Repurpose project builds on the Ford Family legacy in Detroit

The Saint Martha’s Episcopal Church in Detroit is being repurposed by a group of community-based organizations led by the Cody Action Alliance, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan and Canterbury on the Lake.

The St. Martha’s Episcopal Church Project is a community-based effort to redevelop and repurpose a 22,000 square foot church located at 15801 Joy Road in Detroit.

The St. Martha’s Commons project is a community-based effort that focuses on the redevelopment of the St. Martha’s Episcopal Church. The Church grounds are also the location of a Ford family cemetery that dates back to the 1800s. A group of community-based non-profits, led by Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, the Cody Action Alliance, Canterbury on the Lakes and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension are working to create a sense of place for the area by focusing on the historic Ford family cemetery.

The church is a part of a commons area anchored by a senior citizen housing complex known as the Village of St. Martha’s and is leased by the Presbyterian Villages of Michigan (PVM), which along with approximately 15 other community groups, developed a planning team to help create a new purpose for the church as well as a redevelopment plan for the overall project area.

The project planning team requested the services of the MSU College of Planning, Design and Construction Student Practicum program. Eight students volunteered to work on the project. The students participated in planning meetings, compiled data on the residents adjacent to the site and explored potential reuses and design scenarios for the project.

On April, 20, 2012, a final plan was presented to the community-based planning team. The report documented a community that loss population and saw increases in poverty for residents who lived within a one mile radius of the site. However, the report also identified availability of vacant property that could be redeveloped around a common theme of community health and wellness.

The redevelopment plan is for an area, bounded by Greenfield on the east, Mettetal Avenue on the west, Joy Road on the north and Tireman on the south. The larger project area includes a vacant Wayne County Community college building, a vacant high school, the City of Detroit West Side Bus Terminal, a Michigan Department of Social Services building, Christ Child Society Boys Home, the Islamic Center of Detroit and a vacant apartment building and youth facility.  

The goal of the group is to have the church become center for a health and wellness activities and to integrate the new use into a viable community plan. The Ford family cemetery and the active use of St. Martha’s Church could provide the stimulus to encourage redevelopment of the entire 85 acre project area.

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