The city of Detroit is planning to sell the vacant Johnson Recreation Center for $625,000 to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, which will renovate and reactivate the facility and give access to the local neighborhood. If approved by City Council, renovation work will begin in the fall.
The school plans to renovate the 20,500-square-foot center at 8550 Chippewa Ave, just south of Eight Mile Road on the city’s west side, with upgrades to the gym, locker rooms, and meeting space. Improvements also will be made to the 10.5 acres of open space around the center, including the playground at Joe Louis Park and the addition of three new competition-grade soccer and lacrosse fields.
“U-D Jesuit has been in the city of Detroit and committed to its residents since our founding in 1877,” says Rev. Theodore G. Munz, S.J., president of the school. “Every year our students, faculty, and staff engage in hundreds of hours of service projects that serve the people of this city. Likewise, our alumni actively contribute to the civic, economic, and cultural life of Detroit. The Community Benefits Agreement, if approved, will be another historic step in the school’s commitment to Detroit.”
The Johnson Recreation Center closed in early 2006 and has been idle ever since. When the planned improvements are complete, it will be the first time in more than 13 years that the center will be accessible to the neighborhood. From 2006 to 2013, the city shut down 16 of its 27 recreation centers due to budget cuts.
“Gradually, we are bringing the city’s vacant recreation centers back to life to provide recreational opportunities in our neighborhoods,” says Mike Duggan, mayor of Detroit. “This partnership with U-D Jesuit to reopen the Johnson Recreation Center with new amenities and neighborhood access, is a win-win for everyone, thanks to a voluntary community benefits agreement negotiated with the residents.”
Part of that agreement ensures that the center will become a community asset again, and that the neighborhood will have access to the improved spaces when complete. The school has agreed to keep the center and park names intact, coordinate a series of annual community service projects with U-D Jesuit students and staff, conduct community events and host neighborhood association meetings at the center, and offer five scholarships each year to students in the community.