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Detroit Future City looks forward to a future 100 years after the 1967 riots

Posted: 5:00 PM, Jul 18, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-18 21:45:56Z

In our Detroit 2020 story on the 1967 riots Looking Back to Look Forward we're reaching into the future.

It's taken 50 years to see so much progress in Downtown and Midtown, but now with the creation of Detroit Future City, the mission is to watch Motown progress even further.

Nearly a decade ago, the nonprofit Detroit Future City was created to strategically plan for the future and to bring about change.

When it comes to real change and progress in a city, time and patience can usually heal most wounds, even the ones brought about by the 1967 riots. That's what you'll find nestled on a unique street located in the old Pole Town neighborhood.

Beverlee Porada says, "Twenty-five years ago, this neighborhood was diverse. It's still diverse now. Everybody just watches out for each other."

Beverlee and Greg Porado call a couple of blocks on Farnsworth Street on the east side of Detroit the place that blight forgot, complete with an outdoor pizza oven. They've raised five kids and now their grandkids are coming along too.

Greg Porada says, "Right now, this block is starting to rebuild, but it's a slow process."

Greg was on this block when white flight and neglect after the riots basically turned his neighborhood into open fields.

Porada says, "I saw what happened on Shane Street and, once the businesses leave, they don't come back."

Even during the uprising, Greg and his buddies - both black and white - played baseball together and still do today as adults.

The viability of neighborhoods like their's - where people used to work at nearby factories like the old Packard Plant and Dodge - is rare and people, even from other states, are finding value in these historic homes and believe they're worth saving.

Greg Porada says, "This man bought this house for $500. He owns all three lots and he has heaven right there. He does all of the work himself."

The rebirth of neighborhoods  is just a part of the strategic mission of Detroit Future City. The non profit's primary goal is to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods for Detroiters, through jobs, stabilizing communities and transforming vacant land.

Anika Goss-Foster says, "We think about how we got to the 1967 riots and the sort of undoing of Detroit's neighborhoods. Detroit Future City was really designed as a framework for our future for the next 50 years."

In 2010 Detroit Future City did an analysis of every neighborhood in the city. It resulted in the Detroit Strategic Framework which is a 50 year plan for the redevelopment of Detroit.

I asked, "Detroit Future City you did the ground work so you went all over the city to find out where the problem spots were?"

Anika Goss-Foster answered, "Well, not just the problem spots but the highlights as well."

The challenge, Detroit is 139 square miles and not just the 7.2 miles you see in Midtown and the surrounding areas and progress takes time.

Anika Goss-Foster says, "Midtown actually took more like 10 to 15 years, and people really don't remember that. You know how long it really took and what it really looked like when it was just the Cass Corridor and before the investment."

There are 109,000 vacant housing units in Detroit and 24 square miles of vacant land and while Detroit has become known for its urban blight. Detroit Future City is changing that.

On the corner of Beaufait and Sylvester sits an old vacant brewery in an historic industrial park right next to a neighborhood prime for re-investment.

Anika Goss-Foster says, "There are places like this all over the city, that we can actually return back to productive use, to create jobs and place in neighborhoods in the city."

As we look forward to Detroit's next 50 years, neighborhoods like the one the Porada's call home on Farnsworth are hoping their dedication to the city will not have been in vain.

In the next five years Detroit Future City wants to be able to create financial tools to make it easier for developers to invest - whether it's industrial, commercial corridors or neighborhood housing.

If you want to learn more about Detroit Future City go to detroitfuturecity.com