May 5, 2023 - News

Neighborhood work slowly progresses in Detroit's Gratiot-7 Mile area

Cars drive through the busy intersection of Gratiot and 7 Mile.

The intersection of Gratiot Avenue and 7 Mile Road. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

Revitalization plans are slowly unfolding in the so-called G7, a collection of neighborhoods around Gratiot-7 Mile on the east side that was hit particularly hard during the Great Recession.

Why it matters: G7 is the last of 10 targeted areas to get a city-coordinated framework for its future.

  • Many residents and organizations stayed in the area with unique framework challenges through a time of significant population loss, and are working to further the community.

State of play: G7's community engagement process was the most impacted by the pandemic out of the 10 areas chosen by the city for the Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) — a public-private financing machine for reinvesting in commercial corridors.

  • The area also faces a logistical hurdle because its main thoroughfare, the wide and dangerous Gratiot Avenue, is a state-managed road.

Flashback: The city held only one G7 public input meeting in late 2019 before COVID-19 hit, then went mostly virtual.

  • A dozen community partners helped residents engage and access technology to participate, Khalil Ligon, the city's lead urban planner for the east region, tells Axios.
  • A plan debuted after about a year and a half to try and activate the 3.4-square-mile area's particularly large swaths of vacant property, as well as naming three target business districts.
  • The five-year implementation period started in mid-2021, Ligon says.

What's happening: Improvements in the works include a makeover of Heilmann Park, which is receiving $900,000 through SNF and $900,000 through the National Park Service.

  • Construction is expected to start in spring 2024 with playground renovations, a skate park, walking path, picnic areas and more.

Context: "We couldn't just rush in and say, 'this is the best plan, you're welcome.' We had to be thoughtful," Jermaine Ruffin, vice president of neighborhoods for Invest Detroit, the city's private partner on SNF, tells Axios.

  • Now, in this implementation stage, Invest Detroit is looking to prepare the area for future real estate investment. One effort is "solidifying and stabilizing" existing businesses through $35,000 grants to upgrade their storefronts. Applications are open now.

What they're saying: "Bringing back dollars into neighborhoods can really make a difference," Quincy Jones, executive director of the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, tells Axios.

  • "We talk a lot about disinvestment, especially when it comes to Black communities … people can just say, 'I'm not going to move there.' But people sometimes want to stay in their community. We've gotta honor those individuals that stayed …"

What's next: Stay tuned for more stories in our new series on the Gratiot-7 Mile area.


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