Mayor Duggan helps breaks ground on new $6.68M Community Center at A.B. Ford Park in Jefferson Chalmers


Mayor Duggan helps breaks ground on new $6.68M Community Center at A.B. Ford Park in Jefferson Chalmers

  • New center possible thanks to Strategic Neighborhood Fund donation from Penske.
  • Facility will be part of $9M in total investment coming to A.B. Ford Park.
  • Building will be solar-powered, Detroit’s first climate resiliency center.

DETROIT — Mayor Mike Duggan joined community leaders and Penske Corporation today to celebrate the beginning of construction on a new community center at A.B. Ford Park in Jefferson Chalmers along the east Detroit riverfront. This new, state-of-the-art solar-powered facility will replace the Lenox Center, which has sat vacant for nearly a decade.

The Lenox Center was unusable and located within the FEMA flood plain. The new building will be an 8,116-square-foot state-of-the-art facility built outside the flood plain and will serve as a new community space as well as a sustainable resilience hub during emergencies. The new center will include a community hub space, flexible space for indoor youth sports and community events, classrooms, and quiet learning space.

"For nearly a decade, the residents of Jefferson Chalmers have wanted a new community center. Now, thanks to Roger Penske and his commitment to this neighborhood through the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, they soon will have one that will be available to them even through power outages,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Neighborhood revitalization, guided by residents and supported by the city and our business partners, has been the key to the success we are having through the SNF. We believe this new center will be a template for future ones like it."

Construction has already begun with land clearing and will continue next week's work on the foundation of the new building. The new center is slated to open in 2023.

The $6.68 million building is funded using $2.73 million of Penske Corp.’s $5 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) donation and $3.95 million in City of Detroit funding.


The new community center at A.B. Ford Park in Jefferson Chalmers is slated to open in 2023.


The SNF was launched in 2017 by Mayor Duggan in partnership with Invest Detroit with a focus on leveraging investments in four key areas: improving parks, streetscapes, commercial corridors, and single-family housing. All along the way, the plans are guided by residents’ input to give them a say in the future of their neighborhoods. The fund was piloted with a $42 million investment in three initial neighborhood areas: Livernois/McNichols, Southwest/West Vernor, and Islandview/Greater Villages. A year later, the SNF initiative was expanded to seven more areas and funded by an investment of $5 million each from seven corporations: American Axle, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chemical Bank, Fifth Third, Flagstar Bank, Huntington, and Penske. Chemical and Huntington have since merged.

To date, more than $112 million has been invested in the 10 SNF neighborhoods, including $4.6 million in four completed parks and open spaces, $12.2 million in 117 finished single-family rehabs, $51.6 million in the six streetscapes done so far, and $39.4 million in total development costs, which has led to 31,600 square feet of commercial construction and 108 housing units created, including affordable housing. With warm weather returning, a number of other SNF projects are about to kick off besides the A.B. Ford makeover, including streetscapes on East and West Warren, park improvements at Clark, Heilmann, and Balduck parks, and a number of rehabs and new construction projects along commercial corridors.

“Penske Corporation is proud to continue to support the Jefferson-Chalmers community. It is exciting to be part of the groundbreaking for a gathering place that has generated so much input and support across the community, said Bud Denker, President of Penske Corporation. “This is a wonderful way to contribute to the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood and help deliver something that is such a welcome addition to the area.”

The City of Detroit Parks & Recreation Division led engagement within the Jefferson Chalmers community, which was involved in the planning process for the Strategic Neighborhood Fund vision for the neighborhood.

“We are very excited to see our community rejuvenated by these new developments,” said Juvette Hawkins-Williams, Friends of Jefferson-Chalmers Riverfront Parks. “A.B. Ford Park is a gem, and we have been waiting a long time for it to be brought back to life in this way.”

Additionally, the community center project has leveraged a total of $600,000 in grants from the General Motors Climate Equity Fund and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. These funds will be used to equip the building with solar installations, including a battery and generator to ensure access during times of emergency, such as floods, power outages, or weather-related emergencies. During these crises, the community center will be a place where residents can go to charge devices; access the internet; get cool, warm, or dry; and get equipment and supplies for addressing the emergency.

“We are thrilled to begin the work needed to redevelop the long-awaited community center at A.B. Ford Park,” said Brad Dick, group executive, Services & Infrastructure. “In the coming years, the Parks & Recreation Department will work to ensure that all recreation centers across the city can serve as resiliency hubs, by continuing to offer critical City services in normal times, but also during and after emergency events.”

A.B. Ford Park Redesign

In addition to the community center, A.B. Ford Park will be getting a redesign, funded with $2.13 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The redesign includes enhanced connectivity through the park with a new walkway system and promenade connecting the community center to the waterfront; an active zone including outdoor fitness equipment, a sculptural playground for 5- to 12-year-olds, a playground for 2- to 5-year-olds, picnic areas and fishing areas with riverfront seating and patio event space for the community center.

The naturalized site will feature a pollinator meadow, arboretum for educational enrichment opportunities, and additional tree plantings. Other renovations expected to take place at the park include Detroit Pistons-sponsored basketball courts and an Environmental Protection Agency Habitat Restoration Project to provide a habitat wetland for wildlife.

For more information, on the A.B. Ford Park improvements, go to;