University City - Woodbridge Historic Area Together

Title Page and ContentsIntroduction | History and Timeline | Community Profile | Woodbridge Associational Map | Recommendations | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C


Neighborhood planning can be viewed as a process of political development.

A significant number of Woodbridge residents have shown a strong interest in improving their community, not only through embracing their rich history but also by participating in renewal efforts. This interest can be utilized through the mobilization of citizens in an effort to develop a neighborhood plan to meet the community's needs. There are, however obstacles to neighborhood planning. It is often difficult for neighborhood planning when the community is forced to operate in isolation or to deal with issues of outside control over local development. If community members feel that their interests are noticed, they will be more inclined to get involved.

It is, therefore, important for the Woodbridge Community to strengthen ties between the community and organizations within it, ultimately helping to implement the changes that the district needs to make in order to be a strong and vital part of the City. Open communication and sharing of information between community residents, organizations, and the City of Detroit is essential. This relationship between Woodbridge and its surrounding environment is important to provide the community with the resources necessary to attain its goals of enhancing services to residents as well as maintaining the structural integrity of the neighborhood. One tactic to aid in this communication is co-optation, which is accomplished through the involvement of local leadership in the design of services. These strategies are likely to give those who might otherwise oppose a program a greater appreciation for why it is needed and what it is intended to accomplish. Their involvement may not only nullify potential opposition but may actually increase support. Once the community forms a successful working relationship with the City of Detroit, certain pending issues will be a lot easier to tackle.

For instance, there are numerous vacant buildings in the Woodbridge area. These vacant lots and buildings make the area less attractive to potential residents and lower the value of property in the district. Vacant lots need to be cleaned up, as they are used as dumping grounds for unknown materials and substances, which increases the risk of health concerns. Since there are few playgrounds for children in the area except for those on school property, some of these vacant lots could be turned into parks.

Not only residents in the area own the lots, but also local investors as well as the City of Detroit. These landowners need to be identified and made responsible for the maintenance of the property. Negotiations could ensue for purchase of some of this property for renovation. In order to do so, however, funding sources need to identified. Examples of funding sources may include: entering into negotiations with organizations such as the United Way, preparing grant applications to federal and state governmental agencies, organizing a group of community leaders willing to sponsor an annual fund drive, and negotiation with local governmental bodies, such as with the City of Detroit.

In addition, homes can be developed on vacant lots to bring more stability into the neighborhood. The Woodbridge area is also part of the Detroit's Empowerment Zone. The Federal Enterprise/Empowerment Zone Program aims to promote community building in inner cities. The Detroit Empowerment Zone (EZ) was implemented in 1993 to address the critical needs within the city. The program reflects the community-based nature of both the process and the solutions. Under this program, the Urban Space Initiative exists to fund clean up, beautification, and assembly of parcels of vacant land and alleyways in neighborhoods through-out the EZ in cooperation with the Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, Detroit Department of Public Works, Police Department, and Community-based organizations.

Existing homes in need of reparation can be updated as well. The state provides tax credits to those who are willing to take on the task of maintaining historic structures.

For instance, homeowners or business owners in historic districts such as Woodbridge can receive a 25% credit from the state based on the following tax credit laws:

· PA 534 of 1998 provides a 25% credit for rehabilitation of historic resources by commercial/business owners; the credit is taken against the Single Business Tax.

· PA 535 of 1998 provides a 25% credit for rehabilitation of historic resources which are owner/occupied dwellings. The credit is taken against State Income Tax owed.

These tax relief programs are jointly administered by the Michigan Historical Center and Michigan Department of Treasury (information available through City of Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board).

Building up the business community is also essential for community development of Woodbridge. There is a great need for more businesses along both Grand River and Trumbull streets. There are no doctor's offices, shops or restaurants within walking distance of the district (except for the strip-mall on Warren), yet there are many spaces on which to build new businesses. Ideas for new businesses which may flourish in this area include a coffee shop, bagel shop, and other restaurants, Additionally, the historic aspect of Woodbridge can be showcased by opening up a small museum or utilizing a historic building for a Bed & Breakfast, for example.

Although there is a fear that the growth of businesses may increase crime, this should not stand in the way of new businesses bringing money into the community. New business will promote economic growth and expand residential development. Again, Federal Enterprise/empowerment Zone Programs can enhance the capacity of minority residents to perform in economic and social realms by starting and running their own businesses. The Detroit Empowerment Zone in conjunction with The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established a One Stop Capital Shop to centralize programs offered by the SBA and local service designed to help business owners, entrepreneurs and community-based organizations determine their specific needs; and obtain access to capital and credit.

In addition to new businesses, a new community center should be considered as a way to get people involved. Community centers can offer a variety of activities, such as continuing education, financial planning, babysitting co-ops, youth programs, athletic teams, senior programs, and art/music. These activities, once under way, may open up new opportunities for community leadership. Other groups that may benefit from a community center are single parent households, senior citizens, and adults looking to further their education. Once some interest is established in the community, this may strengthen the relationship between the district and local government. To determine if there is interest in projects like a community center residents should consider developing a survey. In conjunction with this project, a question bank was developed by the authors of this report which has been distributed to some members of the Woodbridge neighborhood. The Detroit Empowerment Zone Program can assist the community in this regard as well through the Restoring and Upgrading Neighborhood Plans.

As can be seen, in order to accomplish its goals, the Woodbridge Community will need to build relationships with outside funding organizations. As indicated above, the Detroit Empowerment Zone Program is a resource that may offer the community an avenue to explore in order to gain funding. Information on the Detroit Empowerment Zone can be obtained from:

Joseph Vassallo
City of Detroit Planning & Development
2300 Cadillac Tower Building
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: 313-224-6389
Fax: 313-224-1629

A detailed description of the various programs offered through this program can be viewed at:

Title Page and ContentsIntroduction | History and Timeline | Community Profile | Woodbridge Associational Map | Recommendations | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C