Week 6: From Woodbridge to the North End – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 6: From Woodbridge to the North End

More than halfway there. It doesn’t really seem like it. 5 weeks just flew right by. This is mostly because I think everyone in our program has become pretty close, so we have a lot of fun in our free time.

Work, on the other hand, is work. Time passes rather slowly. The office is quiet and serious. So when I was able to leave the office and walk through neighborhoods two times, I was incredibly excited. Ben and Divya, two other interns, both from Duke University, joined me both times. The first trek was about two weeks ago, and the last was just yesterday. Our first mission was to explore four neighborhoods within walking distance from Midtown and New Center, while the second time was to take pictures of specific lot addresses for one of DFC’s initiatives.

On the morning of the first journey, we depart from the Detroit Future City implementation office in New Center. Along W. Grand Boulevard we walk, stopping in front of the Motown  museum so the Duke interns can take pictures in the most tourist-like way (granted, Divya is a talented singer, so I can understand her extreme excitement). From there we walk through a neighborhood filled with open space in route to our first neighborhood: Woodbridge.

Woodbridge Community Garden immediately welcomed us to the neighborhood
Woodbridge Community Garden immediately welcomed us to the neighborhood

Woodbridge is an absolutely beautiful neighborhood. Just west of Wayne State’s campus over the Lodge Freeway, tree-lined streets, beautiful houses, and a plethora of community gardens and public art installations populate this lovely area. We find few vacant lots, and much of the open space is already being utilized well by the community. Safe to say that Woodbridge was a perfect neighborhood to start with.

From there we walk down Rosa Parks and into North Corktown. This neighborhood is less dense than woodbridge, but North Corktown also proves just as creative regarding open space. We see blocks of full, vibrant homes populating entire streets, and more community gardens and public art displays.

Miniature park in North Corktwon
Miniature park in North Corktown

After North Corktown, we cross I94 into Corktown to walk along Michigan Avenue on our to Downtown. On our way we pass Nemo’s Bar, which I physically cannot pass without mentioning that my uncle used to own it (decades before I was born, but still)!

The old homestead. Formerly known as some variation of
The old homestead. Formerly known as some variation of “Marty Kelly’s”

Finally in downtown, we decide to stop for lunch at a Diner. This diner, which didn’t seem to have formal name, ends up being quite the treat. Divya bonds with the waitress, while Ben and I chow down on some delicious afternoon pancakes.

Full, rested, and re-energized, we set out for Brush Park, in the lower east side of Midtown. Brush Park is unlike the other neighborhoods we’ve seen, because there is really not much there. A few beautiful Victorian mansions remind us of what once was, but those have been replaced by grass as tall as me. We spot a sign signaling impending redevelopment of the area, and I can only assume it’s one of Dan Gilbert’s recent news-making efforts. Despite seeing mostly open space, we come across a quaint little urban garden that rivals the beauty of what we saw in Woodbridge and North Corktown. This shows the other interns that it is possible to find diamonds in what appears to be rough, and those diamonds are as stunning as any others.

Beautiful Brush Park community garden
Beautiful Brush Park community garden

Finally, we leave Brush Park for the North End, our last destination. When we arrive there, we notice that this neighborhood is also much different than Woodbridge or North Corktown. Though the North End has the physical makeup of a neighborhood, unlike the sprawling Brush Park, it has much more open space to grapple with. A recent target of Detroit’s blight demolition, the image of the North End is rapidly changing, leaving the appearance of a neighborhood in transition. We have no idea where that transition will end or what it will look like, but we hope it doesn’t leave behind the residents still holding the North End together.

After an immersive, informative, but exhausting (almost 10 mile!) trip, we return to Detroit Future City’s implementation office in New Center. We discuss our walk, what we learned on it, and how this can help inform our work going forward. Much of what we spoke about is in this very blog. Maybe in the next free form I’ll go over the second journey. But only in the unlikely event that there is demand for a sequel.

1 thought on “Week 6: From Woodbridge to the North End”

  1. Collin-
    I think its great DFC is having you explore in such a way. It gives perspective to your work. With the exception of visitng potential properties with work, I feel that I have not experienced all of Detroit in this program – my journeys outside of work have been limited to the downtown-midtown area. I think that exploring is an organic way to get to know the specific neighborhoods and I’m glad it is a strategy at DFC. I’m hoping my organization will explore the surroundings of locations in a similar manner once they get closer to acquiring a property.

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