For our third challenge of the 2022-2023 program year, we partnered with E. Warren Development Corp (EWDC), a nonprofit with a mission to support and enhance the E. Warren commercial corridor and adjacent neighborhoods through collaboration, community engagement, and equitable development. Five teams of Fellows worked alongside the EWDC staff and neighborhood stakeholders to create deliverables for this project – learn more from the perspective of each team! 

Our spring Challenge project with E. Warren Development Corp was centered around engaging Detroiters in the business corridor of E. Warren, located in the Morningside, East English Village, and Cornerstone Village neighborhoods. From the moment we were introduced to Executive Director Joe Rashid and he began talking about the E. Warren Development Corp, there was a special energy in the air. The passion for the business corridor that Joe and his team brought to their presentation on the kickoff day made us all excited to start the project from day one. They shared their vision of a thriving downtown economy, a popular farmers market, and a clean, walkable space. This excitement for the project was only enhanced when Joe led a tour of the corridor and neighborhood introducing us to the community on an even deeper level. 

Our partner liaison (right), Audra Carson, owner of Izzie LLC, at the E. Warren Farmer’s Market

When it came time for the project teams to be revealed, six of us were grouped together into a team focusing on a “clean and safe” initiative. We met with our liaison Audra Carson, owner of Izzie LLC, who currently helps to provide cleaning and landscaping services on the corridor. We discussed how the perceived safety of a corridor is linked to cleanliness. Audra explained how having a clean sidewalk and increased walkability could help increase foot traffic to the corridor and attract new businesses to the neighborhood, but also how it could energize an entire community. Audra suggested adding “beautiful” to the title of our initiative to highlight that beautiful spaces are an important piece of creating a welcoming environment. Her passion and excitement from the start of the project set our team on the right path to shooting big to make the best “clean, safe, and beautiful” initiative. 

During the first phase of the design-thinking process, our group conducted a series of interviews with community stakeholders and people who have worked with implementing “clean and safe” initiatives in their cities. We collected information, quotes, and advice from these interviews and used them during our ideation phase to guide the conceptual development of solutions to the problems we were faced with. With these solutions and ideas, we developed our final deliverables. In this way, our deliverables remained community-oriented, as the foundation of their development was community insight! 

At the end of our project, we presented our final deliverables. We included a plan to implement our “clean, safe, and beautiful” initiative that can be implemented in phases over time that prioritize community partnership. We also created some signage that can be placed along the corridor to signal progress and encourage community members to engage. We also included a plan for corporate sponsors to support this unique opportunity to directly contribute to the health & safety of the residents and support a downtown corridor with over $70 million in development coming in the next 5 years.

Blog by Fellow Team: Amani Abuelenain, Avhae Richards, Caroline Reed, Ryan Wingfield, Victor Martinez, Jaylyn King