Street Dreams: Redefining Revitalization at West Warren Avenue

by Natasha Hicks (MUP/MDes ’19) and Simone Hodgson (MUP ’18)

This project explored what inclusive commercial corridor revitalization might mean and look like for both the existing predominantly Black community and the incoming immigrant and refugee community in Warrendale, Detroit. After on the ground research and surveying locals it became clear that Warrendale is a very unique neighborhood, and yet is almost entirely invisible and unknown to other Detroiters. A thorough analysis of the current conditions on West Warren Ave. (Warrendale’s key commercial corridor) revealed some of the neighborhood’s strengths, but also uncovered the weaknesses at play: low levels of community capacity, underlying tensions around racial/ethnic stereotypes and inequities in business ownership, a near absence of community identity, and little outside investment.

By unearthing a street rich in history, with deeply-rooted challenges, and full of powerful stories, “Street Dreams: Redefining Revitalization at West Warren Ave.” contemplated how the prevalence of vacant commercial properties could be considered an opportunity to build community capacity, bring diverse groups together, and create a neighborhood identity in Warrendale. This project designs a vision for a new community organization called Street Dreams Coalition that takes elements from three different types of organizations—Community Development Corporations, Business Improvement Districts, and a Commercial Community Land Trusts—to create a new model for building community power and advocacy in Warrendale.