Midtown addresses ongoing lighting issue with community partnerships and creative funding strategies

Safe street lighting has been an ongoing focus for Midtown Detroit, Inc. since 2004. With a lack of funding available from the city to repair and replace the streetlights, Sue Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit, Inc., has been creative in her efforts to address and improve the serious situation.
"There’s a variety of things we have been doing given the fact that there’s no dollars for repairing and putting in new lighting," she says. "We do lots around lighting but the need is far greater than our current funding." They’ve already been working on this problem for nearly a decade. "It’s a slow process. Literally every street light needs to be handled."
Since 2004, Midtown has put in all new lighting on Woodward as part of the Woodward Streetscape Project. They’ve put up LED pedestrian lights along the Midtown Loop Greenway. With the recent conversion of Third Avenue to a two-way street with bike lanes they also put up all new LED streetlights in conjunction with the city.
New lighting was just installed on West Canfield between Woodward and Cass and the I-94/Trumbull bridge as part of the Greenway. They also just got a grant in conjunction with Next Energy to do a pilot of LED street lighting (relamping existing poles) on Warren between Cass and John R.
They have a blanket contract with Motor City Electric to repair streets where the lights have been completely broken -- next up is Seward, Virginia Park, and historic West Canfield. "We are at least having them make repairs on critical streets where we think safety is an issue in the interim."
Upcoming projects include installing new streetlights and LED pedestrian lights on Cass between Canfield and I-94 in 2014 and a partnership with Eastern Market, the Community Health Development Project, and the city to add new LED pedestrian lighting all through Brush Park and into Eastern Market.

They are focused on LED, which is more expensive initially but much more cost-effective long-term. Because the problem is ultimately in the lighting infrastructure itself, temporary troubleshooting is not a preferable solution. "It goes way beyond the poles." The whole system needs to be overhauled and rebuilt, which is where money from foundations, matching grants from the state, and working with many community partners comes in. "It's a group effort," Mosey says. 
"So far we’re just coming up with different strategies to improve the situation. This is still one of our very top, close to number one, challenges -- trying to get the lighting correct."
While a new public lighting authority will be appointed within weeks (even days), Mosey is unsure how they plan to attack priority areas and says Midtown will continue to move forward with its particular projects. 

Source: Sue Mosey, Midtown Detroit, Inc. President
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.