DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Construction is now underway in the first step in a plan to revitalize a Northwest Detroit neighborhood.

There was much fanfare at a groundbreaking Tuesday for the new 2.5-acre Ella Fitzgerald Park at McNichols and Livernois, near the University of Detroit Mercy campus.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the 2.5-acre greenspace will be enjoyed by the 600 neighborhood residents who stuck it out, even as they were surrounded by blight.

Where there used to be vacant homes, “Next summer we’ll have basketball courts, and grills and picnic areas and walking trails…It’ll be place of beauty at the center of this neighborhood,” said the mayor.

He expects some new neighbors to move in, too.

“I think you’re going to see students moving in here,” Duggan said. “And if you look at what’s happened in the Wayne State area, you get graduates who not only lived there when they were in school but stayed.”

The Fitzgerald Neighborhood Revitalization Project will also include rehabilitation of 115 homes and landscaping of nearly 200 vacant lots.

Darnetta Morris banks, who has lived nearly her entire life in the neighborhood, would love to see that. “They are beautifully sound homes that just need some TLC,” she told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill.

Officials also announced the opening of a center where groups involved in the project can work with neighbors  on the revitalization efforts.

Park construction is funded separately through public and philanthropic investment. Home renovations and landscaping are expected to start later this year.

More than 60 houses in the neighborhood already have been demolished as part of Detroit’s blight removal program.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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