Tuesday, October 14, 2008


"Go east young man," is what I was told through a comment that was left for me after my first post about North Corktown and its status as nothing more than an urban prairie. The implication was that while trouncing around in the dead of winter, I missed the development taking place on the east end of North Corktown, mostly on Harrison and Cochrane.

Through my most recent tour of North Corktown, I was able to witness some of the development that the comment was referring to. While Cochrane has multiple, although sometimes sporadic, multi colored new houses lining the street, empty lots with weeds can still be found. Harrison has more of the same with many new houses mixed with empty lots and the occasional burned out structure. Rosa Parks Boulevard also has its fair share of homes around Elm Street. The only other signs of development can be found a few blocks West at Wabash and Butternut where two new fairly large brick homes sit nice and neat, but surrounded by nothing but grassy lots and weeds. The contrast between new and old is something to be seen.

Wandering through the neighborhood I found myself wondering what exactly the story is behind the new development in the area and what the residents who live in these homes are like.

Within the last 5 years, 30 single-family homes developed in North Corktown as part of an affordable housing venture by the nonprofit Greater Corktown Development Corp. (GCDC).

A story from ModelD, the online Detroit centric magazine states that,

"The homes, which cost each $160,000 to construct, were available for purchase to moderate-income individuals and families at a range of $91,000 to $98,000 depending on the model. Additional construction funding came from National City Bank, Charter One Bank, Detroit LISC, City of Detroit Community Development Block Grants and the Empowerment Zone."

The article further explains that,

"The GCDC purchased scattered, city-owned vacant lots to build the homes, which cost between $91,000 and $98,000 in purchase price. But each home – dotted between Trumbull and Rosa Parks, Temple and MLK — cost about $160,000 to construct. Qualified applicants can buy a home for about $80,000. The corporation raised private dollars and received money through the City of Detroit, which received federal housing money to put in the pot. Residents must earn no more than 80 percent of the Wayne County median income. For a single person it is s $39,150 and $73,800 for a family of eight. Owners must live in the dwelling for at least five years. After that, the houses could conceivably be sold at market-rate prices."

While ModelD answers what attracted some people to move into North Corktown, my tour of the neighborhood answered who these new residents are. I began my tour on Cochrane. Before I finished snapping my first photo, a white woman from across the street was questioning me about what exactly I was doing. Apparently my meandering and taking pictures of their homes made residents suspicious. In an otherwise apathetic environment, this is a good thing.

I told her I was in the neighborhood to look at the new development. I let her know how nice the newly devloped areas looked. She thanked me and informed me that she was watching the house which I was photographing because the owners were out of town. Her concern for the neighborhood's overall health was refreshing.

I moved on and walked towards Harrison to find more. A black man who was outside watering his plants politely came up to me to find out what I was doing. After explaining myself, the man informed me that he heads the neighborhood association and that all residents of the neighborhood were doing their best to keep the area safe, clean, and free from the violence and despair of which many neighborhoods in Detroit were victims.

His home looked great. It was taken care of and nicely kept. Yet, the man also voiced his concerns for his neighborhood. He pointed to a building on the corner which someone was trying to turn into a bar. He wasn't pleased about the development and was planning on talking to city council about what options he might have.

He continued to show me a house next to his which was completely vacant and which the developer of the bar on the corner also owned, but had not kept up. He explained to me the damage that a dangerous eyesore such as the home next to his does to the community. He spoke of the unfortunate reality of how many "investors," are sitting on properties which they hope will have value in the future, but which for the time being are left rotting. For all the good which the work that this man had put into his own home did for street, the dilapidated structure next door did just as much damage.

I moved on to the corner of Cochrane and Perry when I heard the distinct crow of what could only be a rooster. Unbeknownst to me, I had stumbled upon a farm, complete with goats, roosters, and chickens. Since North Corktown is mostly urban prairie in the first place, the farm might not seem that out of place until you realize that you are only about one mile from downtown. Once you come across the urban garden just down the street, you realize that the farm might not be out of place at all.

Goats, chickens, and roosters living a mile or two from downtown Detroit is awesome. Take a look at some footage below.

After spending a couple hours in North Corktown, my thoughts about it varied. My experience was overwhelmingly positive and depending on which direction this neighborhood heads, it can be a model for other neighborhoods throughout the city. Ten years ago North Corktown was completely empty, which is exactly what it needed. The neighborhood was able to start from scratch, and new residents now have the ability to set the precedent as to how the new incarnation of North Corktown will evolve.

While the seeds of a sustainable neighborhood are now planted, there is much that still needs to be done. The area still has an extremely long way to go. Two streets of development in an entire neighborhood is a tease of what could be in an otherwise desolate area. The residents have the right attitude though and believe that they personally hold the key to North Corktown's destiny. Hopefully, North Corktown residents are right and progress will continue into the future.

Below are a few photographs of North Corktown. The complete Flickr set of photographs can be seen here.

Below is the neighborhood association President's home.
And the home next door...

Below is one of the two homes on Wabash.

And the scene looking out from the homes on Wabash...

A goat on the farm at Cochrane and Perry.

An urban garden.

Detroit Army


David said...

great post - this area was known as Briggs back in the day, I recently learned. If you google "Briggs Detroit" you'll find some interesting material on the area, namely a paper entitled "Green ghettos and the white underclass" that explains the history of the neighborhood, which only has recently become known as North Corktown.

Unknown said...

"i am in detroit michigan
where the recession is already the depression
hard 2 believe - unless u see it
we must save this city"

taken from aka rosie o'donell's blog. apparently she visited the d this week.

Anonymous said...

Why did you feel the need to identify the guy you talked to as "a black man?" How was it relevant to your account? Is it because you're surprised that for a black guy, "his home looked great. It was taken care of and nicely kept."

You should think before you write.

Stephen A. Weisberg said...


Keep reading the blog Curtis. I appreciate your insight.

That being said, many times playing the race card isn't the most effective route. If you carefully read the post, when I spoke about the woman, I mentioned she was white. When I spoke of the man, I mentioned he was black. Both instances were to exemplify the diversity of the neighborhood. Neither mention of race had anything to do with their respective personal characteristics.

Maybe you should take your own advice and think before you start making accusations, and then think again before YOU write.

99 percent of the time I will not respond to comments, but I refuse to have someone implicitly call me a racist in such an irresponsible manner.

Keep an open mind.

Unknown said...

Does anyone have any interest in purchasing a property in Corktown, for $35,000. If so please email me at