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Work begins on HomeBase and Ella Fitzgerald Park

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October 18, 2017
Speakers stand out of the new Neighborhood HomeBase at the groundbreaking even for the building.

It continues to be an exciting time in the historic Fitzgerald Neighborhood as the groundbreaking for two new community assets, the Neighborhood Homebase and Ella Fitzgerald Park, was held Tuesday afternoon.

The HomeBase, located on McNichols Road, will be home to the Live6 Alliance, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) and shared space for various city of Detroit staff and community groups.

“With the future opening of the Homebase Community Center, Live6 Alliance has a permanent home that will serve as an important community asset,” University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi said. “Live6 Alliance continues to play a vital role in Detroit’s continued resurgence. The impact is really tangible, and the organization continues to build and establish linkages, particularly in the community.”

The Live6 Alliance was founded two years ago with support from The Kresge Foundation, Detroit Mercy and the Detroit Economic Growth Corportation to facilitate new efforts and complement initiatives along the McNichols and Livernois commercial corridors.

“Detroit Mercy’s role in this effort is primarily to be a convener, a conduit and a facilitator so that we can achieve Live6 Alliance’s four primary goals: placemaking, neighborhood stabilization, business attraction and retention, and also safety and security,” Dr. Garibaldi said.

“I believe we’re making steady progress because of our genuine collaborations, and I’m very excited this neighborhood development train is picking up speed. It will move faster, very, very soon. None of this work would have happened without the collaboration and financial support of The Kresge Foundation, particularly President Rip Rapson and his leadership team,” Garibaldi added.

Live6 continues to support and enhance revitalization along Livernois and McNichols, whether it be the Farmer’s Market on Livernois, the monthly Speakeasy events or facilitating outreach with the Motor City Match for businesses seeking planning, architectural support and other technical assistance. The Detroit Sip coffee house, which is next door to the HomeBase, is one example of a new business life being aided by Live6.

“You can’t underestimate what the establishment of HomeBase will do to accelerate the collaboration between the various organizations who are working toward revitalizing this area,” Live6 co-director Lauren Hood said. “And a well-trafficked office can only help spur more development in the immediate vicinity. This means there’ll be one less abandoned building on this street. We’ll be a good neighbor to the about-to-open coffee shop next door, the restaurant in the works across the street and the other active buildings in the vicinity. Activity attracts more activity for everyone.

“The establishment of HomeBase also creates a single place where residents can go with questions – whether they’re trying to get an affordable mortgage or trying to open a business, the resources to help can be found, at last, in a single space,” Hood added. “And it will be open for block club meetings and a wide variety of other community events.”

The Homebase has long been a dream of DCDC director Dan Pitera. The DCDC is dedicated to creating sustainable spaces and communities through quality design and the collaborative process.

Pitera hopes the HomeBase will bring people together toward the common goal of revitalizing Detroit’s neighborhoods.

“How often have neighborhoods had outsiders coming in and telling them what they should have?” Pitera said. “The future of a neighborhood lies in the hands of the residents who are in that neighborhood. That’s what this place represents. It is a place for someone to come say, ‘This is what should happen in a neighborhood.’ It’s a place to bring people together — experts, the residents, the architect, the business owners — to define what that future can be and that grows from the culture of that place. That’s the vision that we’ve had for many years.”

The HomeBase was made possible by the support of The Kresge Foundation, which intends to invest more than $20 million over the next five years in the Livernois-McNichols area.

“That ranges from support for Live6 and the new HomeBase to neighborhood arts projects to support for housing and Ella Fitzgerald Park and greenway development,” Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson said of the investment.

