City of Detroit begins implementing Gratiot/7 Mile improvements as part of Strategic Neighborhood Fund
- Small-business owners can now apply for up to $35,000 in façade improvement grants.
- Deeply affordable housing is on the way through rehab partnership with Osborn Neighborhood Alliance.
- More work, including a $1.8 million overhaul to Heilmann Memorial Park, is still to come.
The City of Detroit’s Planning & Development Department (PDD) announced today that it has begun implementing a series of improvements in the Gratiot/7 Mile Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) planning area, the first of millions of dollars in investment coming to these east side neighborhoods.
PDD unveiled the final, resident-approved SNF plan in June 2021, and has spent the last year meeting with the community and preparing for deployment. Like the other SNF neighborhoods, the private-public investment in Gratiot/7 Mile represents a vision of a healthy and beautiful Detroit, built on inclusionary growth, economic opportunity and an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between residents and the City. The plan is focused on four key areas – parks and greenways, mixed-use and multi-family development, commercial corridor improvements and neighborhood stabilization. The plan builds upon existing strengths of the neighborhood and aligns resources to marshal a significant and holistic neighborhood revival. The Gratiot/7 Mile plan will see at least $5 million invested into the community, but the final number will likely be higher. The improvements are being rolled out over a five-year implementation window.
“For years, Detroiters in the Gratiot/7 Mile area have worked hard to improve their neighborhood,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “Bit by bit, we’ve been lending a hand to eliminate blight and now, we are bringing even more assistance through the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, and residents will really start to see the improvements they want and shared with us through the planning process. I’d like to thank the community for helping to create and guide this plan.”
The boundaries of the 3.4-mile target area are East 8 Mile Road to the north, Houston-Whittier Street to the south, Schoenherr Road to the west and Kelly Road to the east, and include the neighborhoods of Franklin, Mapleridge, Mohican Regent and Regent Park. The Gratiot/7 Mile neighborhoods are located in City Council Districts 3 and 4.
Here is a look at some of the SNF action happening in Gratiot/7 Mile:
- This week, applications opened for more than $600,000 in façade-improvement grants for existing businesses in the planning area’s microdistricts. Creating better commercial corridors with more dining and retail was a top priority for residents during the planning process. This project will not only support business owners who have stuck with the city but also help lead to more occupancy in vacant storefronts. Businesses can receive up to $35,000 to upgrade their storefront, whether through masonry repair, new signage, or doors and windows, painting or exterior lighting. Those owners of non-chain businesses along Gratiot Avenue and Houston-Whitter roads who are interested in applying should go to tinyurl.com/G7facade. The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so Detroiters are urged to apply as soon as possible.
The grants are made possible through funding from the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Fifth Third Bank, the corporate partner in Gratiot/7 Mile through the Strategic Neighborhood Fund.
“Building strong communities is at the core of what we do at Fifth Third Bank,” said David Girodat, regional president, Fifth Third Bank, Eastern Michigan. “From improving parks and streetscapes to growing commercial corridors and finding solutions for affordable housing, it is an honor that Fifth Third can provide funding and play a critical role in the revitalization of the Gratiot/7 Mile neighborhood.”
- Meanwhile, work is about to start on a unique initiative that will create new deeply affordable housing options, bring new vibrancy and less blight to residential areas, and generate wealth and home-buying opportunities in the SNF planning area. The City’s Housing & Revitalization Department (HRD) has partnered with the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance (ONA) to rehab three vacant duplexes on Mapleridge Street, just west of Gratiot. The duplexes, located at 13623, 13731 and 13737 Mapleridge, will be rehabbed and sold to local residents who will live in one of the units and rent out the other at deeply affordable rates of 60 percent area median income or less. The outside-the-box strategy was a plan that was seven years in the making, requiring multiple departments working with ONA to pull off. The rehabs will be made possible through $500,000 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and $270,000 in SNF investment. Work on the duplexes will kick off in the next few weeks.
- This spring and summer will also see work begin on beautifying the commercial corridors with murals, the first of which has already been completed on the side of Detroit K-9 Pet Supplies at 14777 Gratiot Ave. There will be five more painted, all featuring the work of local artists.
Next spring, work will kick off on a $1.8 million makeover for Heilmann Memorial Playfield on Crusade Street, which adjoins a recreation center and two schools. In addressing a top concern among residents for more places to play and exercise, Heilmann will receive improved playscapes, wayfinding, new trees, entrance enhancements, rain gardens to deal with standing water, resurfaced courts and walking loop, and enhanced gathering areas. The City continues to work on additional SNF projects, as well.
“PDD puts residents in charge of helping us guide the future of their neighborhoods,” said Antoine Bryant, director of PDD. “Residents will soon start to see their guidance and participation pay off as we begin to roll out these improvements, and more is on the way.”
Each neighborhood in the city and in SNF target areas is unique with its own needs. The Gratiot/7 Mile neighborhoods have the highest amount of vacancy among the 10 SNF neighborhoods. Neighborhood stabilization is the top priority in the area, with some 1,500 abandoned properties at the start of the SNF planning process. This was echoed by residents of the Gratiot/7 Mile communities, 70 percent of whom said blight removal and demolition of unsalvageable, vacant City-owned structures was their top priority. Proposal N, which Detroit voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2020, has helped to bring down more than 500 of these eyesores, a key step in stabilizing the neighborhood and removing blight in the area that was holding its turnaround back.
G7 neighbors also made it clear that slowing vehicles on connector streets with traffic-calming measures, and better connecting residents with schools and parks were the other key priorities. Working with the State of Michigan, improvements will be made to Gratiot, a state road. The City resurfaced and upgraded portions of Kelly Road in 2021. Other corridors targeted for upgrades include Hayes, Chalmers and 7 Mile, and the City is working to implement traffic-calming improvements throughout the planning area to improve safety for children and pedestrians.
The planning process began formally at the end of 2019, right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and included 14 community partner organizations: Camp Restore, Denby Neighborhood Alliance, Detroit Community Solutions, Detroit Heals Detroit, Ford Resource & Engagement Center, LifeBUILDERS, Maintaining a Neighborhood Network, Mohican Regent Residents Association, Open Door Church of God in Christ, Osborn Business Association, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Redeem Detroit, Regent Park Community Association and Ron Norwood.
The SNF initiative, a partnership between the City of Detroit and Invest Detroit, was launched in 2016 in three neighborhoods, and expanded to seven more in 2018. With the expansion came investments of $2.5 million each from seven corporations in the SNF, each partnering with a specific neighborhood. The corporate funders also gave $2.5 million to the Detroit Housing for the Future Fund, which is dedicated to preserving and building new affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city. SNF has raised more than $50 million to date for the effort. Along with the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund and Detroit Housing for the Future Fund, the funds support the revitalization of neighborhoods and preserving or building new affordable housing. The corporate partner in Gratiot/7 Mile is Fifth Third Bank, which operates a branch in the neighborhood at 14820 Gratiot Ave.
“I am pleased that implementing the Gratiot/7 Mile Strategic Neighborhood Fund plan has begun,” Councilmember Latisha Johnson of District 4 said. “The primary beneficiaries in District 4 will be the businesses along Gratiot Avenue, and I encourage them to take full advantage of the façade improvement grants. I look forward to the progress moving to other neighborhoods like Eden Gardens, where my team and I worked with graduate Urban Planning students from Wayne State University to engage the community to devise a plan for improving their quality of life.”
"The community has spoken, and I'm very excited about the upcoming plans for the Gratiot/7 Mile area," said Councilmember Scott Benson, who represents District 3. "These improvements will mean a more beautiful community, renovated storefronts and commercial corridors, and safer streets."