Detroit Future City (DFC) is an organization helping to revitalize the city of Detroit by implementing innovative ideas from the framework for redevelopment it published last year. Since then DEGC has assisted DFC in the hiring of urban planners and other staffers to help its efforts. When former Mayor and City Council Member Ken Cockrel Jr. started in January 2014 as executive director, it was a great addition to the DFC team.
“Working with our partners in the community over the last 10 months, we have been able to identify five key priorities from the DFC Strategic Framework,” says Cockrel. “The areas of focus we have selected are critical to the long-term viability of our city and must be addressed first.”
On February 20 DFC announced those five key priorities for 2014.
1. Economic Growth Priority – Employing more Detroiters
2. Land Use Priority – Fulfilling regulatory reform
3. City Systems Priority – Renewing systems strategically and with innovative ideas
4. Neighborhoods Priority – Stabilizing neighborhoods
5. Land and Building Assets – Transforming vacant land into an innovative open space networks
Read DFC’s full release about its priorities on the website www.detroitfuturecity.com.
DFC made its announcement from its new permanent address at 2900 W. Grand Blvd., Suite 2. Be on the lookout this year for more news from DFC as it continues to launch projects aligned with those five priorities.
As part of the I-375 Alternatives Study, a seven month-long effort to develop possible alternatives for recreating the 1-375 corridor, the public is being asked: “Do you think that I-375 as currently configured is still the best gateway into Downtown Detroit, or can it be improved to better meet the city’s needs now and in the future?”
On Thursday, Feb. 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the public is invited to share their thoughts and ideas at the first of a series of three community meetings on the study. The meeting will follow an open house format and will feature exhibits of how other cities have transformed urban freeways to better suit community needs, as well as the opportunity to speak with transportation and urban design experts. The meeting will take place at the Stroh River Place South Atrium, 300 River Place Drive in Detroit.
The primary project study area extends along I-375 from Gratiot Avenue to Atwater Street. Additional study areas include the I-75/I-375 interchange, portions of Gratiot Avenue and the Gratiot Connector, and Jefferson Avenue between Washington Boulevard and Joseph Campau Street.
The alternatives evaluation process will address a number of issues including:
• defining a vibrant entryway into Downtown Detroit and the East Riverfront;
• making better connections to the Entertainment, East Riverfront, Greektown, Stadium, Convention Center, and Eastern Market districts; and
• improving pedestrian, non-motorized and transit connectivity.
The final report also will detail whether there are environmentally and economically beneficial ways to adapt and reuse the below-grade roadway.
For more information on the I-375 Alternatives Study, visit www.I375Detroit.com .
George Jackson announced last week that he’ll be leaving DEGC at the end of March to
form his own Detroit-based private consulting and development firm. Needless to say, all
of us here at DEGC are very disappointed about losing such a dynamic leader and a
caring CEO, but we know how passionate he is about the city and look forward to
working with him “from the other side of table,” as he puts it.
George has been the president and CEO of DEGC since February 2002. Prior to that, he
worked for 27 years at DTE Energy, rising to the position of Director of Customer
During the announcement of his resignation, George said, “I had a tremendous run at
DEGC working with great companies here and from around the world, and solid partners
in the private and foundation communities. I look forward to working with great partners
as we continue to transform Detroit into a leader of innovative urban redevelopment.”
Among the accomplishments of DEGC under his leadership, George is most proud of the removal of the cement silos along the Detroit River and the transformation of the riverfront from industrial to mixed use. Now everyone enjoys recreational access to the river.
Some of the many other successes DEGC achieved during George’s tenure include:
• The restoration and reopening of the Book Cadillac as the Westin Book Cadillac
• Innovative programs and incentives that relocated Quicken Loans to Detroit,
consolidated operations of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan here and led to the
re-concentration of technology and creative companies in Downtown and
Midtown, bringing in well over 10,000 new employees.
• The opening of Whole Foods Market – the first national grocery chain to open in
Detroit in decades.
• The largest retail development in more than 40 years, anchored by a Meijer
• Steering the development and beginning implementation of Detroit Future City, a
comprehensive 50-year framework to help guide decision makers as they
revitalize the city with innovative approaches.
Everything was accomplished with an impeccable record of fiscal and ethical
responsibility, maintaining balanced budgets and clean auditing reports for DEGC and all
the public authorities it administers.
As the head of DEGC, George encouraged partnership and teamwork amongst the staff.
No matter your position within the organization, he was always willing to listen to
suggestions for improvements, ideas for new programs or just chat with his employees.
Not many employees can brag that they had a thirty-minute conversation with their CEO
about a golf game, their new house or the grand kids. George’s approachability, sense of
humor and demeanor made him more than just our boss; he is a friend.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it has truly been an honor and a privilege to work for
George over the last 12 years. All of us at DEGC wish him great success in his new
2013 was a remarkable year for economic development in the city of Detroit — all the more remarkable because municipal government filed for bankruptcy in July. Developments in federal court, however, did not stop important progress on DEGC projects that demonstrate strength in a number of important areas: a vibrant Downtown, rebounding retail development, saving and adding manufacturing jobs, revitalized neighborhood businesses, and implementation of a broad strategic framework for future development. Here are a few examples.
