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Community development organizations release right-sizing strategic framework

Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) is comprised of community development organizations from across the city. They built houses before lofts were all the rage, paving the way for for-profit market-rate ventures and, now that the housing market is kaput, they've turned their sights on talking about what's next for Detroit. About a year ago, they formed a Futures Task Force, and the first deliverable is a document entitled "Neighborhood Revitalization Strategic Framework." It looks at the concept of right-sizing, down-sizing or reinventing Detroit -- whatever you want to call it -- and makes a set of recommendations that, hopefully, will guide policy-makers, elected officials and the funding community when they start tackling the heated issue.

"(The strategic framework) is about reinventing Detroit so that it is a better place for people to live in," says Tom Goddeeris, executive director of Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation and a Futures Task Force participant. "It's how to think about how to improve it in a way that recognizes that there is lots of vacant land, (there are lots of) vacant buildings and we don't have the population that we once had...We wanted to put forward an idea about the city that says that it can be a better place, a greener place, a more economically viable place."

The community development community has always operated on the notion that rebuilding a city means building more houses. The strategic framework they've released abandons that principle, instead looking at numerous different ways -- be that open space, greenways, urban farms or even traditional neighborhoods -- that Detroit might evolve. "These are concepts to get people thinking a different way as opposed to going back to some previous time where (success meant) more people and more businesses," says Goddeeris. Along with drawing other stakeholders into the conversation, he says a goal of the collaborative is to show that "there can be a vision for reinventing the city in a way that is looking to make it a better place, not as an exit strategy or a sign of defeat."

While the concept of right-sizing holds allure in some camps and -- shades of Poletown -- horror in others, Goddeeris stresses the point that much work can be done before relocation is even close to a reality. "There are parts of the city that we can immediately start strengthening and some that we can immediately start greening without having to displace a bunch of people," he says.

Source: Tom Goddeeris, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. and CDAD
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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