to the traditional solution for that, which is, "Let's build more houses, let's fill that land," but recognizing that due to market conditions and other factors, it was about, "How do we intentionally turn that vacant land into open space? How do we use that land to distinguish Detroit as a national or international leader in turning a liability into an asset to improve food security, to explore renewable energy production, and to improve health outcomes? The framework took the first step in both acknowledging the issues and looking at positive solutions for vacant land.
 
But it was just a start. The DFC Implementation Office is about carrying that work forward. We also recognize that looking positively on vacant land and open space as an opportunity is still something that's relatively new in the city. DFC and groups across the city are continually trying to work on the culture shift, where vacant land can be seen as an opportunity and not just an absence.
 
Model D: What are some examples of work DFC is doing to promote green infrastructure in the city?
 
Olivier: We see green infrastructure as part of a greater open space network in the city. The strategic framework started with a map that showed the different green options across the city. There are a lot of really tough questions that go along with that, including who owns that land, how you pay for it, how you maintain it, and how you deal with liability.
 
In the past year and a half, DFC has put together two reports that look at some of those questions. The first was called Achieving an Integrated Open Space Network in Detroit. It tried to broaden the idea of what green space could look like. 
 
While green infrastructure is really important, it has to be integrated into many land uses, for example, natural areas that are a little more passive, like meadows, and wetlands, and forests, and then also productive landscapes. If you're looking at food or energy production or tree farms, green infrastructure can be a part of that, as well.
 
We have a variety of parks and greenways across the city, and those are very compatible with green infrastructure, and we have the new parks improvement plan that started to outline that idea. And we're also thinking about buffers between our industrial areas and health outcomes that can improve through addressing them.
 
We also put together a second report on open space with the Center for Community Progress that looks at ownership and funding considerations that could help inform our work. There have been several models across the country and the world that Detroit can start to look to once we figure out how we want to use that land. We interviewed many stakeholders across the city to get their input on that report.
 
We've also been convening an open space working group for the past seven months; we meet monthly with 25 to 40 different participants that are coming at this open space puzzle from various perspectives, but all with the same goal of how to best use our land. And we've been working alongside the city as they're looking at the urban planning process, to see how we can support work in tandem.
 
Model D: What role is DFC playing in DWSD's efforts to encourage ratepayers to implement green infrastructure as part of reducing their drainage fees?
 
Olivier : All of those groups that are working with open space are going to be finding ways to align with the big changes that are about to occur with DWSD's drainage fee and green infrastructure credits.

At DFC, we're working align everything we're doing and planning so that we can take tools like our Field Guide to Working with Lots or our mini-grant program and think about how the DWSD credit program is going to work, and how we can create designs as options or the credit programs. We're also thinking about how we can provide more technical assistance in the office and build up our capacities so we can help people get those designs into the ground.
 
Model D: What are the greatest obstacles and the challenges to implementing green infrastructure in the city, and how do you address them?
 
Olivier: Maintenance is a big obstacle. Just on a small scale, we've tried to address that through the second round of our mini-grant program, which provides specific funding for maintenance. It's also part of our technical assistance. We wanted to make sure we looked into resources to help sustain these projects; that's something that we prioritized.
 
Another challenge is workforce development. I think a great opportunity for green infrastructure in the city is how it can be part of improving employment opportunities for Detroiters. We've found that there is a bit of a gap in the contractors and landscapers that have the expertise and are comfortable with implementing these designs. So making sure that we can align with other groups that are doing workforce development is important.
 
And another big challenge is that there are likely different incentives and funding models for each user group--whether businesses or non-profits or residents. So we need to understand what the resources are, both financial and human resources, to see how green infrastructure can not only provide an environmental benefit but fit into other goals.
 
This story is part of a series on measuring on the role of green infrastructure projects in Detroit's redevelopment. Support for this series is provided by the Erb Family Foundation to Greening of Detroit, Model D, and The Nature Conservancy. Read more articles from the series here.

Students hope to raise funds to build 18-hole miniature golf course in North End

Public Spaces Community Places, the statewide placemaking initiative funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), has set its sights on seven vacant lots in the North End neighborhood of Detroit.

It's there, just north of the New Center area, that a neighborhood youth patrol group called 4Ward Phoenix is hoping build what would be the city's only 18-hole miniature golf course. The group is trying to raise $5,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. Should that group successfully reach its target sum by Jan. 16, MEDC and MSHDA will provide a $5,000 matching grant.

The crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform.

"This Mini-Golf is important to our 4Ward Phoenix youth," says group organizer Phillis Judkins. "Students are creating this putt-putt to implement their professional skills from their classes. Crowdfunding is a great display of the faith and support individuals have for their specific goals. The most powerful tool is to know that someone is interested in your success by donating towards your cause. Engagement for local families, businesses, and organizations is just one of the many thing this miniature golf will support. And for the students, having an entire community behind them, donating to their success is empowering and irreplaceable."

The money raised will complement the more than $275,000 that has already been secured for the project. Plans include the 18-hole miniature golf course, green space, fencing, solar-powered lighting, benches, landscaping, and off-street parking.

[For more on the North End, check out this Model D story on the neighborhood's bright future]

4Ward Phoenix is the youth group of the North End Neighborhood Patrol. The students have taken part in a number of lessons to ready themselves to run a small business, including marketing, banking, and neighborhood outreach. They hope to open the 4ward Phoenix Miniature Golf center by March 2017.

Click here to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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