This is a streetview of the Nortown CDC offices  located on Van Dyke Ave in Northeast Detroit.

The Nortown Community Today

This is a streetview of the Nortown CDC offices  located on Van Dyke Ave in Northeast Detroit.

 

THE SUPPORT FOR THE COMMUNITY

The relocation of the Black population during the Great Migration had a long lasting impact on American society, and especially the city of Detroit, which experienced the largest relative growth African-American population of all the large industrial cities. Northeast Detroit is one of the least-known-about sides of town. A life long resident of the area recounted,  “Business thrived in this area through the ’50s and 60s, but when the ’70s hit and the so-called urban renewal project began demolishing entire blocks at a time for land banks, the business, as well as many of the residents, packed up and moved out. So much for urban renewal.”

The city had turned away from the public renewal plans due to changes in federal financing which made redevelopment an entrepreneurial game, based almost completely on development partnerships between private developers and local entities. Through the trying times of economic turns, racial segregation, and gentrification this community has found strength in each other and in very supportive community organizations. When the eastside area, known locally as Nortown, seemed at its grimmest the residents stepped up to help rebuild their community. “Don’t count the east side out,” Angela Brown, executive assistant to the mayor for Community Assistance and resident of the community stated. “We’re coming on strong. We have a vision to work for. I wouldn’t bet against us because you’ll lose.” Hopefully, businesses look at the comradery of these residents and begin to invest in an area that is looking for support.

 

TWO NEW STATE PRISONS IN THE COMMUNITY

African American migrants who came to cities like Detroit with ambitious dreams about prosperity in the North, were sadly disappointed during times of recession in the city when there were not enough jobs available for them. As a consequence of the thousands of jobless, homeless, poorly educated and starving African-Americans in Detroit crime was high and upward mobility was low. Rather than address the underlying issues of racial discrimination, poor housing, and lack of jobs, in 1988 the Michigan Department of Corrections announced plans to build “two new state prisons for men being built on the northeast side of Detroit.” This massive project in the heart of Nortown, already struggling with economic decline and flight to the suburbs, was attended by strongly differing views among the community.

The new prisons, and a new police precinct station neighboring the prisons, lay directly south of several residential neighborhoods. Mildred Stallings, chairperson of the citizens’ group working with the state on the project, noted that “the flight (from the neighborhoods) has not occurred” as had been feared when the project was announced. But critics pointed out that people had few options about where to go if they didn’t want to live next to a state prison, and the ongoing lack of resources available for the struggling community.

In response to these concerns, the state required that 15 percent of the labor involved in building the prisons go to minorities and 5 percent to women. The project was supposed to provide an estimated 350 to 500 construction jobs. Bill Richardson, a partner with the management company on the construction of the project, said the project provided an excellent opportunity for minorities, but he said there aren’t enough minorities in the industry to take advantage of the situation. Minorities “have a hard time getting into the trade unions….Because they are not in the unions, it will be difficult for them to be representative in the work force” on the project. So, although the intentions of the state and other officials seemed amenable to compromise, the results still left African Americans in Detroit with the “short end of the stick.”

 

HOSPITAL EXPANSION FOR THE COMMUNITY

Detroit has been a crime stricken area for decades. At first glance, the streets in areas like Northeast Detroit don’t appear to be the city’s most dangerous, but this is not the case. In 2008, St. Johns Health converted the emergency room at its Conner Creek Village facility into 24-hour urgent care center. The Chief strategy officer, Bob Hoban remarked,  “We determined that urgent care and access to primary care provide the best way to meet the needs of patients we serve in this area.”

Times have gotten hard for the residence in this area and safety is a huge concern. Comments have been made about the area saying things like, “gunfire is nearly as common as sunsets.” It was reported that city’s northeast corner had more summer shootings than any other area. The Nortown area specifically was one of the Northeast areas in Detroit that ranked in the top 10 most dangerous areas in Detroit the summer of 2011. They reported for a two-month period over the summer about 4-6 shootings per 10,000 residents.

Conner Creek’s emergency room has about 17,000 visitors annually. By converting the emergency rooms to urgent care clinics, St. John officials say they will even better serve the needs of their Detroit patients. Charges to visit the new urgent care center are about 3 times less than the emergency rooms so, hopefully in an area with high crime and low income; this is a useful and helpful change for the residence of the Northeast community.

 

 

John H Manor, “Northeast Detroit: A sleeping giant,” Michigan Chronical 1994 (08/28/1994): B1.

George E. HaynesNegro Migration–Its Effects on Family and Community Life in the North, (unknown: OPPORTUNITY, October 1924), 304.

June Manning ThomasRedevelopment and Race Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2013), 179-185.

Kathy Jackson, “Two New State Prisons Rise in Northeast Detroit,” Crain’s Detroit Business 40 (October 3, 1988): 3.

Christina Rogers, “St. John expands urgent care by converting ERs,” Detroit News Business (June 26, 2008): C.1.

George Hunter and Mike Wilkinson, “Detroit’s deadliest neighborhood,” Detroit News Metro and State (September 2, 2011): Online.

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