Detroit’s Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Grants $10M to Invest Detroit to Support Commercial Corridors, Parks

Invest Detroit today announced a $10 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in Detroit that will support the Strategic Neighborhood Fund over the next five years to support commercial corridors and parks in 10 neighborhoods across the city.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at podium
The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has granted $10 million to Invest Detroit to update commercial corridors and parks. Pictured, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks at the announcement. // Photo courtesy of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

Invest Detroit today announced a $10 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in Detroit that will support the Strategic Neighborhood Fund over the next five years to support commercial corridors and parks in 10 neighborhoods across the city.

The grant is part of the foundation’s place-based investments that are aimed at driving job growth, building community wealth, and generating additional economic development.

“This initiative is doing crucially important work to help boost these Detroit neighborhoods and create momentum that will spread to even more neighborhoods, ensuring that residents across the city live in thriving communities,” says Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs for the foundation. “The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is proud to be helping with this key initiative and to partner with Mayor Duggan’s administration and Invest Detroit.”

The announcement was made at Artist Village in Detroit’s historic Old Redford neighborhood, where a year prior Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that seven corporate partners – American Axle, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Fifth Third Bank, Flagstar Bank, Huntington Bank, Penske Corp., and TCF/Chemical Bank – had agreed to pledge $5 million each to the Strategic Neighborhood Fund.

At the time, Duggan also announced a goal to raise $56 million through corporate and philanthropic organizations plus $3 million in operational support. Adding the contribution from the foundation, the city and Invest Detroit have raised 85 percent of the goal.

“On behalf of the residents of Detroit, I would like to thank the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation for this commitment to continue this important work that is doing so much good in our city’s neighborhoods,” says Duggan. “They and our other corporate partners have already made an incredible impact, and it is my hope that others will join us in continuing our mission of creating a stronger Detroit for everyone.”

The Strategic Neighborhood Fund is administered by Invest Detroit, a nonprofit organization and community development financial institution. It brings partnerships and philanthropic resources together to spur growth in Detroit by supporting real estate and business projects that often struggle to find traditional financing.

In each neighborhood, the process involves a planning period followed by implementation. It is projected to take up to four years in each neighborhood and will proceed simultaneously in multiple neighborhoods.

“The Strategic Neighborhood Fund is a true public-private-philanthropic partnership,” says Dave Blaszkiewicz, president and CEO of Invest Detroit. “We are already seeing more investment in Detroit’s neighborhoods than we have in decades, and this will lead to economic growth that brings more jobs, residents, and investment. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation investment will help to leverage the growing momentum we are seeing into even further and more sustained progress.”

Work through the fund engages residents throughout the process and is focused on 10 neighborhoods: Jefferson Chalmers, Warrendale/Cody-Rouge, Campau/Davison/Banglatown, East Warren/Cadieux, Grand River Northwest, Gratiot/7 Mile, Russell Woods/Nardin Park, Islandview/Greater Villages, Southwest/Vernor, and Livernois-McNichols.

The foundation’s investment follows $2 million that it gave during the first round of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund in 2017.

In related news, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in Detroit will receive the first-ever early adopter award at the 2019 Great Futures Awards for the Detroit-based Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan. It will also announce a $2 million matching grant to the club.

“The Early Adopter Award was created in 2019 to recognize partners who are willing to invest in new, innovative, and bold ideas early in the process,” says Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of the club. “They are more than funders; they are thought partners and champions who recognize the need to evolve in order to consistently meet community needs. We are excited to recognize the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.”

The event will take place Thursday at the Garden Theater in Detroit. Over the next three years, the club plans to raise $15 million to reimagine its experience for youth and their families. To date, the club has raised more than $5 million, and the grant from the foundation will match $1 for every $2 raised.

“Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan has truly taken a bold step in reimagining what recreation and afterschool programming could look like to better serve today’s youth,” says Jim Boyle, vice president of programs and communications at the foundation. “Their innovative and multi-generational approach has great potential to be a driver of economic mobility not only for youth, but also their families and surrounding community. We’re proud to help provide this lift to their campaign and get them closer to their funding goal.”

Tony Saunders, club alumnus and COO at Rock Ventures, will receive the Youth Champion Award for helping youth reach their full potential.

“I am humbled to receive the Youth Champion Award this year, and I don’t take this recognition lightly,” he says. “It is important for leaders to take the time to pour into the communities we live and work in, especially into those organizations that helped us become the individuals we are today. I am proud to receive this award and will continue my commitment to empower youth across southeastern Michigan.”

Saunders was also the emergency manager for Benton Harbor and launched a $25,000 scholarship and internship program for graduating seniors at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

“As a former club kid, I am always excited to see other alumni give back to the Boys and Girls Clubs and the communities where they were raised,” says Hiram Jackson, board chair for the club. “Tony is a very successful professional in the Detroit business community, but more importantly, he is using his platform to help youth achieve their own dreams. He has never forgotten the lessons he learned in the Holden Building on the east side of Detroit and is a perfect example of why it is important for our club kids to see how our alumni become successful adults and major contributors to the community.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan was founded in 1926 and serves youth ages 6-18. It helps nearly 13,000 youth each year within eight clubs throughout the region.

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