Arts space and mini-market planned for two vacant lots in Southwest Detroit

After two decades of sitting empty, two vacant lots adjacent to Detroit’s Clark Park are on the cusp of becoming community assets.

Located at the corner of Bagley Street and Scotten Avenue sit two vacant lots. A crowdfunding campaign and complementing matching grant could change that as a neighboring nonprofit has launched a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to bring their ideas for change to fruition.

We Are Culture Creators, a nonprofit that offers arts and entrepreneurship programming for young men of color in Detroit, seeks to transform the vacant lots into La Esquina, a mini-market and arts space next to their headquarters on Bagley Street.

The organization has partnered with the MEDC to make it happen. We Are Culture Creators has entered into the Public Spaces Community Places program, a placemaking initiative from the MEDC.

As part of the program, the nonprofit has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build La Esquina. Should they successfully raise $50,000 by Tuesday, Sept. 29, the MEDC will then offer the organization a $50,000 matching grant.

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

"Outdoor community space for Black and Latinx voices is vital during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Michael Reyes, creator of We Are Culture Creators.

"The MEDC Public Spaces Community Places Program will allow us to create a place and space that will bring commerce, art, culture, and community together in a safe and accessible way."

The We Are Culture Creators organization envisions a multipurpose greenspace with a garden, performance stage, and more. Proposed features include event space, artisan and farmers markets, and an outdoor kitchen complete with water and electrical hookups.

Planned on the side of the house facing La Esquina is a mural of the artist Frida Kahlo.

Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, says that projects like La Esquina are especially timely and important given the need for quality outdoor space during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With the support of this crowdfunding effort, this mini market will become a source of community pride and an outstanding gathering space for people for years to come," he says.

Visit Patronicity to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

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