By Eve Doster
If one didn’t know any better, one might think that East Jefferson Avenue’s considerably cleaner appearance was the result of a more engaged citizenry. And while the ever-increasing popularity of the East Jefferson corridor has helped to populate and polish the historic riverfront roadway, Jefferson East, Inc.‘s clean team – as well as their affiliation with Clean Downtown, a sanitation program formed by the Downtown Detroit Partnership in 2006 – must be credited with the sea change.
As part of a joint effort to clean up the corridor, both JEI’s in-house clean team and Clean Downtown provide bi-weekly litter management services as well as graffiti and illegal sign removal, weed removal and tree pit maintenance. By working with the City of Detroit on enhanced code enforcement, JEI finds that both residents and businesses benefit from the well-cared-for environment, and as a result, are significantly more engaged.
“Our goal is to create a clean, safe and welcoming environment throughout the east Jefferson corridor,” says Joshua Elling, executive director at Jefferson East, Inc. “JEIs Clean Team and Clean Downtown help us do just that. Also, both services have a workforce development component that’s really important to us. We provide training and employment opportunities for young people from the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood and Clean Downtown provides training opportunities for individuals struggling with barriers to permanent employment. Our investment in both programs not only gives us a cleaner east Jefferson corridor, it actually helps residents develop marketable job skills.”
Clean Downtown works seven days a week/360 days a year and is responsible for massive trash removal numbers. In the last two years alone crews removed nearly 4,000 tons of trash from downtown, Midtown, the riverfront, Campus Martius Park and the East Jefferson corridor. On East Jefferson Ave., Clean Downtown removes litter three times a week, empties 40 trash cans, removes illegal signs and maintains bus shelters. Year to date, they have cleared out more than seven tons of trash.
“We began using Clean Downtown to support initiatives we had already implemented with our own team, and I have to say, we have been incredibly impressed with the results,” says Duncan Eady, clean and safe senior manager for Jefferson East, Inc.
As mentioned, the social aspect of the Clean Downtown program is something JEI values tremendously. Via their affiliation with Goodwill Services, Clean Downtown is a lifeline to many. Employing welfare recipients, ex-offenders and persons with disabilities, the well-run program boasts impressive stats. To wit: recent reviews indicate an 85 percent success rate in five-year employment retention and a negligible recidivism rate of .5 percent.
Jefferson East, Inc. works to foster a clean and welcoming environment for business owners, visitors and residents because a well-cared-for environment promotes an organic ripple effect that’s almost impossible to replicate. By providing enhanced public area maintenance along East Jefferson Avenue, JEI’s Clean and Safe initiatives are able to offer the kind of quality-of-life amenities necessary for new and continued investment.
But, no surprise, it’s expensive. For now, Clean Downtown covers I-375 to McClellan St. while JEI’s service area covers Conner to Alter Road. This leaves an 18-block stretch of the Marina District that still needs help. Jefferson East, Inc. is currently looking for sponsors to help close this gap.
“Our Clean Downtown services require an $80,000 investment and our JEI Clean Team another $30,000,” says Elling. “While this program was initially funded through the generous support of our philanthropic partners, we need additional dollars to maintain these vital programs.”
– Eve Doster works at Norwegian Blue