Cutting down on blight and improving educational opportunities for Detroiters were the main points of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City address Tuesday night.
Duggan says Black investors are working on $500 million worth of projects in the city – like the new Fisher Body Plant development announced earlier this week. Greg Jackson and Richard Hosey are planning a $135 million investment, which Duggan said was the largest Black real estate investment in the city’s history, to redevelop the long-vacant Fisher Body Plant No. 21 into more than 400 apartments, plus retail space. Announced two weeks ago, a new joint venture between Magna International Inc. and LAN Manufacturing Group LLC, led by President and CEO Sylvester Hester, aims to open a seating plant at the former site of Sakthi Automotive Group in southwest Detroit and create nearly 400 jobs.
These owners and several other Black business leaders “are investing more than $500 million in Detroit’s future, from one end of the city to another,” Duggan said. “Black developers with Black ownership are rebuilding the city.”
In the eight years he’s been in office, Duggan said his administration has addressed 11 blighted properties “but we left the worst for last”: the Packard Plant. The abandoned site comprises 47 separate buildings, Duggan said, owner by three different entities: the city, the Display Group and a private owner. The city is suing the private owner, and the trial is this week, he said.
“After eight years of broken promises, I’m very confident that [Deputy Corporation Counsel] Chuck Raimi and the Law Department will finally remove the owner that’s inflicted this blight on us for the last eight years and allow us to move forward,” Duggan said. This year, the city is going to demolish most of the property it owns at the Packard site and leave frontage on Grand Boulevard for redevelopment.
He also touched on tearing down a notorious polluter, the now-shuttered trash incinerator on the east side.
“I want to make sure it gets demolished so that no future administration can ever spew that those fumes back in the air and so that will be the next step in our process,” Duggan said.
Duggan laid out plans to tear down — and rehabilitate — more houses in the city following the passage of Proposal N. The city has demolished 23,000 homes, and Duggan said the Land Bank is planning to sell parcels back to neighborhoods to use the vacant lots as gardens and small parks. Twenty-thousand Detroiters have now bought a side lot to add gardens or neighborhood parks, Duggan said, and the city is getting ready for its next project, Create a Project.
“If you have a vision for your neighborhood, that you want to create a park you want to create a garden, you can come in and buy the vacant lots that are down the street, make a garden, make an ice rink, or build a play space like [one] family did for the neighborhood,” he said.
Second chance at education for Detroiters
Education was also a huge focus of Duggan’s speech.
“We have a whole a lot of folks in this town who never had the chance to finish their schooling,” he said. “And so what equity says is you admit that it hasn’t been equal, and you address it. But up until now, we’ve never had the money to address something on such a massive scale.”
He said a $100 million influx of federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act will pay for a new initiative to pay people to get their GED or learn to read.
“We’re going to have Learn to Earn to pay at $10 an hour to go to school,” Duggan said. “If you’ve already got a high school degree, we’ll pay $10 to $16 an hour to learn a new trade. If you want to work full time, we’ll pay you $15 an hour to work for the city and we’ll send you to schooling for two days a week.”
The mayor highlighted the Detroit Promise scholarship program that’s provided 1,200 students with college tuition. Tuition is covered for those attending two-year community colleges.
“If you’re accepted to a four-year university with a 3.0 and a 21 on your ACT — and that’s actually been waived during COVID — your tuition is also covered,” Duggan said.
Duggan pledges to also help Detroiters get post-high school education, regardless of age.
“Detroit at Work now has $100 million scholarship fund, not for kids, [but] for adults,” Duggan said. “I don’t care if you’re 25, or 45, or 65, this $100 million Scholarship Fund is for you.
“Because what we want to do is if you didn’t get a chance the first time through, we’re going to help you now.”