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Detroit leaders promise ambitious 'Future City' plan will become reality

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit officials say they’re committed to making the Detroit Future City plan a reality.

The comprehensive –and controversial – plan has been years in the making. It’s meant to serve as a long-term guide for city leaders and policy-makers.

Detroit Future City started with a more modest goal –finding a better way to deal with Detroit’s abundant vacant land.

Proponents said that “resizing” Detroit was necessary to better deliver city services to a diminished population. But that created fears that certain areas would be de-populated as city leaders picked winning and losing neighborhoods.

While the plan (or as officials prefer to call it, “strategic framework”) does focus extensively on land use and strategic investment, it’s morphed into something much wider-ranging. And city leaders say they’re serious about implementing it.

Former Detroit interim mayor and City Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. is leading the implementation efforts. He says citizen participation is a key part of the process.

“We’re not just out there doing stuff,” Cockrel says. “We’re doing stuff with the input and direct participation of residents of the city of Detroit. They’re continuing to have a say in these projects.”

Planners already have 31 projects going in five areas the implementation office has deemed key priorities: economic growth, land use, stabilizing neighborhoods, and “transforming vacant land into an innovative open space network.”

Cockrel says in terms of economic growth, the No.1 goal should be creating more job opportunities for city residents.

“We recognize that the city’s labor force participation rate remains at 50% for Detroiters between the ages of 25 and 64,” Cockrel says. “That is a situation that can’t be allowed to stand.”

From planning to implementation, the Detroit Future City plan has been heavily funded by Detroit’s nonprofit community, particularly the Kresge Foundation.

Crucially, it now also has the full support of Detroit’s new mayor, Mike Duggan. Duggan’s group executive for jobs and the economy, Tom LeWand, has called the plan his “bible.”

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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