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Using the literary arts to fight blight on Tuxedo Street

Tuxedo Street

A sentimental drive by a childhood home is a common occurrence in the city, country, and everywhere betweeneven for Pulitzer Prize winners. Stephen Henderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Detroit Free Press columnist and host of both radio and television talk shows, has been checking in on his own childhood home since moving back to Detroit in 2007.

He says his family's former home on Tuxedo Street on the city's west side was well-kept back in 2007 but, as the years wore on, Henderson watched the house deteriorate. In 2012, a window was boarded up. Soon, all the windows would be boarded up. Eventually, the house was stripped.

Henderson is now leading a charge to transform the vacant house on Tuxedo Street from an eyesore into an asset. A purchase agreement to buy the house from the Detroit Land Bank is nearly complete.

Dubbed the Tuxedo Project, the house at 7124 Tuxedo St. will become a literary and community center, complete with an English professor-in-residence. The house will be rehabilitated and turned into a space for students and community members to share their stories and create new ones, using the literary arts to effect positive change. Plans for other abandoned homes on the 7100 block of Tuxedo Street will follow.

"It's the idea of the power of one," says Henderson. "What happens if one person returns to where they're from and tries to make changes, what will that inspire, and will there be a ripple effect of change."

Henderson has a big team behind him. The Knight Foundation and Marygrove College are working together to bring an English professor to Tuxedo Street. Members of Henderson's 1988 graduating class of University of Detroit Jesuit High School have rallied together to form a non-profit. And the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority have included the Tuxedo Project in its Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

Should the Tuxedo Project successfully raise $50,000 by November 28, MEDC and MSHDA will contribute a $50,000 matching grant. The crowdfunding campaign is being held on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform.

"None of this is any more than an idea in my head without these partnerships," says Henderson.

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

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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