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Child-centric planning effort moving forward in Warrendale-Cody Rouge neighborhood

Youth stand in front of a new bioretention garden in DetroitA first-of-its-kind, child-centric neighborhood planning study is moving forward in the Warrendale-Cody Rouge neighborhood with the selection of a consultant that will support the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and partners in the effort.

The City has selected Hector, a world-renowned urban design, planning and civic arts studio, to assist in the development of the framework that will focus specifically on planning a neighborhood that will encourage growth and success for the children that live there.

The Warrendale-Cody Rouge area features the highest concentration of school-aged children in Detroit, and so the City set out to create a strategy to improve the neighborhood specifically for child development. Hector, contracted through City partner Invest Detroit, will work with the community and build upon the existing philanthropic work of four partners to coordinate investment in the area on Detroit’s western edge, including: DTE Energy, General Motors, Quicken Loans and the Skillman Foundation.

The Warrendale-Cody Rouge planning effort, as part of the City’s $130-million Strategic Neighborhood Fund, follows similar planning efforts already underway in several neighborhoods across the city.

“As we continue to expand our planning efforts in neighborhoods across the city, we need to ensure that there is opportunity for all Detroiters, especially our children,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Our planning in the Warrendale-Cody Rouge area will engage with long-time residents to identify ways to improve the neighborhood for the kids.”

Planning for our families with children

This planning effort will be the first to focus specifically on child development. The City and Hector will work with residents, and especially youth, to look at ways to improve mobility, housing, education, health, and safety. Designs will outline ways to create new spaces for children like parks and playgrounds. Housing solutions, including the removal of blighted homes and preservation of affordable housing, will also be key to creating a stable environment for area youth.

The plan will also identify ways to design a neighborhood that compliments various stages of a child’s life, especially around schools, including Cody High School.

“As Detroit City councilman for the 7th District and a former State Rep for this community, I can say unequivocally that this is a reprieve for a community in Detroit that has stuck it out through the thick and thin,” said Councilman Gabe Leland. “This project aims to compliment the hard work and dedication of our Cody Rouge/Warrendale residents who spent many countless hours building community.

“A big thanks to the many neighborhood organizations and community groups and those that supported their endeavors throughout the years. The community input that comes along with this project will be integral to its success.  Therefore, I’m looking forward to the many community meetings and community engagement already in the planning stages.”

Neighbors planning the neighborhood

In each neighborhood study, the City and consultants coordinate planning with community groups to identify the key issues and come up with solutions that the City will implement. Strong engagement in each neighborhood study will produce community-driven framework plans for the areas.

In Warrendale-Cody Rouge, the City added an additional step to the engagement process, inviting residents for the first time to provide feedback on the short list of consultants who responded to the initial request for proposals.

Consultant candidates made public presentations and residents had an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions at a community meeting earlier this month. Following that meeting, the proposal selection committee, which included representatives from the City, Detroit Public Schools Community District, community leaders and two local high school students, chose Hector based on the presentations and resident comments.

The community engagement process will continue over the next nine months, with regular community meetings, block club appearances, and smaller resident meetings and information sessions as the framework is developed.

“We believe that a resident of Detroit should be able to visit Warrendale/Cody Rouge and know how much their children are loved, and cared for, just by the quality of the built and natural environment of the neighborhood,” said Maurice Cox

World-class consultant coming to the neighborhood

Hector is an urban design, planning and civic arts studio led by Damon Rich and Jae Shin. The studio has an impressive resume that includes the designing a new park and affordable housing in southeast Philadelphia, the development of an in-depth guide for improving vacant lots in Detroit and establishing the policy and financing framework for a poverty reduction initiative in New York.

Rich previously served as planning director and chief urban designer for the City of Newark and is the founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that uses art and design to increase meaningful civic engagement. He’s also been the recipient of a number of national and international planning and design awards, and is a 2017 MacArthur “Genius” grant winner.

Shin recently served as an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), where she facilitated efforts to define and implement design principles for preserving and rehabilitating New York City’s public housing.

“On behalf of Hector and our team of Centric Design Studio, Hinge Collective, Ideas and Action, Michael Marshall Design, Public Workshop, The Work Department, University of Orange, and Dr. Mindy Fullilove, we are excited to work on this inspired and practical project,” said Shin and Rich. “From our work in Detroit and beyond, we know that putting young people in the leadership of neighborhood planning can change adult perspectives and help build organized communities today and into the future. We look forward to putting our knowledge and experience to work alongside Warrendale and Cody Rouge residents, community organizations, local businesses, City of Detroit agencies, foundation partners, and more.”

We’re elated to have Hector help further the community’s efforts to make Warrendale-Cody Rouge a place where children flourish - Tonya Allen

Working with the private and philanthropic sector

Hector will join an established group of partners already working in the neighborhood on a number of philanthropic initiatives, including DTE Energy, General Motors, Quicken Loans and the Skillman Foundation in partnership with the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance. Hector, led by the City, will work with all four partners and the community to continue these efforts and build them into the framework development strategy.

“Working alongside the residents of Cody Rouge has been a true privilege. Their hope, heart, and hard work carried the community through tough economic times and brought them to the brink of being a one of Detroit’s premier residential areas,” said Skillman Foundation President & CEO Tonya Allen. “We’re elated to have Hector help further the community’s efforts to make Warrendale-Cody Rouge a place where children flourish.”


The framework will be developed with residents over an extensive community engagement process starting this summer. That process will last about nine months, with recommendations expected by spring 2019, and implementation starting in summer 2019.

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