General Motors is investing $105 million to upgrade its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant that builds Chevy Volts and Malibus. The French automotive supplier Faurecia has invested in the joint venture firm, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, which operates a plant in the Gateway Industrial Center. New Center Stamping is adding jobs as it installs a high-efficiency production line. Sakthi Automotive and Hyundai Mobis are manufacturing automotive components under the same roof in Southwest Detroit. These developments demonstrate that Detroit still has the talent and infrastructure for advanced manufacturing; it also shows the city’s attractiveness to investments from overseas.
Rivertown Phase One is a $55 million dollar mixed use development of 300 apartments and retail storefronts next to the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Greenway and Milliken State Park. It is the first major residential project that specifically takes advantage of those recreational attractions. In doing so, it embodies the vision of the East Riverfront master plan.
Yes, there are excellent choices for grocery shopping in the city. Meijer opened its first ever store in Detroit at Gateway Marketplace, a $62 million shopping center on Detroit’s northern boundary. Whole Foods Market opened its first Detroit store in Midtown, and a number of Detroit’s strong independent grocers have invested in major store improvements. These represent important new choices for Detroit grocery shoppers, especially because they are taking places in neighborhoods around the city. There is still significant work to be done, but 2013 was a huge leap forward.
The re-awakening of the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois is well underway thanks to a strong collaboration from community partners, anchor institutions, and a mix of funding support from local and state government and foundations. As permanent and pop-up businesses are opening and artists are creating unique installations, a strong sense of place is returning to this iconic district. And it’s another sign of redevelopment beyond Downtown.
Bicycling and Walking
Biking, running and walking have become hugely popular in Detroit, and DEGC is supporting that trend as a part of a City-led collaboration that is investing $23 million to create designated bike routes crisscrossing Detroit. As part of that project, construction has already begun on a northern extension of the Dequindre Cut Greenway that will connect it to Eastern Market at Wilkins St.
The Arena District
Much more than a big box for hockey, the $650 million of private and public investment in this key part of Downtown will generate a truly unique urban sports, entertainment, residential, retail and office district. The location within a walkable distance to Comerica Park, Ford Field, Masonic Temple Theater, the Fox Theatre, Michigan Opera Theater, Music Hall, The Fillmore and Gem Theater ensures that the district will be lively 365 days a year.
Each of these represents a significant milestone in its own right. Put them together and it is easy to see how far we have come, and how quickly we are moving ahead. As the pace accelerates, it is good that we have a solid planning framework in place in Detroit Future City. As Ken Cockrel joins the leadership team for the DFC Implementation Office (noted in this newsletter), we are in a strong position for a terrific 2014.
Art in Motion is a ceramic studio on Livernois Avenue where anyone can participate in workshops, attend classes, gain technical skills, enjoy private lessons and work in an open studio setting. The studio also represents artists in the Detroit community. Co-Owners M. Kay Willingham and Audrey Long popped-up the studio last May and June while participating in REVOLVE Detroit’s “Art + Retail on the Ave.” program to revitalize Detroit’s historic Livernois Avenue of Fashion. Art in Motion went on to be one of the Art and Retail Ave. winners, and its permanent presence launched during the Detroit Design Festival.
Where did you get the name Art in Motion? I’ve worked with ceramics for a decade – selling my own personal art, doing private shows and teaching. I realized that as I move through life my pieces also represent movement, so the name was born, and it has stuck and grown into the businesses and studio that Audrey and I have today.
What made you want to expand your presence in Detroit? I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life, and I grew up in this area near Livernois. I attended Cass Technical High School, and the University of Detroit for my undergrad in marketing and management and my graduate degree in management and psychology. Needless to say Detroit lives in my heart. Becoming involved with REVOLVE was the next step to doing what I love in the city I love.
Describe your experience with REVOLVE. Our experience with REVOLVE can be described in one word: wonderful. It made the business change in some exciting ways going from being a pop-up to becoming permanent in the area. REVOLVE and DEGC offered us great support throughout the competition, and still remain a great contact as we continue engaging in the community.
What is your company culture? Our doors are open to anyone. Our artists come from a mixed and diverse culture. We’re all very passionate about art, and bettering Detroit. Think of the TV show The Voice, no one is looking at the contestants, they’re assessed based on their talents – we’re the same way. We come together in the name of art, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from or anything really – if you enjoy and are interested in art we’d love to meet you.
We also reach out to others to share our passion. We’re involved with Play with Clay for Kids, which is a program that allows us to go into schools and teach art technical skills to elementary and middle school students. It’s really rewarding to give children an opportunity to be creative and have an outlet they may not have had exposure to otherwise.
Art is truly in one’s spirit.
What’s coming up for Art in Motion? Currently we’re working on offering additional workshops and classes for people of all ages. We want people to come for date nights, senior nights and all kinds of other occasions. Our doors are open to anyone and everyone, and we look forward to offering more of a variety of experiences for them. We are also in the process of scheduling a few private shows in January and February.