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Detroit group: City needs to spread development efforts to neighborhoods

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A group of grassroots Detroit activists says the city needs to broaden its vision of re-development beyond downtown.

The group Michigan United has proposed a plan it calls “restoring our communities.”

It proposes a city ordinance with concrete measures to control blight and revitalize Detroit’s suffering residential neighborhoods.

Measures include:

·        Requiring banks to post a $10,000 bond for each foreclosure. Groups leaders say this has worked well and raised revenue in other cities.

·        Create a sustainable blight enforcement program that includes a registry of foreclosed properties, and steep fines on owners of multiple blighted properties.

·        Create a public trust to manage blight control funds, and invest in neighborhood development projects with the help of a community advisory board.

Group members say they’ll be pushing for Detroit’s newly-elected mayor and City Council members to get on board with the plan. Mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon have both expressed support for elements of the plan, but activists say that's not enough.

“Addressing blight and foreclosures can’t just be another thing on the new mayor’s and new City Council’s laundry list,” said the Reverend Frank Jackson of the AME Zion church. “Detroiters need this to be top priority.”

Jackson says the group also plans to “become a part of” the city’s new, federally-appointed task forceto eradicate blight. The Obama administration recently pledged to “unlock” more than $100 million in anti-blight funds for Detroit.

The task force is headed by Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert, who has pledged to move quickly to knock down vacant buildings in large numbers. But grassroots groups like Michigan United say they need to be part of the process, too.

“We need to push these lending institutions, and our city government, to get off that money, and allow that money to get where it can do the most good, for communities that are in the most need,” says community activist Lee Gaddies.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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