Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework & Choice Neighborhood Implementation

In May 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the award of a $30M Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant to the City of Detroit that will make the Corktown Framework Plan a reality. The grant and Framework Plan were both a direct result of work HR&A has done over the last 2 years in Detroit to identify strategies that deliver equitable economic development.
 
The Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework, shaped by the community and released in November 2020, focuses on reinforcing this vibrant and diverse neighborhood as a place of opportunity for all residents, leveraging transformative investment under way by the Ford Motor Company in a new mobility innovation district anchored by the revitalized Michigan Central Train Station. HR&A’s team, led by Kate Collignon, worked with Perkins & Will and the Detroit Planning Department to set the stage for neighborhood infrastructure and policies that preserve affordability while fueling neighborhood and citywide economic growth. The plan dovetails with the creation of the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway — plans for which HR&A also supported as part of a team led by Smithgroup – which will increase mobility and recreational opportunities, and connect neighborhoods throughout Detroit to employment centers like that emerging in Corktown.
 
This plan became the basis for the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. Under the agency’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, five communities received a combined $150M to invest in neighborhoods to spur comprehensive revitalization. Working alongside the Detroit City Housing Department, an HR&A team led by Phillip Kash developed an approach and helped to prepare the application that led to a $30M award for Corktown. This is HR&A’s second successful Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. The first was for the redevelopment of the Saint Paul’s Quadrant in Norfolk, VA.
 
Now awarded, the Choice Grant will serve as the foundation of making The Corktown Plan a reality. It will preserve the existing public housing in the neighborhood and create more than 700 new affordable and mixed-income homes. In addition, the grant will leverage over $800M in additional public and private investment in public space, community facilities and commercial development.
 
The redevelopment approach sets a new gold standard for public housing redevelopment:

  • It will follow the Build First principal. New affordable housing will be built for current public housing residents before any units are demolished, ensuring that no one is forced out.
  • It will exceed 1:1 replacement for deeply affordable units. When completed there will be 152 units that are deeply affordable units as opposed to the 87 that existed before.
  • The supply of affordable housing in the neighborhood will increase, even as the market strengthens. In addition to the 152 deeply affordable units (30% AMI), there will be another 500+ units of affordable housing.
  • There will be affordable homeownership, and the opportunity to build wealth. The project includes 150 units of affordable homeownership and $5M in down payment assistance to make those homes affordable for households who would otherwise lack the wealth to purchase them.
  • Nonprofit ownership and control will increase. The Community Builders, a well-respected national nonprofit, will own and operate the majority of the housing developed. The current ownership is entirely by for-profit organizations.

 
 
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Inclusive Incentive Strategy for Indianapolis

HR&A created actionable strategies and policy recommendations for incorporating inclusivity into Indianapolis’ economic incentive programs.

Challenge

Indianapolis is a flourishing city and an emerging tech hub. Despite its successes in attracting new residents and new investment, certain segments of the population have been unable to participate in the city’s growing momentum. Recognizing this challenge of uneven access to opportunity, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (“Indy Chamber”) made a commitment to rethink its economic development programs to support more equitable growth across the city. The Indy Chamber engaged HR&A to evaluate its existing economic incentive programs and develop recommendations to re-orient programs in service of supporting inclusive growth and broadening access to opportunity.

Solution

HR&A has advised a range of clients on strategies to leverage economic development tools to advance core policy objectives around inclusivity. In Indy, we worked with the Chamber to evaluate their tax abatement and training grant programs and recommend how they could be re-oriented to better align with inclusive development priorities. After reviewing past incentive usage and performance, HR&A traveled to Indianapolis to host a series of stakeholder roundtables and assembled a steering committee of key organizations dedicated to advancing inclusive growth across Indy. Conversations were structured to share perceptions of existing incentive programs, identify community priorities in terms of desired inclusive outcomes, and understand perceived barriers impeding access to opportunity.
 
