The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has selected Detroit as a winner of its Choice Neighborhoods grant program, which will enable the city to bring more than 500 new units of affordable housing to Corktown where Ford Motor Co. is building a mobility campus.
Detroit, one of five cities selected by HUD, will receive a $30-million grant, the largest amount offered under the Choice program. The city states the HUD grant is supported by $1 billion in leverage commitments from grant partners, including Ford’s $740-million investment along with other economic development initiatives in Greater Corktown.
The historic Detroit neighborhood, which is seeing escalating rents because of new development, is now in line to see more than $200 million invested in 840 new units of housing to be completed over the next six years. At least 60 percent (504 units) will be set aside as deeply affordable housing units to ensure that Detroiters of all income levels can afford to live there.
The development will include:
- 40 percent of the new units will serve households earning between 30 and 80 percent AMI; or no more than $50,000 for a two-person household.
- 20 percent of the units will serve households making up to 30 percent of area median income (AMI), meaning no more than $19,000 per year for a two-person household.
- Additionally, 20 percent of the units will serve households earning 80 percent to 120 percent AMI, or no more than $76,000 based on a two-person household.
- Only the remaining 20 percent of the units would be able to be rented at market rate.
“This is the city we are trying to build, where longtime Detroiters know they won’t be pushed out by development and where residents of all income levels can live side by side in quality housing in any neighborhood in the city,” says Mayor Mike Duggan.
“Our Housing and Planning teams put together a fantastic plan, and we are grateful to U.S. HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and the Biden administration for their confidence in the good work we are doing to prevent gentrification and displacement. MSHDA (also) has been a great partner to Detroit, and we are deeply appreciative to Director Gary Heidl and his team for their support during this process.”
The planning area for this initiative is bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north, Fort Street to the south, the Fisher Freeway to the west, and Lodge Freeway to the east — encompassing both historic Corktown and North Corktown. In addition to new housing, the city states the grant will help Detroit leverage tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, better public spaces, more amenities, and a community hub with early childhood education and health services for residents.
The plan is focused on three key areas:
Left field of former site of Tiger Stadium: The first phase of development on this 3.7-acre site along the Fisher Service Drive and Cochrane Street will see a new $29-million, 120-unit development that will feature 48 units of affordable housing ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent area median income (AMI). The project, developed by ACD, was selected last year for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding. Work is to begin this summer.
Clement Kern Gardens: This 7-acre site currently features 87 townhome-style units of affordable housing built in 1985. When it was built, the site was isolated, with berms and a fence around it, and streets were cut off. Under the plan, the structures would be razed and rebuilt in phases beginning no sooner than 2023. All current residents would have the option to stay in the rebuilt Clement Kern Gardens or be given priority to move into another Corktown property.
Existing residents, no matter their income, will see their current rents continued to be based on their income, and their housing needs and status will be prioritized throughout the project. The site also would see the street grid restored to help reconnect the community with the neighborhood, and mixed-income housing would be added to create a more integrated community. Clement Kern is owned by American Community Developers.
North Corktown: There are 143 vacant lots in this area controlled by the city spread across 14.6 acres that will see new infill housing built on the site. The framework also calls for a new neighborhood service hub and outdoor recreation area to be built upon the former site of the Owen School, replacing a longtime concern in the neighborhood.
The city’s plan draws upon the Greater Corktown Framework, which was developed following an 18-month effort by the Planning and Development Department (PDD) and Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD). Local leaders, residents, nonprofits, and private developers came together to create Detroit’s bid to revitalize areas of the neighborhood and address challenges.
The plan also calls for replacing distressed publicly assisted housing; improving outcomes of households regarding education, employment, and health; better integrating affordable and market rate housing to ensure a welcoming and diverse community for all; and reinvesting in distressed areas to offer amenities and assets, such as improved safety and early childhood education.
Neighborhood projects will include a re-designed Roosevelt Park in front of Ford’s Michigan Central Station, a new community hub in North Corktown, improvements to key streets to improve safety and connectivity, and integrated green infrastructure throughout the neighborhood.
Residents of Clement Kern Gardens will be supported with integrated case management and supportive services to support improved outcomes around health, economic self-sufficiency, early childhood learning, and K-12 education.
The city engaged the community around the framework starting in March 2019, gaining input and hearing priorities of those already in the neighborhood, ensuring that those currently living in Corktown directed their neighborhood’s future. Residents said their top issues are housing affordability and infill housing, as well as increased green space and amenities.
The Corktown plan represents the first time Detroit has been selected to receive a Choice grant.
“This has been the most comprehensive and ambitious planning project Detroit has undertaken in a generation,” says Katy Trudeau, acting director of the Planning and Development Department.
In addition to housing and jobs, the framework’s other key focus is streetscape improvements and greenspace. Among the planned improvements are redesigned intersections at 14th and Michigan Avenue.
In spring 2019, the team of Boston-based The Community Builders Inc. (TCB) and Hamilton Anderson Associates of Detroit and Detroit-based American Community Developers (ACD) was selected by the city following a request for qualifications (RFQ) process.
TCB, which manages or owns 11,000 units of affordable housing nationally, has experience implementing a Choice Neighborhood grant in Cincinnati. ACD manages or owns 12,000 units, including Clement Kern Gardens, and has recently broken ground on Brush Watson, which will bring 310 units to Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood, more than half of which will be designated affordable housing. For the framework, the city partnered with the design firm Perkins & Will.
For more information on the Greater Corktown planning process and housing plan, visit here.