City of Detroit, state and local officials, community partners and residents celebrate $21.5 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund investment into Dexter Corridor
- Brand-new Dexter retail pop-up now open to the public to spur entrepreneurship and build a sense of community
- Strategic Neighborhood Fund investment leverages public and private funding
- Murals, Façade improvements, and a new streetscape will beautify Dexter Ave
- 160 units of affordable housing coming to this corridor, thanks to MSHDA
Today, Mayor Mike Duggan joined city and state officials, community partners, area business owners, and residents to celebrate the $21.5 million investment into the Dexter Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods, and to mark the grand opening of the brand-new Dexter Avenue retail Pop-Up.
In addition to the Dexter Pop-Up, six murals, eight façade improvements, a new streetscape and two affordable housing projects will help bring this once vibrant corridor back to its former glory.
The Russell Woods/Nardin Park communities which surround Dexter Avenue were identified as a Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) investment area in 2018, through the SNF 2.0 Framework Plan completed in partnership with Invest Detroit. SNF focuses on improving the quality of life for residents by revitalizing main streets, creating better parks, and growing neighborhood stabilization to create livable, walkable, and vibrant neighborhoods across Detroit.
The City of Detroit’s Planning & Development Department (PDD) engaged three neighborhoods encompassing five square miles of the city: Russell Woods, Nardin Park, and Oakman Boulevard, leading community engagement meetings to determine investment priorities.
Through this engagement, residents said they wanted more beautiful spaces to enjoy, to jumpstart economic development, and to create a safer, more walkable community. Much of this work is being done or will be beginning soon to make Dexter Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods the perfect place to live, work and play once again.
“Neighbors here along Dexter Avenue have long felt forgotten by their city. The decades of disinvestment along this corridor are over,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Thanks to the partnership of Invest Detroit and the ARPA funding provided by the Biden Administration, we’re about to turn these three neighborhoods into the next vibrant community, as we’ve done through SNF investment along other key corridors throughout the City of Detroit.”
Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield says the Dexter Avenue corridor holds a special place in the hearts of Detroiters. “It has witnessed the ebb and flow of our city's fortunes, and now it stands as a symbol of our resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit,” said Sheffield. “This investment will not only revitalize the physical infrastructure but also rejuvenate the spirit of the community that calls this neighborhood home. These funds will be instrumental in transforming Dexter Avenue into a vibrant hub of economic activity, a place where businesses can thrive, and residents can find new opportunities to flourish.”
The Strategic Neighborhood Fund is a partnership between the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, neighborhood residents and corporate donors. “The Dexter Pop-Up is an innovative way the Strategic Neighborhood Fund can create opportunities for neighborhood entrepreneurs and activate vacant land. Through community input and partnership with the City of Detroit, this project will transform a formerly vacant lot into several new neighborhood-based businesses that serve the residents” said Jermaine Ruffin, senior vice president of neighborhoods for Invest Detroit. “When you add in façade improvements to existing businesses, as well as new murals, we are creating both an economic and aesthetic lift for the entire Russel Woods – Nardin Park area.”
"Today marks a significant milestone for Dexter Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Council Member Fred Durhall III, who represents District 7, where much of this investment is being made. “This $21.5 million investment is a testament to the powerful partnership between the City of Detroit, state and local officials, community partners, and residents. Our shared commitment to revitalizing Dexter Corridor is now tangible with the opening of the Dexter retail pop-up, acting as a catalyst for entrepreneurship and community development. The Strategic Neighborhood Fund investment, backed by both public and private funding, is set to transform Dexter Avenue with beautiful murals, façade improvements, and an inviting new streetscape. Furthermore, the addition of 160 units of affordable housing, courtesy of MSHDA, will ensure our residents can continue to call this area home. Together, we are breathing new life into the Dexter Corridor, rekindling its vibrancy, and creating a safer, walkable, and thriving community Block by Block!"
This pop-up will invigorate retail along Dexter and help spur future development on the vacant city-owned site where it is located. It provides a retail hub for the now very vacant Dexter corridor and encourage local entrepreneurship, create a social community gathering space, and host cultural events for the neighborhoods it serves.
The retail pop-up site has the capacity to house four businesses for long- or short-term leases – with an average price to the tenants of just $500 a month. This opportunity for business owners to open a space without the overhead of a traditional brick and mortar is a way for the City of Detroit to help drive economic development and create another community gathering space during the time the more permanent work will be happening along the corridor.
