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Corktown residents hope they're not left behind by development

Posted at 11:17 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 20:16:04-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The fences and construction you see throughout Corktown are a sign of development. For some who call Detroit's oldest neighborhood home, they say it's a sign to come together and preserve the neighborhood.

Debra Walker is looking forward to some of the new buildings going up in Corktown, like the Godfrey Hotel that will sit on Michigan and 8th Street.

“We do need a hotel. It’s going to give us jobs. It’s a good location," said Walker.

“Whether its the Godfrey Hotel or the new Michigan Church St. development, I think we are at our tipping point for large developments," she adds.

When new buildings do come to town just hopes the design will match the historic neighborhoods existing character.

“That is where we do take some issue with some of the things that the city has allowed. They’ve allowed things with less brick and more metal to be more modern," adds Walker.

Inside this once abandoned brick building off Michigan Ave. will be something new. Former Michigan basketball player and Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Webber says he's bringing jobs to the neighborhood with his new business venture in Corktown and Southwest Detroit.

Webber and his business partners are working on phase one of a $50 million cannabis cultivation center, dispensary, lounge, and learning facility.

“I want to be a fair investor and honest broker. I’m investing in brown and black people. I’m investing in anyone from Detroit," said Webber.

Many living in Corktown want to make sure residents are kept in mind with all the new projects popping up.

“I don’t want residents to be pushed out of the neighborhood because usually when there is development like this, it’s geared towards bringing new residents in, and the current residents are not considered," said Tricia Talley, president of North Corktown Neighborhood Association.

“I'm hoping that the changes will not exclude the residents who have stayed and weathered the storm of living in Detroit," she adds.

Michelle Knight sits on the board with Talley. She says new developments including multi-use commercial spaces come at a cost that impacts the people.

“Are we going to be forced out by the taxes, by not being able to afford to live here? That’s my biggest fear," said Knight.

Walker, who sits on several community boards, wants developers who are interested in Corktown to think about the residents before they come in and build.

“We don’t need any more of that multi-unit apartments or condos. We want single-family homes to keep more of that neighborhood and affordable field," she adds.

In a statement from Corktown Historical Society's president, Blake Almstead, they say:

Having less vacant properties occupied with families, business and visitors is what we need to grow and thrive…While it’s exciting to hear about the new businesses, the community has been asking for more affordable food options, pharmacies and retail.

Walker says, “Listen to however you are going to do is going to impact the families who live here and that were first and foremost a neighborhood.”

Community leaders also want businesses to bring jobs that will allow people to thrive and not just survive.

“Often times companies come into urban areas with no intentions of hiring the residents that reside there," Talley adds.

The Godfrey Hotel plans to bring about 200-300 jobs to the area, saying at least 25% will go to Detroit residents.

Chris Webber's cannabis facility is expected to create hundreds of new jobs in the Detroit metro area over the next three years.