The North End Christian Community Development Corporation has launched the Bricks and Butterflies Capital Campaign to raise $500,000 to fund four new programs in the neighborhood, including transforming Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor, building a new hostel development, and providing workforce development.
Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has been working to revitalize the once-thriving commercial district along Oakland Avenue.
“The campaign will support four unique initiatives focused on continued community support for renewal and preservation in the historic North End,” says Jerry Ann Hebron, executive director of North End Christian Community Development Corporation.
The Red’s Shoe Shine Redevelopment Project will transform the historic neighborhood building into a community hub, which will sell coffee and healthy smoothies. Next month a green roof will be planted, followed by the completion of plumbing and electrical systems and getting the space ready for tenants. The goal is to complete the shoe shine project by late fall.
The shoe parlor has a rich history and past in the neighborhood, “where we saw important people come,” Hebron told Model D last year.
“There were a lot of speakeasies in the North End, I'm learning, but this particular speakeasy was one where Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and a lot of entertainers performed and rehearsed. It was one of those entertainment spots, the best-kept secrets, where people could come and hear the music, meet up with friends, and it was in the back of the shoe shine.”
The Landing will be a new hostel development on the campus of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, which attracts 5,000-plus visitors from near and far. “The farm attracts hundreds of visitors from around the world annually,” Hebron says. “The goal of The Landing is to provide them with a place to stay overnight on site at the farm to better serve their goals of learning more about our programs.”
The farm is renovating an empty 2,500-square-foot house for the 12-bed hostel as well as a neighborhood culinary education center. Phase I of the project, which entails building a commercial kitchen, will begin this spring with a $54,000 grant from the Michigan Good Food Fund.
“Through this project we will guide our neighbors to healthier food choices through home-cooking classes that pair the produce of the farm with culturally appropriate, simple recipes intended to create health-transformative eating habits and joyful foodways,” says farm program director Natosha Tallman.
The other two initiatives focus on workforce development in the North End.
The North End Christian CDC Carpentry Program will train a cohort of men and women to become skilled tradespeople in carpentry. The 10-month program will teach basic cabinet-making and millwork to participants as well as soft skills to help workers apply for jobs and learn how to be entrepreneurs.
The Bags to Butterflies Relocation Initiative aims to renovate space for the workforce development program that provides employment and training opportunities for formerly incarcerated women. The women create unique handbags made out of reclaimed wood. In their new location, the program will be able to continue to provide services and have an official home base to sell the designers’ handmade creations. Further, they hope that the farm program could be another source of employment for participants.
“This work is important because as the North End changes, we are a grassroots organization that is providing services for people who already live here, and to be a welcoming presence for those who are moving in,” says Hebron, “It is important to this neighborhood and to Detroit to see revitalization in the Oakland Avenue corridor.”