MUP students create plan to make development projects in Southwest Detroit socially just for residents

Master of Urban Planning students completed a plan for the Southwest Detroit Business Association that could help Southwest Detroit residents acquire jobs from proposed development projects, the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal expansion and the Detroit River International Crossing. The students, Sarah Beer, Chelsea Burket, Nicholas Cilluffo, Shan Gao, Susan Johnson, Ryan Michael, Fanbu Shen, Jingning Yang, Hang Zhou, completed the 146-page plan for their UP 634 Integrative Field Experience capstone project in December 2009. They worked under the guidance of Taubman College Urban Planning Professor Margaret Dewar and Community Partnerships Manager Eric Dueweke.

The report’s executive summary describes the project as follows:

“Southwest Detroit boasts a thriving retail district, a large concentration of residents, and regional attractions such as Mexicantown. Due to its location near an international border crossing and port of entry, Southwest Detroit is also the site of major transportation infrastructure investment. Two new projects proposed for Southwest Detroit could bring additional investment to the region: the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal expansion and the Detroit River International Crossing – a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

While large infrastructure improvements generate regional economic health, low-income communities such as Southwest Detroit often bear the negative consequences of such projects, such as relocation, noise, air pollution, and a loss of retail and restaurant business.
Southwest Detroit could also benefit from the new projects. Major infrastructure projects result in thousands of new jobs during the construction phase, as well as many permanent jobs at the new infrastructure facility or in other businesses. This plan addresses the balance between the region’s need for infrastructure investment and social equity, by explaining ways to connect residents of Southwest Detroit with new job opportunities.”

In the report, the students recommend Southwest Detroit residents obtain and maintain jobs using tactics that include starting a pre-apprenticeship program to prepare residents for apprenticeships with unions that will work on the projects, ensuring that a portion of project materials used for greening and streetscaping are purchased locally, making a marketing plan that will promote local businesses during construction, and creating an employee referral program in which the Southwest Detroit Business Association would refer qualified candidates to project employers.