Correction: A caption on this story has been updated to properly credit artist Fel'le for his "Leroy the King" mural in Fitzgerald. Model D regrets the error.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has underscored the need for parks and other open spaces, the City of Detroit has received $1 million in new investment and an additional three-year commitment through the national initiative Reimagining the Civic Commons.
The collaborative effort of four national foundations — including the James L. Knight Foundation and The Kresge Foundation — and local partners aims to transform public spaces with the goal of advancing engagement, equity, environmental sustainability, and economic development.
The city received a $4 million grant from the initiative in 2016, when it was chosen as one of five cities, including Akron, Chicago, and Memphis. In Detroit, it has helped support the reinvestment in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, including the construction of Ella Fitzgerald Park, which was created from 26 formerly vacant residential lots, and the renovation of a former tuxedo shop on West McNichols Road into HomeBase, a community center and headquarters for the Live6 Alliance and Detroit Collaborative Design Center.
During the COVID-19 pandemic when nonessential businesses were shuttered and residents were ordered to shelter in place to stop the spread of the virus, parks, greenways, and open spaces emerged as a critical outlet for maintaining physical and mental health.
“The current crisis has shown how critical public spaces are to the health and well-being of the community,” said Arthur Jemison, Group Executive for Planning, Housing and Development for the City of Detroit, in a press release. “Through this initiative, Detroit has invested in equitable neighborhood revitalization by enhancing our parks, streets, commercial corridors, and residential communities around a vision driven by the community and in partnership with its leaders and institutions.”
The press release further stated that with the additional funding, the team will be able to continue this work, including investment in public spaces, workforce development, and support for resident-driven stewardship and programming.
In addition to the new investment for Detroit, the initiative added five new cities — including Lexington, Kentucky; Macon, Georgia; Miami; Minneapolis; and San Jose. For the next three years, the 10 selected cities will continue to transform civic assets with the goal of helping create more resilient communities.