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Kresge grant winners praised for vibrant visions

Kresge Foundation presents the winners of its Kresge Innovation Project-Detroit grants at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Ten years ago Anika Goss-Foster was was working at the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) fighting to draw attention to Detroit’s abandonment problem and issues of land use.

In 2016 she’s glad to hear a rallying cry from the civic and philanthropic communities around the cause of attacking blight and vacancy.

“All of these initiatives are rooted in everything we value at Detroit Future City,” says Goss-Foster, the recently named executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office.

She largely credits the Kresge Foundation, whose 2016 Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) grant winners she congratulated recently in a talk at the University of Detroit Mercy, where the grantees were honored. Kresge awarded 21 grants to applicants in several of Detroit’s citywide districts, in amounts up to $25,000, much of the funding geared toward renovating structures to launch neighborhood programs.

It’s all part of Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit, a three-year, $5 million initiative to support nonprofits in transformative neighborhood projects. This is the second round of funding.

Detroit neighborhoods, like we’ve never seen before, with these grants, are brimming with hopes and with dreams.” -- Rip Rapson

“Detroit neighborhoods, like we’ve never seen before, with these grants, are brimming with hopes and with dreams.” — Rip Rapson

Kresge CEO Rip Rapson called the planning and implementation work done by the winners essential to improving the quality of life in various communities.

“What we’re doing this morning is very much a continuation of last year when we announced an initiative to help this community get back on its feet,” says Rapson, referring to Kresge’s Live6 revitalization initiative. Live6 was launched to support the Livernois-McNichols Road area surrounding U of D through small business opportunities, safety efforts, and residential support.

“As important as these larger projects are, they would be for naught if it weren’t for vibrant, green efforts” of independent, visionary programs to transform their environment, Rapson says.

Among the 2016 implementation grant winners:

  • Black Family Development is working to stabilize a section of the Osborn neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, using the Detroit Future City guide to land repurposing.
  • Michigan Environmental Council will establish a four-year, Detroit Future City-based curriculum around planning and development for students at Denby High School
  • Mack Avenue Community Church’s development corporation will revitalize vacant commercial space to use for community planning activities that incorporate the Indian Village and Pingree Park neighborhoods.
  • Urban Neighborhood Initiatives will renovate a blighted structure for community safety services in Southwest Detroit, housing a suite of youth and neighborhood development programs.
  • Young Nation will transform a vacant lot and commercial building into community gathering venue, connecting the effort to its well-known Alley Project, which uses open space for artists and neighborhood programs.

Previous KIP:D grant winners have proven their visions worthy of support, including Chaldean Town’s cultivation of gardens and Downtown Boxing Gym’s mentoring and fitness program, which relocated to a larger facility, Rapson says. Chaldean Town’s and Downtown Boxing Gym’s efforts were part of 12- to 18-month efforts.

“These outcomes have been quite extraordinary,” says Rapson.

Civic engagement, as nebulous as the concept might often seem, is a priority for Kresge in its funding goals, he adds.

“In a nutshell that means developing the community’s muscle to get things done,” he says. “KIP:D is also about enhancing civic capacity.”

Rapson praised the Troy-based staff of Kresge and its leaders of the Detroit program initiatives for their ongoing work to support the community. “Detroit neighborhoods, like we’ve never seen before, with these grants, are brimming with hopes and with dreams,” he says.

– Photos: Paul Engstrom

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