Things I’ve Worked On: The Time Is Now

Executive Summary

Greater Regent Park is at a tipping point. In recent years, this traditionally stable residential neighborhood in northeast Detroit has seen increases in vacancy, blight, crime, and mortgage and tax foreclosures, which collectively threaten its future. The time is now to reverse these trends and recreate the neighborhood as an area of strength within Detroit.

This neighborhood plan revolves around four goals:

  • Develop Assets—valuable people, places, or organizations—to build community cohesion and deter crime, with the following strategies:
    • Improve safety by involving residents in radio patrols and beat meetings and implementing design choices that discourage crime.
    • Improve facilities, specifically by developing the McGregor Elementary site into a community center, strengthening Heilmann Recreation Center and Bringard-Boulder Park, and improving bus stops and routes to school.
    • Unify the neighborhood under a common identity, involving residents in the creation and expression of this identity.
  • Address Blight to create a safe and maintained neighborhood, with the following strategies:
    • Demolish, rehabilitate, or board up vacant (and dangerous) structures for future use by advocating for demolitions, dealing with squatters, making vacant homes look occupied or boarding them up, and continuing to purchase and rehabilitate selected houses.
    • Create a clean, safe-looking neighborhood by organizing neighborhood clean-ups, creating community gardens and public art, and forming partnerships to enforce codes.
    • Ensure that every vacant lot has a plan by providing residents with information on side lot transfers and creating green spaces through parcel connections and native plantings.
  • Protect Investment to create a stable neighborhood with a healthy mix of owners and renters, with the following strategies:
    • Improve the owner-occupied housing stock and stabilize ownership in the neighborhood by facilitating minor and major home repairs, preventing tax and mortgage foreclosures, and appealing residential property tax assessments.
    • Encourage renters to become homeowners by promoting homeownership training and supporting rent-to-own and key-to-own homeownership programs.
    • Inform landlords about property maintenance standards.
  • Engage Residents to unite the people of Greater Regent Park under a common vision of a safe neighborhood, committed to the future, with the following strategies:
    • Involve residents in addressing neighborhood concerns by forming a network of block clubs and developing a community policing strategy.
    • Establish LifeBUILDERS as a neighborhood-wide resource for organizations by developing a comprehensive web and social media strategy, organizing neighborhood-based committees, and developing and mobilizing student-driven community organizations.

Together, these goals and accompanying strategies will help LifeBUILDERS, other local organizations, and residents take control of their neighborhood’s future.

In the short term, LifeBUILDERS can implement the most urgent strategies in specific areas to reverse disinvestment. The new City of Detroit administration’s commitment to neighborhoods, the availability of Hardest Hit and Fire Escrow funds for demolition, the appointment of a new District Manager for District 3, and an active council member for District 3 provide opportunities for concerned residents and organizations to take immediate action to reclaim the neighborhood.

Some of these strategies, like advocating for the demolition of vacant, open, and dangerous homes and hosting neighborhood clean ups, can be implemented neighborhood wide. The other strategies can be implemented through a phasing process that covers two types of zones, Preserve and Transform. The most highly prioritized zone is Preserve, which includes the strongest areas of the neighborhood (in terms of occupancy, homeownership, and conditions) towards the north. Safeguarding these areas will create a foundation from which LifeBUILDERS can expand into more disinvested areas.

The following are priorities in the Preserve Zones:

  • Advocate for the demolition of vacant, open, and dangerous homes.
  • Address vacant lots to contain blight.
  • Prevent tax and mortgage foreclosures to keep residents in their homes and prevent additional vacancy.
  • Rehabilitate homes to create attractive housing for new residents.
  • Form block clubs to create a network of residents that can address neighborhood problems.

The recommendations for Transform Zones focus on stabilizing areas that have been weakened by disinvestment and neglect towards the south and southwest. These areas have high vacancy, unutilized lots, and high crime rates.

The following are priorities in the Transform Zones:

  • Advocate for the demolition of vacant, open, and dangerous homes.
  • Address vacant lots to eliminate blight and opportunities for crime.

The time is now. By implementing impactful phased strategies in a resource-efficient manner across Greater Regent Park, LifeBUILDERS and others can address the growing disinvestment with the immediacy it demands, creating a Greater Regent Park known for its safety, resilience, and sense of pride.

Full Report:

The Time Is Now
Lastly, below are some pictures I took of the neighborhood to give context to the project:


  
  
  
  
  
  

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