Detroit - Day 1 Dunkin Donuts
I’m at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. I wanted to attend the “Maker Movement Reshaping Community in New Mexico” session, but it was full. So I am sitting here reflecting on my morning journey through Detroit to Dunkin Donuts.
I am addicted to Dunkin Donuts. My quest for Dunkin Donuts when I travel outside of Pittsburgh takes me to some interesting places. The closest DD to me was closed. I hopped into the car and drove around the area near Wayne State University, where I’m staying for the weekend. No luck. I headed north. This is my first time in The D in over 30 years, and I’m looking at this city with fresh eyes.
The first part of my journey took me by blocks and blocks and eventually a few miles of fast food places, liquor-check cashing-beer-lotto-wine outlets and fish fry stores along the amazingly grand boulevard, Woodward Avenue. There are a lot of these wonderfully grand streets for the millions of residents, commuters and visitors who used to traverse the city. But today at 9:00am on a Saturday morning, the streets were virtually empty. I spotted a few pedestrians and cyclists, all African American. I knew were I was. But no DD. I finally pulled over to map the nearest one- it was a 12 minute drive to 14900 E 8 Mile Road. I had about two hours until my first session at the conference, so why not, right?
I headed down a side street through what I think was the Highland Park neighborhood. I immediately thought of a Pittsburgh neighborhood with the same name. It could not have been more different. The blight jumps out at you. The road was a bumpy patchwork of what were intended to be temporary fixes to potholes. Most houses I passed were vacant, some boarded up and decaying, trees and weeds all around them. The lots were full of green- bushes, weeds, bushes of weeds. The few residents that lived there seemed to make a concerted effort to maintain the structural integrity of their homes, regularly mowed the lawn…. I immediately thought of my own street in The Hill District. I knew where I was.
A few miles on I-75 brought me to 8 Mile Road. A bit more traffic. More businesses- auto-body shops, the Warren Chrysler Plant, a Chinese take-out joint. Still an eerily quite Saturday drive. I finally arrived at my destination at 8 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue. It was a bustling intersection of cars. Not many pedestrians. But what was I expecting in a city built the automobile industry? No, Detroit is not pedestrian friendly.
I finally arrived at my destination. I walked into the DD- relieved to have stopped driving. Happy to see the table of older African American men, animated and obviously disgusted about some sports-related trade. No line and immediate coffee. I went back to the car and just observed the intersection. White Castle (I am going back for that!), next to a fairly newish shopping center and gas stations. I jumped back in the car. I just drove 9 miles to get coffee. I was saddened about my obsession, but glad I got to see a different part of the city. Suburbia. I knew where I was.
Siri took me down 4 miles of Gratiot Avenue on my return trip to the conference. I didn’t know where I was! Blocks and blocks of closed businesses. People casually walked across the 8 lanes of “highway” because there were barely any cars on the road. The few traffic lights that exist are synchronized so drivers have fewer stops. The speed limit is 35MPH. One could breeze right through this place and not look up until they reached downtown. This was a major thoroughfare! No one has to look up and see what Detroit looks like. It was shocking at first. But in some ways it’s become normal, okay for many. I’m still processing the experience. All I can say now is I definitely have a new perspective on traffic light synchronization and city speed limits. More to come…..
Live in Jamaica, Queens?
Be part of the effort to help preserve and grow the diverse and vibrant neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens. Join New York City community leaders Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and more at Jamaica’s first community roundtable next Tuesday, June 24th at York College, 8 am - 12 pm.
And even if you can’t make it, you can follow the conversation live on Twitter, June 24th with #Jamaica624.
Be sure to RSVP by Friday, June 20 at www.nyc.gov/JamaicaRSVP
Photos via a project of the Jamaica Center BID
GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS: How livable, sustainable, and walkable is a community?
Neighborhood-scale sustainable development is flourishing, as are tools for assessing and certifying the triple bottom line of projects. A recent article by Eliot Allen in Planetizen reviews ten neighborhood rating tools for their best fit for planners, developers, and communities.
- LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND). A fee-based certification system for new land development operated by the U.S. Green Building Council—approximately 150 projects certified since 2007, but only about a dozen actually constructed.
- SITES (Sustainable Sites Initiative). A fee-based certification system for sustainable land design and development of new or renovated sites up to the neighborhood level.
- Living Community Challenge (LCC). An innovative fee-based certification system with the most ambitious standards for new land development of all such tools.
- Green Land Development. A fee-based certification system for new residential land development—operated by Home Innovation Research Labs.
- Envision.Two assessment tools are available from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure:a no-cost checklist and a fee-based certification system.
- EcoDistricts. A no-cost framework of process and performance areas for new and existing neighborhoods; stakeholders create a bottom-up assessment, thereby defining their own rating.
