Stop the presses: Fitzgerald project publicity must wait on results

Stop the presses: Fitzgerald project publicity must wait on results
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About four years ago the Hardest Hit Fund Demolition program was announced in the Fitzgerald neighborhood on Turner Street next to Maggie Lee’s Community Center. I was asked to speak in front of the press to welcome everyone to the neighborhood and talk about how the program would create change the community needed to make it viable, and I was excited to do it.

COMMENTARY By Gaston Nash

The governor, state senators, police chief and federal officials all showed up to celebrate. The program was touted as the solution to tear down all the blighted homes in our neighborhood and give us a chance to start over.

Four years later, many blighted and burned homes remain in the neighborhood and, ironically, Maggie Lee’s Community Center sits vacant, burned by arson.

This wasn’t quite the outcome the community expected.

In late 2015, the Live6 Alliance was announced at the University of Detroit Mercy. Again, I was asked to speak at the opening press conference. I did and, again was excited. This was our chance to form an organization that would create our version of Midtown.

The Live6 Alliance would give us access to money from the Kresge Foundation and grant support to bolster the neighborhood.

Although Live6 has been existence for a year and a half, I’m not sure the community knows what it does, or what its plan is to improve the neighborhood.

Until the hard work is finished, I don’t want to see another press conference.

Will Live6 be involved in trying to tangibly help the residents of the neighborhood or will it only be involved with commercial revitalization?

When will the commercial revitalization start?

Live6 created a community advisory board full of community members with invaluable knowledge. However, the community advisory board has never talked with the real Live6 board members who actually run the organization or make the real decisions.

The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project was announced as a plan to eliminate blight and improve a neighborhood in the Livernois-McNichols area. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Earlier this year, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project was announced at another press conference in our neighborhood, on Prairie Street. The project is the city’s proposal to transform a quarter-mile area by converting publicly-owned vacant land and buildings into community assets. Once again, this has been touted as the plan to make the neighborhood a more desirable place to live.

I didn’t attend the press conference this time. My attitude this time around is, “We’ll see.”

The Fitzgerald project is a heavy lift and will take a ton of resources to achieve the desired result. I hope everybody involved realizes that, but most of all, I hope everybody involved realizes the most important resource the project needs is the voice of the community. Without listening to those already living here about their needs and those of the neighborhood, the project will fail.

So far, the process has been mixed.

The Fitzgerald neighborhood is full of homes with beautiful “bones” (valuable architectural elements) worthy of preservation. It also has a number of properties so blighted that they require demolition. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The city, in a rush to get a plan together to show it is doing something for the neighborhoods, had two meetings with neighborhood residents to get their suggestions for the plan. Residents were told there was no plan at the very first meeting, but a landscape architect from New Orleans had already put together a layout of the neighborhood. The plan included a path between Marygrove College and the University of Detroit Mercy and a park in the middle of the neighborhood.

Our neighborhood needs many things. Had the city asked the neighbors what was needed, I’m not sure a walking path between the two schools would have been on the list at all. It definitely would have come after fixes to our sidewalks, crumbling streets, and sinkholes in the alleyways.

We then had a third meeting to confirm the plan, which was pretty much set in stone after the second meeting.

The project is now in the hands of the developers, who are young and ambitious. Their success hinges on the same factors I previously mentioned and there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.

What will be their communication with the community?

Will they have constant and continued dialogue with the community about their plans, timeline and progress?

Will they listen to the community’s needs and concerns?

There is a lot of hard work ahead to make this revitalization possible and it can be done – if it is done with the community.

Until the hard work is finished, I don’t want to see another press conference.

Editor’s Note: Gaston Nash is founding president of College Core Block Club

See more of TheHUB’s #LiveLoveDetroit coverage on District 2:

 

More reasons to #LiveLoveDetroit

Presenting “The Map” for Detroit Council District 2: Your guide to where and what investment is happening, and who is driving growth in Detroit’s neighborhoods

Making Magic: Former Fairgrounds is site of $1 billion vision

Citizens organize around former Fairgrounds’ future

Stop the presses: Fitzgerald project publicity must wait on results

Breaking Barriers: University strives to meld campus with community

Matchmaker: Motor City Match builds dreams in District 2 and citywide

A Sip of Success: Café aims to bring residents, students and businesses under one roof

Celebrating a Century: Sherwood Forest turns 100

Partners for Progress: Teamwork guides multi-million-dollar neighborhood fund

 

 

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