Following this initial round of engagement, HR&A benchmarked national best practices from cities that have explicitly incorporated equitable outcomes into their incentive programs, to draw out implementation considerations and lessons to help inform the development of recommendations for Indy. We refined these recommendations with key stakeholders, including major employers, city officials, and community-based organizations. HR&A assembled its recommendations in a final briefing book, providing an implementation roadmap to help the Chamber operationalize policy changes and meet inclusive growth goals.

Impact

Our recommendations included changes to the tax abatement and training grant programs to align evaluation criteria with inclusive values, as well as the establishment of a community impact network. The Community Impact Network is a pioneering new shared-values approach whereby businesses receiving economic incentives are required to commit to supporting an initiative from a menu of actions, developed in partnership with community organizations, designed to achieve tangible progress on inclusive growth priorities like workforce training, quality public education, and investment in distressed neighborhoods. HR&A crafted a narrative around the policy rationale and benefits associated with each recommendation and developed an implementation roadmap to guide the process. The Mayor’s office announced HR&A’s recommendations to advance inclusive economic opportunity – which prioritized a higher minimum wage, health and childcare benefits, workforce training, and positive community impacts – in summer 2019.
 

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Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategy for Grand Rapids

HR&A led development of a strategic roadmap to achieve equitable economic development and mobility in the City of Grand Rapids.

Challenge

Driven by expansions in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, the Grand Rapids economy grew significantly following the recession, with unemployment hitting a low of 3.4% in 2018. However, this prosperity has not reached everyone in the city. The challenges facing Grand Rapids — chief among them racial and neighborhood-level disparities in access to economic opportunity and reliable and safe transportation to good jobs — are deep-seated issues that have frustrated the best efforts of many American cities. A strategy that is successful in addressing these issues must capitalize on the city’s advantages to continue to drive economic growth, while broadening opportunity and targeting initiatives to communities that have so far been left out.

Solution

HR&A led an interdisciplinary team that worked closely with the City of Grand Rapids and a steering committee of civic, business and resident stakeholders to develop strategies to advance the city’s economic development and mobility objectives. As part of this effort, HR&A conducted in-depth interviews and analysis to identify the city’s strengths and challenges, and gathered input from community members about the intersection of equity and economic development in their daily lives. HR&A then worked alongside the City and committee members to develop viable strategies that address the existing gaps in Grand Rapids’ economic development toolkit.
 
Recognizing that mobility also plays an integral role in economic opportunity and access, HR&A also supported Nelson\Nygaard’s work to develop relevant strategies to improve transportation safety and accessibility. HR&A subsequently developed a strategic plan designed to achieve the goal of a more equitable, just city. The final plan, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategy was released in January 2020; it provides detailed guidance on actions the City and its partners will take to promote inclusive economic growth and equitable transportation access.
 
Implementation of the plan is currently underway, beginning with 11 near-term strategies including employing an equitable development scorecard to evaluate and award incentives, expanding resources provided to Corridor Improvement Authorities, and creating a transparent and visible centralized information hub for economic development services.

Equitable Development Plan & Real Estate Impact Study for Harold Simmons Park

The Trinity Park Conservancy is proactively linking park investment with community development to address systemic inequities in the neighborhoods around the new Harold Simmons Park.

Challenge

In 2016, the Trinity Park Conservancy received a generous gift to facilitate the creation of a 200-acre park, the first of a chain of parks within the 11,000-acre Trinity River floodway. Harold Simmons Park will connect three distinct neighborhoods – Downtown Dallas, West Dallas, and Oak Cliff – a microcosm of Dallas’ extreme racial and income segregation. Development of the park is expected to catalyze real estate and neighborhood investment along the Trinity River. The Conservancy is committed to creating a park that faces the challenges head on of creating a stronger, more just city. To facilitate equitable development of the park and local neighborhoods, the Conservancy engaged HR&A to recommend implementable strategies to leverage the $150M park investment to benefit the diversity of neighboring communities and create a model for equitable park and infrastructure development.
 

