Each of Detroit’s neighborhoods has a distinct history and its own character, challenges, needs, and opportunities. Every neighborhood has a future, and it doesn’t include blight.
The Mayor’s Ten-Point Plan for Neighborhoods set the stage to build strong neighborhoods. The Department of Neighborhoods was created, the Detroit Land Bank Authority has been strengthened, and the city’s code enforcement and nuisance abatement initiatives bolstered. Each of these steps are helping to move people back into the neighborhoods. The city is implementing policies to rebuild Detroit’s population by saving every home that can be saved and moving families back into them. The Detroit Land Bank’s new on-line auction is at the heart of this effort. At the same time, the city has begun demolishing vacant buildings that cannot be saved.
The city is also developing an answer to the question: What comes next for the city? An updated Master Plan of Policies for Detroit will answer this question. The Master Plan of Policies is a comprehensive long-range plan of policies and priorities, which serves as a blueprint for Detroit’s future. The Mayor has also embraced ideas emerging from the strategic framework created through Detroit Future City in 2013 as input and guidance for this work.
Detroit Future City’s land use forecast and current pilot projects will contribute to preventing blight in coming years. These priorities will call upon the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Neighborhoods, the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, the Detroit Land Bank Authority, Wayne County, the State of Michigan, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and business and community leaders to work closely together to realize many strategic opportunities for investment in Detroit’s employment areas and neighborhoods.
The Task Force’s recommendations rely on community engagement whereby the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) and the City of Detroit Department of Neighborhoods will continually gather the best possible insights for addressing blight from residents. They will then apply that information to shape the best solutions for all Detroiters.
Our city has more than 700,000 residents. How can we ensure that we hear from and respond to as many people as possible?
The Task Force recommends the DLBA implement the following:
Continue to leverage the Department of Neighborhoods District Manager as the consistent points of contact.
The Motor City Mapping project started as a citywide survey that gathered property condition data for each of the city’s 380,000 parcels. This effort should be extended to become a full, continuous two-way conversation with the public through a revolutionary smart phone and computer based tool for sharing parcel-level information. Residents can use their own mobile phones and computers, or city-provided electronic tablets, to provide street-level information and photos related to blighted structures and vacant lots in their neighborhoods.
This information is vital to help the city and Detroit Land Bank Authority maintain, update, and apply the most accurate information possible, setting broad geographic priorities and making specific parcel-level decisions. It will also be used as the database to update residents on current conditions and activities surrounding blight in their neighborhoods.
Although the technology is designed to be easy to access and use, the community engagement effort will also include training sessions to prepare residents to collect parcel-level information about blighted properties. Electronic tablets used during the Motor City Mapping field survey will be donated to the city. District Managers are encouraged to make these electronic devices available to residents on a “check-out” basis to encourage city-wide participation.
Motor City Mapping captures and curates data, but the most important element of this two-way tool is to promote the communication of information, including decision-making and actions regarding parcel interventions. The community MUST participate in all aspects of the process for this approach to positively impact neighborhoods and the entire city.
The Detroit Land Bank Authority should expand and maintain detroitlandbank.org to include real-time information in the following areas:
The Blight Task Force strongly recommends that all digital communication methods are appropriately staffed. The Detroit Land Bank Authority should also send proactive email blasts to community groups to complement updates to the website.
The Task Force also recommends that the Detroit Land Bank Authority deploy an active and aggressive social media strategy including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to engage with the community, as well as to receive incoming real-time information. This information provides additive value for the Land Bank to make the best and most impactful decisions on the path to eradicating blight in the City of Detroit. Because social media is instantaneous, optionally anonymous, and allows convenient delivery of photos and video, this medium fits well with the mission of removing all blight from the city.
Detroit’s Department of Neighborhood’s District Managers and Assistant Managers will be liaisons between residents and the Department of Neighborhoods, Planning and Development Department, Detroit Land Bank Authority, and Detroit Future City, as well as exchanging information at scheduled neighborhood and community meetings. The Detroit Land Bank Authority team will continue to provide training and tools to the District Managers on the overall blight removal and property intervention strategy. Communication is often the most challenging component of any human activity. Stronger connections between the citizens and city departments AND the city departments with each other, will make it easier for the community to participate in the overall blight removal process.
The District Managers should be held accountable for making sure that blight removal and prevention is a significant topic at all neighborhood and community meetings. The meetings are envisioned not only for informational purposes, but as opportunities for community groups to gather and exchange information, organize activities, and coordinate their planning. The District Managers should coordinate the participation of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, each district’s City Council member, the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Neighborhoods, Detroit Future City and key community groups.
These meetings also offer the Detroit Land Bank Authority an opportunity to update the public on blight elimination priorities, in addition to specific action plans and detailed activities on a street-by-street and parcel-by-parcel basis. It is recommended that the initial meetings focus on reviewing the Blight Removal Task Force Plan and training residents to use the Motor City Mapping tools.
Further, appropriate city offices and community groups can utilize community meetings to provide information and outreach for foreclosure prevention, resident and business-owner assistance with repairs and improvements, and support for resident groups that are working to address blight in their community.