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7 BLOCKS PROJECT – a new Detroit 2020 reporting project

June 02 2014 | no comments

You see a lot of news stories about the state of Detroit. Much of that reporting is about the high profile downtown and midtown areas. But, some say the heart of Detroit, the neighborhoods,  are  ignored by those telling the story of the city. That concern led to our newest Detroit 2020 reporting initiative, we call it the Detroit 2020 7 blocks project.

Seven anchors on our Detroit 2020 team will each tell the ongoing story of one block in each of the seven city council districts. It’s a long term reporting commitment. Detroit 2020 7 blocks project is a unique and honest lens that we will use to tell the unfolding story of Detroit;  its problems, its successes but most of all,  its people.

Alicia Smith kicks off the 7 blocks project with City Council District 2,  an area that may have seen better days, but people there are not giving up.

We ran across Roger Robinson and his wife Rowena working on one of their favorite neighborhood projects – the Gloryland Community Garden.

“We have had in the past a couple of bar-b-q picnics out here just to get together and have fun, ” said Rowena Robinson as she worked to clean out debris around the garden.

The green space is just a stone’s throw from University of Detroit Mercy near the crossroads of Livernois and McNichols on the city’s west side.

Roger has been living here for decades.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood since 1972,” he said.

He was attracted to the charming, two-story brick homes and hard-working neighbors who kept them up.

But, he says he has seen the area change drastically.

“You have the investors and absentee landlords who have possessed these homes. And I’ve seen them greatly deteriorate,” he explained.

Some of the homes are ghosts of what they once were – boarded up and seemingly forgotten.

“It’s still attractive irregardless of the decay. It can be brought back,” he said.

Cultivating that optimism can be tough, especially with the problem of crime as stubborn as a weed.

“We have cars stripped almost every week out here. You never see who’s doing it. I guess they know when we go to sleep around here,” he said.

Illegal trash dumping, break-ins, and holdups are also problems the Robinsons see, but the two of them are digging in.

What do they think is the one thing this neighborhood really has going for it?

“A lot of good people,” said Rowena Robinson – with warm emphasis on good people.

She explained that these people take care of their property and grow food for each other and for charity.

“There are a lot of things that have caused a negative environment here in the city of Detroit,” said Robinson. “I plan to stay here.”

The couple is standing tall amidst the breezy changes facing a bankrupt city in a neighborhood still growing with the times.

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