DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Wednesday, detailed his latest plans to reshape the city, pinpointing three areas which will initially benefit.
The Detroit Works Project will involve the redevelopment of an area of I-75 and Vernor called Hubbard Farms on the city’s southwest side and also the Boston Edison-Virginia Park neighborhood. The third area includes Bagley, Green Acres, Sherwood Forest, Palmer Park and University District.
Bing said that, within the next two weeks, efforts will focus on blight elimination, infrastructure improvements, beautification and economic development.
Talking about his plans at the Odd Fellows Great Room in southwest Detroit, Bing said this does not mean other areas of the city will be ignored. Bing said one neighborhood from each level will receive particular scrutiny and be evaluated in six months to gauge the successes of the new strategy.
“What we’re doing is going to focus on these three areas here, so that we can collect additional data, so that we can get a road map, once again, as to what’s working and what’s not,” said the Mayor, saying that this was a “short-term intervention strategy.”
“We want folks to understand that just because their neighborhood, their community, was not mentioned today in this rollout, it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be supportive,” Bing said.
“Then, we can transition what’s working into other communities. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Dave Bing said the new strategy is necessary because the city, with limited financial resources, a $155 million budget deficit and a dwindling population, was spread dangerously thin.
“Our focus is going to be on the people in the neighborhoods,” Bing said. “We can effect real change and improve neighborhoods.”
Bing’s plan isn’t about shrinking Detroit —the boundaries of the 139-square-mile city aren’t receding. The plan also backs away from forcing the redistribution of what’s left of the population into areas where people still live and where the houses aren’t on the verge of caving in. Many residents had strongly opposed that idea.
“We will not force anybody to move,” Bing said. “We want people to move into the areas that are going to grow; where we have the amenities, the density.”
He stressed that police, fire and emergency medical service will be at the same levels in all neighborhoods.
Detroit’s population of about 713,000 is down about 200,000 from 10 years ago, according to U.S. Census figures, and has fallen more than 1 million since 1950. Some areas have fewer occupied homes than vacant ones.
Bing’s administration has worked with community leaders for months on the effort, in which neighborhoods have been classified as steady, transitional or distressed. It comes as entrenched companies and foundations are trying hard to lure newcomers into downtown and Midtown — two more stable neighborhoods — to rebuild the population base.
Neighborhoods identified as steady have the highest housing prices in Detroit and homes that are in good condition. Neighborhoods termed transitional have a mix of rental and owner-occupied homes and are in various stages of decline. Distressed neighborhoods have been in long-term decline and have high vacancy rates.
Under Bing’s plan, more attention would be paid to demolishing vacant houses, enhancing vacant lots and improving recreation services in distressed neighborhoods. Transitional neighborhoods would get more services in regard to demolitions, boarding up vacant structures, road improvement, and water and sewerage treatments.
Things like tree trimming, attracting businesses, code enforcement and public lighting will get more attention in the city’s best neighborhoods.
To Dennis Talbert, Bing’s plan “does not necessarily bode well” for his Brightmoor neighborhood on Detroit’s west and northwest sides.
“It won’t get any services,” he said.
A better plan, Talbert said, would have been possibly closing down neighborhoods like his own.
“He has tip-toed around it,” Talbert said of Bing. “Leadership says … we have to take bold steps. It’s not going to be right-sized now. It’s going to be neglected.”
“I think he should focus on the good and the bad,” said 44-year-old Lisa Simon, who lives on the city’s west side. “Treat us equal. We’re the same.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.