Jefferson East Executive Director Joshua Elling sits at the helm of an organization that is taking the lead in redevelopment on Detroit’s east side.
Many east side Detroit residents know that growth is coming to their neighborhoods. One unbridled advocate of that growth is Jefferson East, Inc., or JEI, an organization not only heavily involved in urban development but one that makes sure the local residents who have stuck with and stayed in neighborhoods will stand to prosper from its growth.
Headed by Executive Director Josh Elling, JEI was formed in 1994 as the Jefferson East Business Association, to redevelop the Jefferson-Chalmers business district. The organization took hold and brought innovative structures to the 18.4-square-mile-stretch at the east end of Jefferson, while still respecting its historic patches, and importantly, installing a pedestrian-friendly environment that bolstered a true retail environment.
With the help of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, JEI formed the East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative (EJCC), whose efforts culminated in an award-winning plan and transformed streetscape.
Now, JEI’s expanded reach focuses on five distinct neighborhoods—Lafayette Park/Elmwood Park, Rivertown, The Villages of Detroit, The Marina District, and Jefferson Chalmers. The approximately 42,120 residents have benefitted from continued economic growth, as JEI seeks to attract new businesses to the corridor and, in turn, increase employment opportunity.
In total, JEI now has approximately $53 million in projects under construction or in pre-development.
On Tuesday, October 24, JEI’s persistent efforts and reputation for getting things done garnered them the Community Development Organization of the Year Award at the 2017 Detroit Community Development Awards. Detroit’s business and non-profit leaders gathered at Cobo Hall’s Riverview Ballroom for the presentation that salutes both community leaders and residents every year, those who are making real change in and around the Motor City.
The awards are presented by the Masco Corporation Foundation, Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Michigan Community Resources (MCR), and Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD).
“We’ve been able to find ways to drive growth and create new retail space but still be respectful of long-time residents—and listen to what they want and need,” says Elling. They realize how critical it is to work toward a better model of inclusive development too, which means building affordable multi-family housing and being constantly mindful of gentrification by providing a range of those housing options for lifelong Detroiters.“Everyone wants growth but we don’t want displacement,” he says.
Elling is also keenly aware of the need for clean and safe streets. To that end, the organization operates the Jefferson East Police Patrol staffed by off-duty Detroit police officers. They assist in helping area businesses with security assessments. Their Economic Development team will even aid small business owners with a number of real estate services, such as property acquisition and building rehab and renovation.
How does Elling feel about winning the award?
“It was very flattering, and I’m so thankful to LISC and everyone who has supported us,” he says. “When we take a step back, it’s nice to know we’re improving the lives of people up and down East Jefferson.”
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