Nov 7, 2023 - News

Life Remodeled seeks input on new east side neighborhood center's name

The empty school shown from above.

The former Winans Academy of Performing Arts and Dominican High School at 9740 McKinney St. Photo: Courtesy of Life Remodeled

Nonprofit Life Remodeled is asking the public to vote for the name of its next neighborhood hub project.

Driving the news: The organization is known for repurposing a vacant school on the west side into the Durfee Innovation Society, a building housing dozens of nonprofits and public space that opened in 2018.

  • Last month, Life Remodeled bought the former Winans Academy of Performing Arts in the east side's Denby neighborhood for $1.7 million. It's now fundraising to spend $14 million renovating the 87,000-square-foot building.

The latest: Anyone who lives, studies, works or goes to church around Denby can vote online for one of three names now through Nov. 30:

  • Anchor Detroit, after the Denby High School Tars logo.
  • The Whit, after nearby Whittier Avenue.
  • Whittier Pointe, combining Whittier with Grosse Pointe, which points to the "potential to foster a stronger relationship between the two communities," per the voting website.
A rendering showing a well-lit renovated building from above.
A rendering of Life Remodeled's plans for the former Winans academy. Rendering: Courtesy of Life Remodeled

What happened: Life Remodeled VP of opportunity hubs Brandi Haggins tells Axios that around 12 community leaders, including students, chose about 25 names. The nonprofit picked its top five and the community leaders narrowed it down to three.

  • Getting input on the name is part of Life Remodeled's engagement efforts as it decides what tenants and services to place in the building. The nonprofit wants it fully occupied by the end of 2025.
  • So far it has heard from people who want health care services, arts and technology programming, youth and after-school programs, and workforce development opportunities.
  • Life Remodeled is also getting input from the Denby Neighborhood Alliance, plus having conversations with residents, principals and teachers in the area and going door-to-door, Haggins says.

Context: Denby is among the east side neighborhoods dealing with decades of disinvestment and where grassroots groups have been revitalizing corridors and vacant lots.

  • Life Remodeled worked with Denby High School students in 2016 to improve Skinner Park and cleaning blight.

What they're saying: "What [voting for names] does is reenergize the power of community to take ownership of this building, to become committed and invested in what happens at this building," Sandra Turner-Handy of the Denby alliance tells Axios.

  • "And that's important because with that commitment you're going to find sustainability, you're going to find community resiliency, you're gonna find where community is stepping up and saying, 'Oh no, it's got to be right' … taking that ownership."
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