In a meeting a Detroit representative called “historic,” a Detroit neighborhood took a new step toward having a big voice in the city’s future in terms of strategy, development and investment.
The Rosa Parks Clairmount meeting – which drew more than 150 residents – is an example of how the new Community Benefits Ordinance (Proposal B) will work. And if this event is any indication, Detroiters likely will appreciate having the CBO on their side.
Residents and participants agreed: Thursday’s forum was representative of Detroit’s new ‘ask’ not ‘tell’ approach to next-generation neighborhood development discussions.
The Ordinance, which Detroit voters passed last fall, calls for the formation of a Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) to work with the City and developers of projects valued at $75 million or more. This way, neighborhood residents can share their ideas about the kind of development they would like to see in their community.
More importantly, residents will be included in future conversations to determine how the priorities can be implemented. Residents and participants agreed: Thursday’s forum was representative of Detroit’s new ‘ask’ not ‘tell’ approach to next-generation neighborhood development discussions.
The meeting at the Joseph Walker Community Center, the first of a series scheduled, started with an overview of the comprehensive planning effort now underway for the area. It represents one of four active neighborhood planning initiatives under coordination by the City’s Planning and Development Department.
The main focus of the forum was an update on the redevelopment plans for the massive and vacant Herman Kiefer complex by developer Ron Castellano of Studio Castellano of New York.
Castellano outlined the initial phases of plans to reactivate the 10 buildings and 38 acres that comprise the development site. Work has already begun to secure the buildings from vandalism and further deterioration. And with the help of VISTA volunteers and neighborhood residents, outdoor spaces have been cleaned up and made ready for courts and a playground.
Phase I development plans in 2017 include an indoor skate park at nearby Hutchins school, a hotel and a general store for the convenience of early occupants of the site and nearby residents.
The ground-breaking forum was a good first step, according to City of Detroit District 5 Manager Vince Keenan, who noted that the meeting represented the official launch of the ordinance designed to include community residents in decisions that impact their neighborhoods.
During the forum, Keenan oversaw the process of electing the first two representatives to the Neighborhood Advisory Council. Ten residents of the “impact zone” volunteered to serve on the NAC.
Advisory Council representatives must commit to attend meetings and review the Community Benefits Agreement that is drafted and agreed to by the City and the developer. The NAC will have an ongoing responsibility to review compliance reports related to the agreement.
Each candidate for the Advisory Council gave a short presentation on their background and passions for the role as neighborhood representative. Residents living in the impact zone were asked to write the name of their number one choice on the back of a special index card as their vote. At the end of the meeting, the first two elected representatives to the NAC were announced by new Deputy District Manager Kya Robertson. The elected representatives are Cathy Blake and George Adams. Other representatives will be selected by the City’s Planning Department and City Council members.
Local planning consultant Jane Morgan of JFM Associates led a breakout session for residents which sought feedback from attendees through a written survey as well as historical input for a “storytelling” event which will be the focus of the next forum.
The forum was sponsored by the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and the office of City Council Member Mary Sheffield. The next Rosa Parks Clairmount neighborhood forum is scheduled for Thursday, April 6.