Press Release: No Closed-door Meetings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 21 at 4 pm at the Commons (7900 Mack) Charlevoix Village Association (CVA) and neighbors will challenge the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) to open up the process of selecting developers to revitalize the Islandview neighborhood to the public. Selection committee members in CVA have put out a call for all of their neighbors and supporters to attend the invitation-only meeting in order to increase accessibility and transparency in the planning process.

CVA, a long-standing neighborhood association representing long-term and new residents on the lower east side, has a track record of holding the City accountable in their revitalization plans. Throughout the duration of the planning process for Islandview and Greater Villages (IVGV), CVA has demanded that the planned development be equitable. This past year, CVA and supporters delayed the development at Kercheval & Van Dyke by demanding higher standards of affordability and community engagement of developers Roxbury Group and Invest Detroit. Because of CVA’s activism, the developers were under more scrutiny, which resulted in the Kercheval and Van Dyke development offering 50 to 60% AMI for 30 years instead of the original 10 years, and ensuring that none of the units would be market rate for 10 years. The City now highlights this precedent as a high achievement in equitable development.

CVA’s insistence upon representation secured their presence on two Selection Committees formed to choose the next developers who will implement redevelopment in Islandview. However, the CVA members who sit on the committees have identified serious problems with the process and want to allow all residents to be a part of the selection process for developers, not just a hand-picked few.  Making these meetings public is the only way to ensure accountability and transparency of the City and developers operating in their community.

To ensure that the changes we need happen, CVA has done two things: 1) We have sent a public letter to HRD outlining the problems with the Selection Committees’ current operations, as well as practical suggestions for remedies (see attached); and 2) we decided to publicly advertise for the Selection Committee meeting Thursday to ensure that the concerns highlighted in the letter are not simply swept under the rug.  CVA’s experience pushing for equitable development over two years of IVGV planning proves that our physical presence and vocal opposition is the only thing that get results.

Originally presented to the community as an attempt by Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) to improve community input and inclusion in the process of redevelopment, community members have found the Selection Committee to be more bark than bite when it comes to meaningful inclusion.  Far from ensuring that community voices help shape development projects, the Selection Committee operates as if such information and deliberation should not be public. Not only are the Selection Committee members hand-picked by HRD, but their deliberations and meetings have proceeded swiftly and without public input.  When one of the committee members asked for the meeting to be made public so that engaged residents in the area could be aware of what is happening in their neighborhood, HRD representatives said that it would have public meetings later, by which time the developer, and hence the specifics of the development, would already be decided.  

Other Selection Committee members have not been able to attend any meetings at all.  Many residents work and are only available in the evenings. However, instead of scheduling meeting times that work for all committee members, HRD representatives have only scheduled meetings during business hours.  

Community members, especially long-term, working-class, black residents, are fed up with this process and feel that it is deeply disrespectful.  Because they care for their community, they decided to act. They insist that this meeting be a public meeting, and furthermore that a discussion about how to fix this broken process happen. City officials must prioritize the voices and interests of long-term residents. After all, the City’s job is to serve the people of the community, not developers or monied interests.  

For any questions, contact CVA Volunteer Organizer Tristan Taylor at 313.445.1479 or tristan.taylor@ueaa.net

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