Detroit in crises
Urban Development Corporation (UDC) is a nonprofit organization 501 ( c ) 3 established in 2002 during the onset of Detroit Michigan’s mortgage foreclosure crisis and substantial automotive job losses. Helplessly, Northeast Detroit residents fearfully watched their once vibrant working-class community transform itself into an impoverished, drug-infested, crime ridden; environmentally plagued area.

Residents were subjected against their will to the metal stripping of structurally sound homes in their neighborhood, illegal dumping, squatters, slum-lords, the sounds of gunshots, and drug dealers who utilized the streets and abandoned houses of their neighborhood to distribute illegal substances. Contrary to the strong opposition of many residents local government allowed less than desirable businesses to establish in residential communities which fostered criminal activity. Scrap yards and strip clubs proliferated the area. Liquor stores entrenched on major streets. The end result was inner-city residential areas that overtime became less attractive to prospective home buyers.

Early successes

During the initial development of UDC, a considerable amount of time and energy was devoted to serving as a liaison between residents and local governmental agencies to address quality of life issues.

Some of our accomplishments include working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to mitigate environmental pollution. We successfully worked with MDEQ to have underground storage tanks leaking fuel into the soil of neighboring homes removed — the last raiment’s of a gas station closed for more than 20 years, lobbied for the re-development of Kern Park and the establishment of partnering relationships to provide summer employment opportunities for low-income at-risk Detroit youth.

Learning curve
UDC had high hopes that the quality of life issues Detroit residents were confronted with daily living in inner-city neighborhoods could best be resolved through our organization’s participation, support and active leadership role with the Detroit Police Community Relations Division (DPCRD). Overtime, UDC came to the realization that the scope and magnitude of problems Detroiter’s were confronted with extended beyond the role of DPCRD’s mission.

Strengthening neighborhoods
Today, UDC’s efforts are concentrated on strengthening inner-city Detroit neighborhoods within our targeted area in District 3. We adopted a 9-block area with the hopes of it serving as a model of how to bring stabilization, revitalization and sustainability to a declining inner-city Detroit Neighborhood. Our efforts include community organizing, policing and mapping, rehabilitating of homes for moderate-income working families, remediating diseased trees/sidewalk repair project, hosting numerous clean-up/board-up blitzes and advocating for wholesome neighborhood businesses and the reticulation of commercial business districts including retail consisting of small business and national retailers/tenants that will attract home buyers.

UDC believes that many of the problems which currently plague inner-city Detroit neighborhoods are economic in nature such as the lack of community reinvestment and lack of opportunities made available to residents. As such, one of the major goals of our organization is helping to address unemployment and underemployment amongst Detroit residents. We have found much success in connecting Detroiter’s to gainful employment opportunities.

A building and a vision
Our organization was donated a 10,000 sq. ft. building equipped with a loading dock. It is geographically located in an area recently defined by the City of Detroit as the Mt. Elliott Employment District. UDC utilizes the building to house our activities and programs. Plans are underway to completely renovate the building for use as an employment search/training center with other amenities to include community gathering spaces, small business incubator, legal clinic and coffee shop.

UDC also envisions the possibility of a strategic joint venture with a large business to utilize a portion of the building space to provide a service and/or product whereby low-income Detroit residents would have an opportunity to obtain both life skills and technical training. We have started a fundraising campaign to support the vision for our building.