Two years and 30,000 conversations in the making, a long-term plan to repurpose city land and strengthen target neighborhoods is complete.
But the Detroit Future City proposal does present major land use changes that some believe need careful guidance to ensure they are implemented fairly, especially for residents living in sparsely populated areas of the city.
State Rep. Alberta Tinsley Talabi (D-Detroit) was the first elected official to publically speak out on the topic after the plan’s unveiling last week.
She called for a protocol that would give residents in sparsely populated areas of the city where major landscape transformations are planned, “first option to purchase these properties” and a “negotiated purchase price recognizes their ability to pay.”
“We must be careful to not minimize or trivialize the time, money and energy our neighbors and friends have invested in either maintaining property or community gardens,” Tinsley-Talabi said.
What the state legislator is referring to is the land use element of the Detroit Future project, one of 24 elements that make up the 347-page plan.
Still, in a city struggling to support it’s meager tax base with depleted funds and a sprawling area to serve, changes have to be made to condense city functions according to Detroit Future planners.
“We suggest that Detroit’s land area is not too big, it’s economy too small,” said Toni Griffin, Director of the project’s technical planning team. She said the plan will focus funds on seven areas of the city that are already showing promising recovery. “There is not just one downtown in this city there are seven strong opportunities for people to find employment and grow business,” Griffin said.
The plan includes encouraging residents to move from the city’s sparsely populated areas with one family per house to “denser, mixed use neighborhoods.”
Now that that planning phase is complete, it’s up to residents o help guide the project to fruition Mayor Dave Bing said.
“The work really starts today,” Bing told a standing room only crowd at last week’s kickoff event in Eastern Market.
“We’ve got a lot of recommendations. We’ve got a lot of data. And now we’re ready to move forward.”
The implementation phase may just be starting but the two-year planning leg leading up to now has not been an easy one.
Early on, rumors spread that the plan aimed to remove people from their property in thinly populated areas and that large swaths of the city would be cut off from basic services like trash removal. Both of these have been since been debunked.
“Within our city systems element we ensure that every resident and business continues to have service,” Griffon, said. “But we do boldly suggest that landscape is the new 21st century infrastructure.”
But there have other roadblocks, too.
Early in, a spat between the Mayor and big-ticket donor Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson temporarily put the Detroit Future project into limbo.
Kresge cut funding to Detroit Works in 2011 after what The Wall Street Journal called a “tug of war” between the Bing administration and Kresge over the power outside consultants in a city fighting for a voice in financially compromising times.
Since then, the two have abandoned any disagreements and Rapson last week pledged $150 million to the Detroit Future project.
“Over the next five years we are dedicating every single dollar spent in Detroit to this plan,” Rapson said. “It’s a fundamental believe on our part that every dollar we spend simply has to reinforce the spirit, the letter and the intent of this plan.”
Bing acknowledged the challenges leading to the current phase of the project.
“I know that it has been very, very difficult to get from there we were two years ago to where we are today,” he said. “I think the beauty of this is that we had so many people from so many different walks of life that came to the table. Change is always very difficult … But [people] got together and they made it a work of love.”