Growth is good. And it’s becoming more evident in Detroit’s neighborhoods, particularly in the Livernois-McNichols area where government, civic and neighborhood leaders gathered just an hour ago to announce the ground-breaking of the new 2.5-acre Ella Fitzgerald Park development.
A morning celebration of the new HomeBase community center and Ella Fitzgerald Park brought Mayor Mike Duggan together with Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson, University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine Garibaldi, Prairie Block Club President Darnetta Banks, and members of the Live6 Alliance, as part of the latest effort tor renew the Livernois-McNichols (Six Mile Road) corridor.
The 2.5-acre park will be open to the neighborhood, while HomeBase will be headquarters for Live6, which has served as a convener of the two-year ongoing effort to boost neighborhood safety, small business activity and interaction between college and university students and officials and residents. HomeBase will also house the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and provide additional space for various city of Detroit staff and community groups.
Largely backed by the Kresge Foundation, the Live6 vision has generated dialogue and collaboration between long-time institutions in the area, neighborhood leaders and local entrepreneurs.
“Kresge’s commitments alone across the broad Livernois-McNichols area will exceed $20 million over the next several years,” says Rapson. “That ranges from support for Live6 and the new HomeBase to neighborhood arts projects to support for housing and Ella Fitzgerald Park and greenway development. And we are only one of a number of funders and groups coming together here.”
An update on Reimagining the Civic Commons, part of a national effort focused on renewing public spaces where people of different backgrounds can connect, is also expected as part of the event. Kresge also supports Reimagining the Civic Commons, along with funders, the JPB, John S. and James L. Knight and Rockefeller Foundations.
Detroit artist Hubert Massey unveiled renderings of two new murals, “Hands of Happiness” and “Celebrating Resilience and Song,” developed with input from neighborhood residents. The murals will be installed in Ella Fitzgerald Park, which is the first major construction in a scheduled two-year Fitzgerald Revitalization Project. As part of the effort, the city plans to rehab for sale and rent 115 vacant homes, demolish blighted structures and convert about 200 vacant lots turned into greenways, gardens, flowering meadows or other community assets.
“The start of this project is a major milestone in our efforts to revitalize many of our neighborhoods that have experienced a loss in population,” Duggan says. “By working closely with the community and partners like Kresge, we are turning the vacant land, once seen as a liability, into an asset.”
University of Detroit Mercy’s Garibaldi says HomeBase will be a significant addition to the community. Detroit Mercy helped launch the Live6 Alliance, which has coordinated most of the major neighborhood efforts involving residents, including an ongoing dinner and conversation series, which Detroit Mercy has hosted.
“The establishment of offices here will speed tangible neighborhood improvements,” says Garibaldi, “including bringing new life to this reviving commercial strip.”
Lauren Hood, co-director of the Live6 Alliance, agrees: “You can’t underestimate what the establishment of HomeBase will do to accelerate the collaboration between the various organizations who are working toward revitalizing this area. And a well-trafficked office can only help spur more development in the immediate vicinity. This means there’ll be one less abandoned building on this street.
“We’ll be a good neighbor to the about-to-open coffee shop next door, the restaurant in the works across the street and the other active buildings in the vicinity. Activity attracts more activity for everyone.”
Banks says the groundbreaking is the beginning of a vision shared by Fitzgerald neighborhood residents.
“As a representative of Prairie Street and of the community, we are waiting on tip-toe with anticipation,” she says. “We’re excited about the groundbreaking and completion of the Ella Fitzgerald Park and long-awaited ventures.”