Kaci Michael, a Russell Woods resident, active member of the community is also owner of The Propitious Spot LLC, which will serve as the management company overseeing operations at the Pop-Up. "I am absolutely ecstatic about the revitalization of the Dexter Corridor, a major thoroughfare of Detroit," said Michael. We are partnering with the community to make this project a huge success and can't wait for everyone to stop in and check us out." The small businesses currently occupying the retail spaces are: Sweetest Touch, Detroit Smoothie Café, Chef Dre's Barbeque Jazz & Soul and DeeTV Catering.
The Detroit Building Authority (DBA) was charged with construction and project management of the Dexter Pop-Up. This project entailed community engagement, so the DBA began with a series of meetings with residents of the area. Once the DBA understood their needs, we began programming and designing the project. KEO & Associates/Dokes Design, a minority-owned and Detroit headquartered business, was selected as the Design/Build team and began working with the DBA. Shipping containers were used on site as an optimal way for bringing in local businesses for a Pop-Up Retail operation serving the community. The containers frame an interior courtyard open space to be used for outdoor events and a community gathering space. This space was designed to incorporate access for food trucks to provide catering for the events. The objective of the project is to reinvigorate business activity along the Dexter Avenue corridor, encouraging other businesses to locate to the area and serve the community with several local retail options.
The Dexter Pop-Up is funded using $450,000 SNF and $150,000 in general funds and is a joint initiative of the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department, Department of Neighborhoods, the Mayor’s Office, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
Business Façade Improvement Program
Eight businesses along the Dexter Avenue corridor have been chosen to receive façade improvements through the SNF Spark Grant Program funded through Invest Detroit. Life Remodeled was selected to facilitate this work. Four businesses have complete or near complete designs, and the other four are still in the design phase. This program will make Dexter Avenue even more walkable and help drive future economic development and additional investment along the corridor.
Keyona and Tahlib Barnes are the owners of In Harmony Café, one of the façade improvement grant recipients. They are excited to have the façade of their business, which has become a favorite gathering space in this community, spruced up through this grant program.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the Dexter Avenue revitalization project, which symbolizes a turning point for our community. This $21.5 million investment, with its pop-up retail spaces, murals, housing initiatives, and streetscape improvements, is not just an investment in infrastructure, but an investment in the very heart and soul of our neighborhood,” said the Barnes’. “It's a testament to the power of partnership and community engagement, and we look forward to a brighter, more vibrant future for Dexter Avenue. Together, we are building a place where people can live, work, and play in perfect harmony.”
The other façade improvement grant recipients are Dexter Quality Cleaners, Dexter Check Cashing, Dexter Pediatrics, Dexter Car Wash & Vacuum, Krispy Kutz, Dexter Hardware and Food Farm Market. Each of the businesses are receiving a grant of up to $35,000 for design and/or construction. These projects are expected to be completed in Fall of 2024.
Mural Art beautifying Dexter Avenue
In line with Mayor Duggan’s Blight to Beauty campaign, mural art has been brought to the Dexter Avenue corridor through $85,000 from the Strategic Neighborhood Fund’s Spark Grant Program. Being surrounded by beautiful pieces of art creates an atmosphere of hope and helps our residents have pride in their neighborhood.
For this work, Invest Detroit partnered with Space Labs Detroit under the guidance of City Walls, the City of Detroit’s mural program. City Walls then worked with the community to select the artists through a competitive open process and ensured the artists met with the community to hear their ideas before getting started.
So far, 5 beautiful murals out of 6 have been completed/painted along the Dexter Avenue corridor. Popular Detroit muralist Fel’le completed a mural on a vacant space at 12111 Dexter. Trae Isaac brought his work to the side of Dexter Car Wash & Vacuum at 12740 Dexter.
Marlo Broughton brought a beautiful piece to the side of 12135 Dexter and describes his work in the community here, “Having opportunities to make art throughout the city is a very important and special experience/moment in time. It gives me the space to convey the importance of bringing the past to the forefront. I believe it’s my duty to tell the narrative through my family experiences along with the history of my surroundings. My work is about cooking with all of those ingredients from black bottom to Livernois fashion to the riots to cookouts/block parties to Motown music. I’m bringing the past into the future so we all can experience it with a new lens in hopes we all can take away something new together after being emerged into the world of art.”
Sintex has a mural @ 4550 Elmhurst celebrating the sound of the city (pictured below).
