Though this was technically week 5… last Friday I finally got to go to my site in person for the first time! The day started off with a tour of the Say Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park with the director of the youth program there, along with my supervisor Pat. Next, Pat and I drove down to the Nortown CDC office. The office is currently empty since everyone’s working remotely, but it was great to get a tour of the place! After that, Pat showed me around District 3- where I finally got to physically see everything I’ve been working on. We drove by a few different neighborhoods, some of which I’ve been doing property research on. We then drove by the Norris House, a historical site that Nortown CDC has been restoring for a while. Next, we drove by two locations I’m writing short stories on for an upcoming NED’s (Northeast Detroit) Notes newspaper. The first location was the abandoned home of civil rights activist Sarah Elizabeth Ray. The house just recently received a designation as one of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Sites”, which is why I’m writing a story on it. The second location was the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport, particularly the new statues of the Tuskegee Airmen outside the airport. We also drove by the Nortown Homes, an affordable housing project that Nortown CDC began 15 years ago.
As Pat and I drove around the area, I also learned a lot more about why District 3 is considered to be economically distressed. In many of the neighborhoods, there are countless vacant properties and burned down houses. Along with that, I also noticed many industrial sites (many of which were once retail centers) right by neighborhoods, which means heavy truck traffic in residential areas. We also drove to the Bel Aire Shopping Center, which used to be a major retail plaza, but could potentially turn into another industrial site. Nortown CDC would like to see this become a mixed-use site (with a well being facility, restaurants, stores, gardens, & walking paths) which could truly benefit the community. Since Pat has been both a community member and leader in Northeast Detroit for most of her life, it was really interesting to hear her perspective on how District 3 has changed over the years.
I kept forgetting to take pictures- but here are photos I took of the playground at the Say Play Center, the Sarah Elizabeth Ray House, and statues of the Tuskegee Airmen outside the city airport!