City of Detroit unveils resident-guided plan for southwest Detroit

On May 22 at a community meeting at the Plaza Del Norte community center, representatives from the city of Detroit's Planning Department presented their plan to strengthen and redesign parts of southwest Detroit. Called "The West Vernor Corridor Neighborhood Framework," the plan contains infrastructure developments, building RFPs, policy recommendations, and more to be implemented over the next three years. 

The flashiest proposals in the plan, which covers the entire corridor from east of the freeway to Patton Park, came in the form of streetscape improvements. Bagley Street in Mexicantown could become, through the elimination of lanes and curbs, a shared street space, meaning there would be little segregation between vehicles and pedestrians. This would also make it easy to turn the district into a vehicle-free, pedestrian zone during festivals and events. 

And on West Grand Boulevard, protected bike lanes were proposed. 

Clark Park was recognized as a beloved place by residents and planners alike—in many ways it's the heart of southwest. That's why planners didn't offer radical changes to it, mostly upgrades in the form of lights and renovations to historic buildings. On the north side of the park, however, they did have a splash pad in renderings—which received a decidedly mixed response from the audience. 

On the policy front, a priority from residents was figuring out a way to deal with heavy truck traffic that comes from the Ambassador Bridge. Presenters said that city government plans on drafting an ordinance that would direct trucks to strategic roads, hopefully reducing the debris and traffic on West Vernor. 

Representatives from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Housing and Revitalization Department also announced efforts to grow retail on the corridor and develop properties, many of which would contain modest amounts of affordable housing. For example, starting this year The Murray, a series of row houses on Porter Street, will be developed into upwards of 14 units at a cost of $2.5 million. 

One key component of the framework is that none of these proposals are set in stone. While the presentation occurred after numerous meetings with residents of southwest Detroit over the course of a year, Maurice Cox, planning director for the city, assured the attendees that this was not the end of the engagement; in fact, he anticipated it would increase. Residents were encouraged, through questions, comment cards, and their representatives (district manager, city council) to offer critiques of the plan and what they'd like to see prioritized.

The framework is clearly part of the Planning Department's efforts to expand "20-minute neighborhoods"—places where residents can access essential goods and services through public and non-motorized transit. 

View the plan in its entirety at
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Aaron Mondry is a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.