Wendy Popko, whose art has been commissioned for the interior of the Manoogian Mansion under a previous Mayor, is currently painting a gorgeous piece depicting all ages of children caring for the earth on the side of Dexter Check Cashing at 13227 Dexter which faces recently renovated Zussman Park. There is one mural yet to be completed along the corridor by artists Nicole MacDonald and that will be located on 11550 Dexter Ave, since she just completed the 200th mural for City Walls.
In addition to the pieces commissioned by City Walls, Olayami Dabls, a prominent Detroit visual storyteller for over forty-five years, completed a striking mural designed specifically for the exterior of the Dexter Pop-Up. In this piece, Dabls communicates information about himself, his community, and his heritage through West African symbolism depicting resilience, adaptability, and connection to the community.
Streetscape coming to Dexter Avenue
With construction of the $8,500,000 million ARPA-funded project set to begin in Spring of 2024, the Dexter Avenue streetscape will bring a more pedestrian and bike-friendly atmosphere to surrounding neighborhoods.
“The City of Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) is looking to make Dexter Avenue safer for all street users and support economic activity along the corridor between Davison and Webb,” said DPW Director Ron Brundidge. “These improvements will include lighting, sidewalk improvements, traffic signal upgrades, protected bikeways, landscaping, site furnishings, signs, pavement markings, and utility adjustments.”
DPW and its partners held nine community meetings as part of the design process to ensure residents had meaningful opportunities to shape the streetscape project. The final meeting was attended by more than 100 residents and resulted in the selection of the final design, which will include converting Dexter Avenue from four to three lanes, with a two-lane cycle track and parking area, along with infrastructure improvements such as handicapped-accessible curbs, new bus shelters and plant beds.
Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Stabilization
Neighborhood stabilization is one of the top priorities of this plan, and there are multiple strategies being put into play to ensure not only are the neighborhoods surrounding the Dexter Avenue corridor are strengthened, but high-quality affordable housing is accessible to all who choose to call these beautiful neighborhoods home.
160 units of badly needed new affordable housing along the Dexter corridor is being made possible thanks to $37 million worth of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) support the City of Detroit helped secure from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
“MSHDA’s investments in the rehabilitation of Russell Woods Senior Living Community in Nardin Park and Cabot Apartments in Oakman Boulevard affirm MSHDA’s commitment that every Detroiter deserves access to high-quality affordable housing in a neighborhood of their choice,” said MSHDA Executive Director Amy Hovey. “These properties will contribute to sweeping neighborhood revitalization and offer a better quality of life for residents by providing barrier-free units for the elderly and permanent supportive housing to those experiencing chronic homelessness.”
Trice Development Company, LLC and Cove Investments received $15 million in LIHTC funding will be renovating a vacant apartment building at 13725 Dexter Avenue, which when complete will offer 84 units of permanent supportive housing at rates far below the area median income.
Icon Heritage Partners will be redeveloping a currently vacant building located at 11421 Dexter Avenue into 76 units of senior assisted living available at 30 to 60% the area median income.
Detroit Land Bank Authority will complete a total of nine residential rehabs in Russell Woods to ensure the beautiful homes in this neighborhood that can be saved are brought back online.
Proposal N funds will demolish or stabilize some 400 homes in Nardin Park. Demolition on vacant properties that cannot be saved has begun, including the demolition this week of a long-abandoned apartment building on the park that has been an eyesore for years.
By removing blight, property values will increase, and the safety and appearance of the neighborhood will be improved.
Among the other key initiatives in the Russell Woods-Nardin Park SNF plan:
- $10,000,000 in ARPA funds invested into the redevelopment of the Dexter Elmhurst Community Center and Park, with construction set to begin in Spring of 2024. The building has sat vacant for more than a decade.
- City’s Parks & Recreation Department completed an $850,000 upgrade to Zussman Park, which neighbors have been enjoying since its completion in 2021.
- The City’s General Services Department made improvements to Russell Woods Park, including adding a new pavilion that will host the park’s annual jazz festival.
- $250,000 was spent to make upgrades to Nardin Park
The Strategic Neighborhood Fund was launched in 2014 in three neighborhoods, which was expanded to 10 in 2018, including Russell Woods-Nardin Park. The SNF is a $150 million private-public partnership between the City of Detroit and the nonprofit Invest Detroit that is funded by six corporate funders and several philanthropic organizations to invest in housing stabilization, improving parks, commercial corridors, streetscapes, and equitable opportunities for local business owners of color. SNF has leveraged more than $260 million in public-private funding through 10 individual neighborhood framework plans since its inception in 2014.