The Brightmoor neighborhood, which has struggled for decades with blight and vacant houses, is undergoing a major transformation, thanks major gifts from the Fisher Foundation and Ajax Paving.
This week, City of Detroit contractors began demolishing 19 homes in the area near Samuel Gompers Elementary School as part of the first phase of the plan. Crews also will be clearing overgrown brush, scrub trees and illegally dumped debris from over 100 vacant lots in the area. Additional work will be done as residents identify more properties that they want addressed.
The project is being paid for with $500,000 from the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and another $100,000 from Ajax Paving. They are the first major private donations the City has received for blight removal since Mayor Mike Duggan ramped up the city’s efforts early last year.
“Brightmoor is full of possibility” said David Sherman, Vice Chair of the Fisher Foundation, and grandson of Max and Marjorie Fisher. “For the last seven years we have been proud partners of so many dedicated and talented people there. Groups like Motor City Blight Busters, the Brightmoor Alliance, Neighbors Building Brightmoor, and Rising Advocates for Young Children are just a few of the resident driven efforts already doing fantastic work to transform the neighborhood. It makes total sense they decide how to spend these resources in their community.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan praised the Fisher Family and Ajax Paving for their generosity and commitment to Detroit’s neighborhoods.
“This tremendous gift from the Fisher Foundation and Ajax Paving signals a strong belief in our blight removal strategy,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “It sets a great example for how the private sector and philanthropic communities can aid in the rebuilding of our neighborhoods.”
Residents choose blight removal strategy
Since May of 2014, more than 200 vacant structures have been removed from the Brightmoor neighborhood, which in many cases have given way to urban gardens and other community uses.
Given the strong community fabric of the Brightmoor neighborhood, city officials brought residents into the process in designing a blight removal strategy for their area. Community stakeholders were given a list of properties that the city had cleared for demolition in Brightmoor, and were asked to submit a plan for use of the funds.
Less than a week later, the groups presented a strategy that focused demolition and other blight removal efforts around the Gompers school. The residents’ plan centered on the idea of safe passage to school, especially along Pierson and Lyndon streets.
“The City came to us with all of their data, and trusted us to come up with a plan for Brightmoor” said Reverend Larry Simmons, Executive Director of the Brightmoor Alliance. “It is refreshing to have an administration recognize our value and expertise when it comes to our own neighborhood.”
John George of Motor City Blight Busters echoed Reverend Simmons. “For the last 28 years this neighborhood has targeted blight removal as a top priority. We see blight as a cancer. This support will help us continue our efforts to remove the cancer of abandoned homes and overgrown lots to clear the way for brighter futures for our children and families.”
The community of Brightmoor has experienced significant abandonment over the past several decades. 25 years ago, Brightmoor was home to nearly 25,000 residents. By 2010, the U.S. Census bureau states the population had dropped by half, but is still home to 12,000 people. Despite the decline in population, the neighborhood has been at the forefront of many new ideas on how to reuse vacant land, including urban agriculture, public art space and more.
About the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation was formed in 1955 and endowed following the death of Mr. Fisher in 2005. The Foundation’s core philosophy is grounded in the beliefs of its founders and the family's shared Jewish values that life’s purpose is found in service to others.
The mission of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation is to enrich humanity by strengthening and empowering children and families in need. While remaining flexible in our approach we give priority to: Providing for the needs of and ensuring the future of the Jewish people and to respecting our legacy and commitment to the Detroit community. Areas of critical importance include education, arts & culture and health with particular attention to HIV/AIDS. During the course of the last eight years the Foundation has placed in motion over $100 million on three continents.
About the Brightmoor Alliance
The Brightmoor Alliance is a coalition of nearly 50 organizations dedicated to serving northwest Detroit’s Brightmoor community. Together, we pursue a vision for our community that is built on faith and provides opportunities for all residents of this community to pray, grow, learn, thrive and play. Founded in 2000, the Alliance was established in response to conditions in the community, including poor housing, a high crime rate, and a staggering amount of vacant land. Community organizations – many of which had partnered with one another over the years – felt that the time was right to mobilize community resources and focus their combined efforts to revitalize the area.
About the Detroit Land Bank Authority
The Detroit Land Bank is a public authority dedicated to returning Detroit’s vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed property to productive use. Our current programs include auction, side lot, community partnership and demolition.