Correction: This story has been updated to say Michele Flournoy is an urban designer with the City of Detroit.
Members of the Old Redford neighborhood joined Sidewalk Detroit, Old Redford Neighborhood Link, and the Detroit Land Bank Authority for a town hall to discuss additions of public art to revitalized areas on Wednesday, July 15.
Focusing on gathering community input, the organizations discussed projects that are underway, options for new projects, and events for community engagement.
The northwest side neighborhood is home to the Artists’ Village and takes pride in its history and connection to public art. After receiving $1 million in city funding, Old Redford Neighborhood Link (a project that aims to connect Old Redford places to new developments and residential hubs) partnered with Sidewalk Detroit and the Detroit Land Bank Authority to ensure public projects are community-driven and culturally relevant.
“It takes a village to raise a community, but we’re not just talking about it, we’re being about it,” said Artists’ Village Co-Founder Alicia George. “Our little cluster of Detroit is pretty special.”
Projects in the works
One of the projects the hosts highlighted was connecting a walking and bike trail through empty lots located where Burgess Street meets Glenco Street. The idea is that the path would connect to Curtis Street, and it would allow for people to walk through the neighborhood or commute to the bus stop with ease.
Another location highlighted was the Lasher/Redford intersection, which the community currently finds difficult and dangerous to cross. The suggested project, which had a lot of support from the attendees, would repair the sidewalks and make the crosswalks more visible to cars through an addition of a street mural.
The construction of Rogell Park has been underway for the past couple years, taking over the former Rogell Golf Course. The community was interested in adding functional and environmental art to the park, as well as be able to have community events there in the future.
“Where throughout the neighborhood do we want to prioritize the link with public art?” said Michele Flournoy, urban designer with the City of Detroit's Planning and Development Department.
Locations for smaller projects were presented, such as for repairs and embellishments on sidewalks and crosswalks, additions of basketball courts, and transformations of vacant lots into useful community spaces.
The community showed interest in finding practical uses for public art to increase the safety and appeal of the neighborhood, and were more interested in multiple smaller scale projects as opposed to a few larger ones.
Flournoy presented the opportunity for residents of the neighborhood to buy vacant lots from the Detroit Land Bank Authority for their own community or economic interests.
There will be a Detroit Land Bank Authority meeting for Old Redford residents to attend on Thursday, July 23 to learn about how to invest in vacant lots.
“We can see that a lot of change is happening in our country and our community, now more than ever it’s important for people to have control over the public space in terms of what happens there and what types of programming happens there in the future,” said Sidewalk Detroit Executive Director Ryan Myers-Johnson. “I really want to encourage people to go out to that meeting next Thursday [July 23, to learn more about how to purchase vacant lots].”
According to Flournoy and Myers-Johnson, this opportunity will allow residents to be more directly involved and in control of what happens in their neighborhood.
Flournoy presented projects and services the city was willing to invest in. Looking for input on focus areas, she touched on the budget for commissioned artists, developers, and maintenance.
The overall investment into the Old Redford neighborhood totals $1 million, but will be further divided based on the recommendations the city accepts based on the town hall.
“The framework is really about setting a vision and identifying and facilitating the process for community-led activation of these public spaces,” Flournoy said.
More Old Redford Neighborhood Link town halls will take place in the fall, in time with new installations at Rogell Park.
To learn more about Sidewalk Detroit or Old Redford Neighborhood Link, visit their websites or social media platforms.