“The active neighborhood revitalization and stewardship must be rooted in the specifics of place, in the fiber of culture and traditions of service that have been layered over time and that define how a community works, that determine how individual identity is formed, that shape how informal networks of support and mutual assistance are forged. That’s why the Live6 Alliance is so terribly important. It will be a reflection of community impulses, a channel for community aspiration. Kresge believes in this model enough to have made a grant of $2.2 million to it, $1 million for the renovation of HomeBase and another $1.2 million for the Alliance’s core operations. Those investments represent not just an acknowledgement of the Alliance’s progress and promise, but also of Kresge’s heightened focus on and investment in the neighborhoods of Detroit.”

Ella Fitzgerald Park

The groundbreaking for Ella Fitzgerald Park begins what will be an exciting two years of activity in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
The new 2.5-acre city park will have a multipurpose sports field and basketball court, as well as play equipment and greenspace.

“We’re going to break ground on Ella Fitzgerald Park, which by next summer will have basketball courts, grills and picnic areas, and walking trails,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “It will be a place of beauty at the center of this neighborhood. It’s going to connect up to a bike and walking trail that will bisect this entire neighborhood.”

The Ella Fitzgerald Park groundbreaking is the first major construction of the two-year Fitzgerald Revitalization Project led by the city, which will see some 115 vacant homes rehabbed for rental or sale, 16 demolished and nearly 200 vacant lots turned into greenways, gardens, flowering meadows or other community assets.

The Platform and Century Partners were announced earlier this year as developers for the residential development for the quarter-square-mile within the Livernois-McNichols area that is home to 600 families.

“When I said every neighborhood has a future, this is what I was talking about, every neighborhood’s future won’t be the same,” Duggan said. “When you come to the Fitzgerald Neighborhood, it’s the heart of what we have to do to turn around this city. Six-hundred families who stayed here, stuck it out when they could have gone someplace else.”

Ella Fitzgerald Park construction, funded separately through public and philanthropic investment, will be followed by home renovations and landscaping later this year. Funding for the park – located between Prairie and San Juan Streets within the Fitzgerald neighborhood – is being provided through the Reimagining the Civic Commons Initiative supported by The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

“The revival of a city may begin downtown, or in a central corridor, but revival just has to become concrete across neighborhoods like this one,” Rapson said. “We’re learning how to make that possible with new collaborative efforts that pool ideas and resources – not the least of which are the ideas of neighbors who’ve often invested years of their lives and put down roots here.

“These activities that we’re calling attention to here are all important in themselves, but the real message is their mutually reinforcing nature,” Rapson added. “Time and again we’re finding that this way of working can give us the traction we need to move forward.”

Michigan Recreational Construction Inc. (MRCI) will be providing the construction services for Ella Fitzgerald Park. They will be working with Joiner Landscaping, LLC, led by Mike Joiner, a longtime City of Detroit firefighter, as well as Detroit Ready Mix Concrete.

Hubert Massey Murals

The groundbreaking also featured the unveiling of two new murals by local artist Hubert Massey, created in collaboration with neighborhood residents, which will be installed in Ella Fitzgerald Park.

“Hands of Happiness” has hands painted in vibrant colors to reflect the Fitzgerald’s culture and resilient people. In “Celebrating Resilience and Song,” houses and trees symbolize the neighborhood’s long, rich history in the city.

Massey led a number of visioning sessions with neighborhood residents to guide the design of the murals and articulate their story of their own community.

Reimagining the Civic Commons

Supported by The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, Reimagining the Civic Commons is a $40 million national initiative to foster civic engagement, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability in Akron, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis. Reimagining the Civic Commons is a national initiative that seeks to counter economic and social fragmentation in our cities by revitalizing and connecting public places such as parks, plazas, trails and libraries to bring together people from different backgrounds.

In Detroit, Reimagining the Civic Common’s work focuses on supporting the creation of Ella Fitzgerald Park and a greenway connection among Marygrove College, University of Detroit Mercy and the community, the revitalization of the Livernois cultural corridor and the development of a varied set of community programming and activities. The national funding is matched at the local level from project partners, including the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, the Greening of Detroit, Detroit Collaborative Design Center and the Live6 Alliance.

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