Solution

HR&A created an Equitable Development Plan (EDP) that provides the Conservancy with a detailed toolkit of policies, advocacy efforts, initiatives, and partnerships to achieve the organization’s equitable development vision. First, HR&A conducted real estate market, demographic, and socioeconomic analysis to understand the neighborhood context and consulted with local stakeholders, community members, and national experts to identify core risk factors (e.g. displacement of existing residents, loss of cultural heritage, perpetuated racial and socioeconomic segregation) and opportunities to be addressed in the EDP.
 
By evaluating the successes and failures of past efforts and the unique context of Harold Simmons Park, HR&A developed an Equity Toolkit that provides discrete tactics to prevent involuntary displacement, facilitate the creation of opportunity neighborhoods, protect cultural heritage, promote wealth creating and community ownership, and establish equitable policies and practices within the Conservancy for park management and operations. Finally, HR&A prepared an action plan to guide implementation of the EDP, detailing roles and responsibilities for Conservancy, the City, and private partners. Implementation of the EDP will require adding responsibilities within the Conservancy and growing capacity among community and implementation partners, and actions today to position the project for success.
 
In addition to the EDP, HR&A conducted a real estate impact study for Harold Simmons Park. HR&A’s analysis projected that the $150 M park investment will generate approximately $3.5 B in net-new real estate value, and $1.2 B in net-new property tax revenues between 2020 and 2050. These projected values accounted for a reduced market value assuming tradeoffs are made between maximizing real estate value and uplifting equity, inclusion, and community development consistent with the EDP.
 

IMPACT

The Conservancy has begun implementation of the EDP, including advocacy for policy changes and internal capacity building. The plan will inform the organization’s forthcoming programming plan, public sector engagement, and investment strategy in advance of a groundbreaking in 2020 or 2021.
 

Multifamily Affordable Housing Strategy for the City of Detroit

The City of Detroit’s Multifamily Affordable Housing Strategy provides a blueprint for related City policy, driving toward the goal of preserving and developing 12,000 multifamily affordable units by 2023

CHALLENGE

As Detroit’s housing market recovers from decades of disinvestment, some residents are unable to find adequate and affordable housing in the city. In some areas, demand is increasing for urban amenities and housing costs are rising. Elsewhere in the city, other neighborhoods face steep obstacles to regaining economic strength.
 
While the City’s Housing and Revitalization Department is actively promoting preservation and new development of affordable housing since the City’s emergence from bankruptcy in 2014, it did not have a formalized strategy for pursuing policies and programs to realize its equitable growth goals. Such a strategy would allow the City to proactively message its affordable housing goals to the market and track progress against those goals.

 

Solution

To guide the City’s future initiatives related to affordable housing development and preservation, inclusive growth, homelessness, and housing development in priority planning areas of the city, HR&A worked closely with the City to develop a public-facing housing strategy document that expressed the City of Detroit’s housing priorities and established a formalized plan for implementation.
 
HR&A reviewed our previous assessment of Detroit’s housing market, which tested the feasibility and impact of affordable housing policies and recommended those that would be most effective in Detroit. The knowledge developed in this stage of work was key in developing a strategy outline and coordinating the drafting of content for all initiatives with support from the City and partner organizations. Finally, HR&A oversaw the production of a document designed for public release. HR&A brought a unique combination of experience in national affordable housing policy analysis and a recent, in-depth understanding of multifamily affordable housing and the multifamily market in Detroit to the strategy’s development.
 

Impact

The city released its Multifamily Affordable Housing Strategy in the spring of 2018 with the goal of preserving 10,000 existing affordable units and developing 2,000 new affordable units by 2023. As the first strategy of its kind in Detroit in decades, the document will guide the City’s future work of ensuring new growth is equitable and that residents of all incomes have quality housing accessible to public transit, employment hubs, and other essential services. The City has already established an affordable housing loan fund and is implementing initial strategies arising from the study.
 

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