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Fitz Forward Off to an Optimistic Start

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Not gentrification, but transformation is the goal that the $4 million development at the Fitzgerald neighborhood aims to achieve. The Fitz Forward project hopes to return the community to its heydays within two years, and the wait won’t be a long one for the 600 families who have remained and held on tight to a place inextricably linked to their lives and who they are. People are also enthusiastic about working with the city on this pilot neighborhood project.

Development is slated for the area where a majority of the land is under the possession of the Detroit Land Bank. With a few abandoned properties razed down, development is envisioned for the  area as a whole. The first task – freeing the area of blight – is underway, and then real work on the one square mile begins. It signals the start of the urban revitalization that the city needs, and so far, the approach has been both sensible and sensitive.

The Ella Fitzgerald city park will be built at the vacant lot on Prairie Street. A quarter mile trail will connect the area to the Marygrove College in the vicinity. An interesting and a pioneering plan comes courtesy of controlled environment agriculture platform Green Collar Foods, under which some vacant lots will be set aside for producing food and building groves and orchards all through the neighborhood. This new and exciting urban farming technique is expected to give residents access to fresh, high-quality food.

The development is being launched in partnership by Century Partners and The Platform, both based out of the city. As part of the plan, 373 parcels of land and homes will be refurbished, and landscaping work will be initiated in collaboration with community-inspired landscaping organization Building Community Value. Vacant lots will be beautified to enhance the neighborhood’s aesthetics while also providing its kids with recreational opportunities.

If Fitz Forward is successful, the project could be replicated in other areas. The people-focused development could serve as a template for other cities and states that have earmarked neighborhood redevelopment and revival. And with development targeting one neighborhood at a time, Detroit can experience the resurgence it deserves.