Conant Gardens Neighborhood Revitalization Project Executive Summary and PosterDOWNLOAD
June 14, 2023 - Author: Lingxi Chen, Felicia French-Croll, Danna Gutiérrez Lanza, Alayna Offredi, Shangrui Zhu
Conant Gardens is a predominantly single-family neighborhood in the northeast part of Detroit. It has a rich history as one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods, but the changes it has seen in the last two decades are symptomatic of the larger-scale difficulties the city of Detroit has experienced. As described by the Conant Gardens Neighborhood Development Corporation (CGNDC), a once beautiful and thriving neighborhood is now primarily viewed as an area in decay.
Conant Gardens Neighborhood Development Corporation (CGNDC) seeks a strategic plan to inform its neighborhood revitalization actions. The team compiled a socioeconomic profile of the community, conducted an inventory of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT), and surveyed community members through a asset-based community inventory workshop. The recommendations in this report reflect a strategic prioritization for actions, focusing on ensuring strategic connections, partnerships, and community involvement for CGNDC.
Data shows that Conant Gardens core problem is population loss. The loss of population is a significant challenge to the community and is the first step in a cycle of disinvestment. issues concern socioeconomic decline, lack of essential services, changes in dedicated property ownership, including absentee landlords, and overall environmental deterioration that alter the community's dynamic status and negatively impact financial stability, wellness, and safe environmental conditions.
Other key data points found include:
• The 2021 poverty rate was 48.8%, with almost half of Conant Gardens households below the poverty line. In 2021, the median household income for Conant Gardens Revitalization Project Conant Gardens was $37,474, 11% below the city's median household income of $42,000.
• With an unemployment rate of 31.2%, the struggle for household affordability is compounded.
• Cars are the most beneficial mode of transportation in the neighborhood. Conant Gardens' sidewalks are in poor condition and affect pedestrian mobility.
• The single-family home structure is still predominant, but other housing options are desired.
• Data projected for 2027 shows no change in the number of housing units. It indicates a declining trend for occupied units – both by owners and renters – and, therefore an increase in vacant homes.
The neighborhood’s need for better pedestrian sidewalks and new and vibrant community gathering spaces are only sustainable if anchored in a housing strategy to retain the current population and attract new residents. As identified in the SWOT analysis, the neighborhood has several strengths and opportunities that can connect with external efforts for neighborhood development. Focusing on physical aspects of the shared community open spaces would positively impact social gatherings. It would provide the community with solid grounds for long-term sustained revitalization around retaining its population and attracting new residents.
The asset-based community inventory conducted as part of project’s community engagement, highlighted two major themes:
• The neighborhood’s strengths revolve around intangible assets and existing collaboration ties amongst neighborhoods and organizations that hold pride in their community
• The desires and priorities of the community are centered in improving overall quality of life to all neighbors through improving access to healthy foods, providing playgrounds for children and realizing a safer neighborhood.
The recommendations made reflect the analysis of the data collected and incorporate the results of the community engagement. As a result they show a strategic prioritization for action. The overall focus is to ensure strategic connections, partnerships, and community involvement for CGNDC.
• Build strategic partnerships that allow Conant Gardens Neighborhood Development Corporation to prepare for project management.
Conant Gardens Neighborhood Development Corporation (CGNDC) was created by community members invested in restoring the neighborhood’s assets and further enhancing the quality of life of their neighbors. To achieve their goals and those established in this proposal, it is imperative that CGNDC establish strategic relationships with other community or local actors that can enact change. CGNDC must remain mindful of the changes experienced by the community and open to changing its strategies and projects accordingly.
• Identify opportunities to generate affordable housing while preserving and enhancing the neighborhood's historic architecture.
Detached single-family housing is the prevalent housing type in the neighborhood but is no longer what is needed. Conant Gardens needs to retain its population and attract new residents. The possibility of attracting young renters and new homeowners will depend on offering affordable housing in areas that are accessible to recreation, employment, and shopping. The redevelopment of sites in single-family
neighborhoods, like Conant Gardens, can be used to address the needs of young renters.
• Provide Conant Gardens with the resources for implementing a green-space network that improves access to healthy foods, gardens, and neighborhood safety.
The health benefits, wealth outcomes and overall well-being resulting from the presence of urban forestry has been well documented (World Resources Institute). The vacant land in the neighborhood is turned into an opportunity to incorporate much-needed green and recreational spaces that provide the community with gathering areas. Furthermore, diversifying the uses of green areas between horticulture and botanical gardens will provide the neighborhood with community spaces that beautify the space with greenery but also aid in the efforts to have better access to healthy and fresh produce.
The green space goal is conceived as a network that allocates the types of green and recreational spaces throughout the neighborhood space considering characteristics of connectivity, accessibility, and security. Locating these spaces throughout the community will allow all residents equal opportunity to use and enjoy the spaces while beautifying and improving the pedestrian infrastructure and gathering spaces of the whole neighborhood.