A Block Club Makes a Difference Combating Blight

Photo by Alexa Bush via City of Detroit Planning and Development Department

Case Study: Midwest Civic Council of Block Clubs Champions Change


The Midwest Civic Council of Block Clubs (MCCBC) recognized that the neighborhood was becoming overrun with blighted abandoned buildings.  The Block Club’s area includes (Grand River south to W. Warren Ave., Livernois west to the Conrail Railroad between Alpine, Central, and McDonald).  This multigenerational area has seen the city thrive and fall and try to thrive again.  The organization formed a Blight Task Force in 2013, headed by long time resident,  RuShann Long.  The organization’s  first goal was to document the abandoned properties and identify ways to deal with them.  The ultimate goal was to have those properties mediated — either through demolition or rehabilitation.  The group also spearheaded clean-ups and regularly reported illegal dumping.  MCCBC wanted to have an attractive, clean and safe neighborhood.

Block Club’s Goals

City Departments Engaged

Community and Government Intervention to Create Change

Community work is hard and for the most part thankless.  But because it is community and where you live, failure and giving up is not an option.  You have to fight for what you want.”

Sheri Burton, President, Midwest Civic Council of Block Clubs

Block Club’s Challenges

The block club’s area was not included in the Hardest Hit Fund’s first round.  Blight was not being addressed, since there were no city funds to place properties on the demolition list.  The city was headed for bankruptcy, which was filed in July, 2013 just as the club’s Blight Task Force was created.

Hardest Hit Funds In June of 2013, the United States Department of Treasury permitted the use of the Hardest Hit Fund for demolition of residential structures in Michigan. On August 20, 2013, Governor Snyder announced that Detroit wouldwill receive $52.2 million for demolition.  The city targeted the blight reduction investment across six strategic, strong neighborhoods in the city. Based on the Detroit Works/Detroit Future City effort, the city identified the strongest areas with marketability for redevelopment investments. The targeted areas chosen to receive a mix of reinvestment strategies including blight reduction and elimination through the HHF program, did not include the MCCBC area.  

A large number of non-compliant used car lots, junkyards, and scrap yards were in their are in a residential area.  Despite Used used car lots being restricted toare not allowed within 1,000 feet or further apart,of each other.  This has this had been violated under the guise of signage/marketing indicating the business as a ‘repair shop’(which had been, and repair shops have also been functioning as used car lots).  These facilities were considerdare eyesores with unattractive vehicles parked outside the lot on the sidewalks and streets.  The junkyard and scrap yard  non-compliances included lack of appropriate fencing and curtains around fences,  junk and scrap visible to the public because of illegal height of stacked scraps/cars,  and spillage onto public spaces, accepting stolen parts/materials creating an unsavory atmosphere, and noise pollution.  These issues with the used car lots and junkyards and scrap yards contributed to the blight in the neighborhood, making it unattractive to residents and potential development.  

Measurable Community/Block Clubs’ Successes

90% of the auto facilities have started to clean up, due in part to the Mayor’s Executive Order, as well as the Task Force complaints being addressed by BSEED.

Current / On-going Block Club Initiatives 

The organization continues to address the blight issues.  Demolition is now the responsibility of city government instead of hardest hit funds that were federally mandated.  


  1. What kinds of policy changes did the residents have influence over?
  2. How is the city held accountable for the conditions of a neighborhood?