I have the privilege of working with Nortown Community Development Corporation this summer. Nortown CDC is a “place-based, grass roots collaborative of residents, businesses, institutions and affiliated nonprofits committed to economic revitalization of Northeast Detroit.” Their mission is to bring their community together for the purpose of improving their surroundings through blight abatement, economic development, and increasing access to opportunities.
One of the biggest projects that Nortown has accomplished is the Nortown Homes development. For well over a decade, Nortown has provided affordable housing to low income and minority residents of Northeast Detroit. They have also developed the Milbank Conner Creek Greenway which serves as a great community space for being active and enjoying the outdoors. They also purchased the Philetus W. Norris house, a historic site located right in their neighborhood. Philetus W. Norris was a pioneer, civil war soldier, outdoorsman, and the second ever superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. Currently Nortown CDC is working to renovate the house and turn it into a community space for education and encouraging creativity.
The Norris House is the reason that I’m working with Nortown this summer. My primary research project is to compile property and parcel research data from the 1873 Village of Norris and Mt. Elliott corridor. I’ve also been working on property research regarding new developments in the Nortown neighborhood, namely the purchase of the Bel Air Shopping Center by Matty Moroun as well as several different marijuana-related businesses.
The first week and a half of working at Nortown has been eventful to say the least. My supervisor, Pat Bosch, has asked me to attend several different webinars and virtual committee meetings for the City of Detroit. These have allowed me to familiarize myself with how the city sort of operates, and they have given me an idea of the obstacles that Nortown- and other organizations like it- face on a daily basis. Right from the start I was able to get into the thick of it with regards to research. I quickly learned the use of parcel data tools and business entity search engines, and I began reporting and discussing my findings with my supervisor on a regular basis.
The DCERP program has been a great opportunity, and I have enjoyed doing the work thus far. It’s been an interesting experience trying to make connections with my fellows via Zoom and GroupMe, but I think we’re slowly starting to build a community of our own. The Tuesday and Thursday night meetings have been interesting, and I especially enjoyed the presentation and talk with DeAndre Calvert. His experience working in political environments in the city of Detroit brought a great deal of perspective to the issues that I’m dealing with in my work. I am looking forward to more meetings with my DCERP fellows.