Group calls for I-375 project to invest more in Black community than a walkable boulevard ⋆

Plans are underway to demolish Detroit’s I-375 freeway and replace it with an “urban boulevard” in an effort to reverse the destruction it brought to the historically Black neighborhoods Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. Social justice group Detroit Future City, however, is questioning whether simply replacing I-375 with a walkable boulevard is enough to restore the generational wealth and culture that was lost in the name of “urban renewal.”

Instead, the organization is calling for a “major restorative process” where Black Detroiters have a larger voice in the process. In a report called, “A Call for Restorative Investment in Black Bottom Paradise Valley,” Detroit Future City makes several recommendations for how resources for the I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project can be reinvested in the community and address historical harm, beyond just changing the highway’s landscape.

The recommendations include capitalizing on opportunities to increase homeownership among Black Detroiters, prioritizing residents who were displaced by urban renewal and their descendants, supporting home repair for existing residents, ensuring Black developers are at the forefront of development opportunities, and developing a district focused on Black-owned businesses.

Whitmer admin looks to revamp ‘outdated’ I-375 freeway in historic Detroit neighborhood

“The private investment, venture capital, philanthropic funds and other investments that will leverage Federal resources from the I-375 project, and that would restore wealth to this community, should be led by and benefit Black Detroiters,” said Detroit Future City CEO Anika Goss. “This is an opportunity to create wealth now and for future generations of Black Detroiters in Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, where wealth was intentionally extracted.”

Black Bottom and Paradise Valley — centers of Black businesses, music, and art — were razed in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for I-375 and Lafayette Park. Residents of those flourishing neighborhoods were displaced, with many forced into public housing projects like the former Brewster-Douglass Projects. Detroit’s history of systematically dismantling Black neighborhoods isn’t a unique one as communities, predominantly of color, across the country were razed to create the interstate highway system.

The I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project plans to turn the freeway into a six-lane street-level boulevard that runs from I-75 to Jefferson Avenue and then transitions to four lanes from Jefferson to Atwater. It will connect Eastern Market, the Detroit Riverfront, and Brush Park, and will create a new street to bridge Eastern Market and Gratiot Avenue that features a bike lane.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and City of Detroit are leading the project, which received federal funding at the request of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan previously said he imagined the reconstruction to be similar to the Avenue of Fashion, which is populated mostly by Black-owned businesses.

MDOT sought feedback during a public discussion of the project in early August and will have additional opportunities for community input as the process continues, according to its website. They also have an online survey for feedback on the boulevard’s design, including planters, benches, and lamp post styles, but Detroit Future City is asking for something much more meaningful.

“Detroit, one of America’s largest majority Black cities, stands at a crossroads,” the organization’s report reads. “The city is enjoying an economic renaissance of sorts, yet this renaissance is not fully shared as racial inequities persist. As local and national attention turns to conversations around reparations, Detroiters, policymakers, and community and economic development practitioners should set their focus on making reparative investments that address historic and present-day economic and racial injustices faced by Black Detroiters. There is no place in Detroit better suited for a major reparative investment than historic Black Bottom and Paradise Valley.”

Construction on I-375 urban boulevard is slated to start in 2025.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Follow them: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

authored by Randiah Camille Green
First published at

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