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Renovations complete, programs commence with journalist Stephen Henderson's Tuxedo Project

Members of the Tuxedo Project in front of the literary house while the abandoned house next door is demolished

Around this time last year we reported on an interesting project—one that even made our list of the 7 most exciting developments in Detroit for 2017—spearheaded by Stephen Henderson, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Henderson had just completed a successful Patronicity campaign to purchase his childhood home on Tuxedo Street, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, so he could renovate and transform it into a literary arts and community center. 

We're happy to report a year later that the Tuxedo Project is moving along almost exactly as planned, and then some. Yesterday, with the help of the Detroit Land Bank Authority and the Adamo Group, the dilapidated home next door was demolished. Adamo donated the demolition, estimated at a cost of $18,000. 

Renovations were completed on the Tuxedo Project house itself this summer, and an English professor-in-residence, Rose Gorman of Marygrove College, moved there in August. Already the house is active with literary events—Gorman has hosted a poetry slam and her creative writing class meets there. 

"It's a literary center," Gorman says. "And the easiest way to start doing the work that we hope to do in the future is by doing, well, literary stuff."

On the newly-vacant adjacent lot, Henderson plans to build a community space with easy indoor/outdoor access, and perhaps an urban garden.

This project is intensely personal to Henderson—he grew up on the block, in the very house that was renovated, and is using it as a platform to uplift people through writing and reading. "The literary arts are what carried me from this house to all the other opportunities I've had in my life," Henderson says. "And that should be available to everyone."

17 of the 35 houses on the block were abandoned when Henderson launched The Tuxedo Project. Three houses later—two demolished plus the literary house—and there's still much work to be done. His goal is to demolish or renovate all of them.

Henderson is quick to note that Tuxedo Street is not unique. 

"I hope it's eventually possible for projects like this to take place throughout the city using market tools … This happens to be my house, that's why I focused on it, but there's hundreds of blocks like this throughout the city."

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is the managing editor of Model D and a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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