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What Does Ethical Redevelopment of Detroit Neighborhoods Look Like? [VIDEO]

Jake Neher/WDET

Theaster Gates Jr. (left) and James Feagin (right) join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Talk about transforming neighborhoods in Detroit happens all the time. In attempting to “fix” or “revitalize” neighborhoods around the city, it’s easy to think of removing vacant homes as the solution. But what does that look like for people who live in these areas? 

How do you improve parts of Detroit plagued by crime, blight, disinvestment, and unemployment without displacing people? Is there a better — or more ethical — way to go about transforming Detroit neighborhoods? 

Theaster Gates Jr., founder and executive director of Rebuild Foundation, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about his work trying to redevelop neighborhoods in Chicago in an ethical way.

For Gates, the idea for the project came when he noticed the economic disparity between neighborhoods around the University of Chicago. 

 ”The (Rebuild Foundation) project started out extremely personal before it became something I would consider ethical,” he says. “The goal was to try to be intentional about the conversations that happen in the neighborhood.” 

Detroit entrepreneur James Feagin, who’s been involved in the Place Lab Project based in Chicago, also joins the conversation. 

Feagin emphasizes that while people have been moving out of certain neighborhoods around Detroit, not everyone has left. 

Just because property values may represent something else on a sheet of paper, there’s still folks in that neighborhood living, working, and going to school who have stuck it out who deserve, and ought to, be part of…the work that’s being done (to revitalize neighborhoods),” says Feagin.

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 


Image credit: Laura Herberg / WDET

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.  

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