- Walk Score. The most prominent of an emerging class of online, no-cost rating tools designed for the general public as well as practitioners. Others of this class include the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, U.S. EPA’s Smart Location Database, and AARP’s upcoming Livability Index.
- Green Neighborhoods. A fee-based certification system for existing neighborhoods operated by Audubon International.
- Enterprise Green Communities. A no-cost, online certification system operated by the Enterprise Community Partners non-profit for projects with new affordable housing.
- 2030 Districts. Existing neighborhoods use a bottom-up process of building owners voluntarily sharing energy, water, and vehicle emissions data and committing to common reduction goals from theArchitecture 2030Challenge.
Source: Eliot Allen, “How green is my neighborhood? Let me count the ways,” Planetizen, May 29, 2014.
Bedford Dwellings opened in the Hill District in 1940. At one point that year, a man was interviewing to live in a unit there.
An interview was then required of prospective residents. During the questioning, he changed his mind.
“I just remembered about that graveyard and I decided I’m not going to live with any ghosts,” he told an employee of the complex — allegedly built atop a cemetery.
From its inception through the present, the possible presence of ghosts, as well as a need to fill an abandoned mine in the late 1930s, have been far from the only problems at the Hill District housing project.
The project would have been torn down in 2003 if not for a shift in federal funding, and today the units could use more care. Piles of litter are the first thing you see at its front on Bedford Avenue. Deep potholes mar Chauncey Drive, which loops through the complex’s eastern half. The 2423 and 2425 Bedford Avenue building numbers are missing or damaged. In short, it’s no longer the shining answer to the city’s lower-income housing needs.
More than 70 years ago, the complex was especially sought after. It was part of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority’s response to the federal government’s push to eliminate slums.
On opening day — July 15, 1940 — 32 families “paraded” into their new residence. On that day, The Pittsburgh Press wrote: “Thus begins a great experiment in public housing visualized by the Federal Government as a step in solving the problem of providing better living quarters for a ‘third of the nation which is ill-housed.’”
Despite issues such as dirty water that appeared from time to time, Bedford Dwellings was still the preferred public housing project 50 years after its construction.
Others, including Allequippa Terrace, had so deteriorated that, “for all the demand for public housing, the city just can’t give (them) away to its needy,” Dennis B. Roddy of The Pittsburgh Press wrote on Sept. 13, 1984.
Still, in the late 1970s, The Pittsburgh Press reported, mothers grew concerned about their children’s safety to the point of patrolling streets and buildings with brooms, swatting those driving up to sell dope to residents.
The next 40 years featured several attempts to replace or renovate many of the units, but much of the original Bedford Dwellings project remains.
Art of the Rural in Kentucky | Cultural Mapping at the Arts & Democracy Project Cultural Organizing Workshop
"This statewide workshop convened artists, organizers, activists and political advocates who believe in the power of art and culture to advance social justice for all Kentuckians."
After Pittsburgh Land Bank Legislation, What Happens Next?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the community groups representing low-income communities, that have come together to voice their concerns about the recently proposed land banking legislation in Pittsburgh, keep this momentum going and as a collaborative, proactively address:
Arts + Culture
Health + Wellness
Play spaces and places
All of these things make a neighborhood a neighborhood. And when all of these elements are broken, neighborhoods bleed residents, businesses and character. And when residents and businesses leave, we’re left with vacant houses, abandoned businesses and vacated schools.
Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced legislation that would provide funding to revitalize 20 of the poorest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. He is calling for comprehensive planning and development that would address most of the community issues listed above. The neighborhoods most affected by any land bank are among the 20 neighborhoods that would receive funding from Councilman Burgess’s legislation. I am not suggesting that all 20 communities have identical problems, but when we look at many of the indicators (employment, education levels, female head of household, etc), these neighborhoods share more in common than they may think or clearly understand. And working with city council and the new administration, and the newly elected school board, communities groups and residents can bring some real change to these neighborhoods.
This is not easy stuff, especially with capacity deficiencies, little access to capital - financial or social, and even geographical challenges. And yes, it’s difficult enough at times to keep a neighborhood consensus group together or get funding to hire another body or even find someone with the requisite skills or even check our egos at the door or listen to what people between the ages of fourteen and thirty years old are saying directly, or indirectly.
So what if Homewood invested in Beltzhoover and Beltzhoover invested in Larimer, and Larimer invested in the Hill District, and the Hill District invested in East Hills? Could these neighborhoods be brought back to life, keeping existing residents and businesses in place and inviting new ones in? There are a lot more questions than answers, but let’s start asking the questions.
Yes, even in the midst of the land banking challenges, I see the possibilities.Just a thought….