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
- Eliminate the blight in the neighborhood, by
- Demolishing unsalvageable properties
- Cleaning-up streets and abandoned sites
- Renovating properties
- Curtailing the non-compliance of junkyards and scrap yards
- Ending illegal dumping
City Departments Engaged
- Regular meetings with District 6 Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez to strategize and solicit support.
- Letters and complaints to Building Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) about illegal dumping, junkyard compliance, and unsafe abandoned properties.
- Met with the Detroit Building Authority and Detroit Land Bank to address ‘city-owned’ properties and assist with identifying ownership of abandoned properties.
- Connected regularly with the Mayor’s Office to request funding for demolition, and address issues with junkyards.
- The group’s Blight Task Force worked with the Detroit Police Department, providing information for DPD to issue blight tickets.
Community and Government Intervention to Create Change
- Detroit Police Department’s 2nd Precinct Community Relations President, Fredia Butler, along with residents and the association’s Blight Task Force held protests that resulted in shutting down an illegally-operating auto shop. The Precinct Community Relations President is not a DPD member, but a volunteer community leader elected by the community to lead monthly meetings to share DPD information and hear resident’s concerns and questions.
- The group spoke out and facilitated the denial of zoning variances to stop other such facilities from opening.
- Although it has not been confirmed by anyone in city government, Midwest Council of Block Club’s Blight Task Force believes that Mayor Duggan’s Executive Order NO. 2019-1, Moratorium on Applications for Permits and/or Licenses for New or Expanded Junkyards, Scrap Tire Processing, and Recycling Facilities, Major and Minor Motor Vehicle Repair, and Used Car Sales Lots was greatly influenced by their attendance and involvement at public meetings, hearings and court dates, as well as the organization’s protests.
“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.
- The group attends hearings and places calls to report non-compliance of auto facilities.
- A tour of the area was held for city officials.
- A brochure of the community was created.
- Community days and more tours are planned.
- What kinds of policy changes did the residents have influence over?
- How is the city held accountable for the conditions of a neighborhood?