A plan to spur economic growth in a northwest Detroit neighborhood was announced Tuesday during the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Denver.
The Motor City Project will highlight using available resources like manpower, vacant land and empty buildings to make the area attractive to potential and current residents seeking to start their own businesses.
It also will help new arrivals work through cumbersome city codes and other red tape to operate home- and neighborhood-based businesses, World Policy Institute Senior Fellow Greg Lindsay said.
Lindsay said zoning rules in many U.S. cities make it difficult for entrepreneurs to operate out of their homes or garages, but such “microenterprises” have been successful in poorer countries.
He pointed to the practice of salvaging wood, countertops and other materials from abandoned houses in Detroit and selling it to retrofit homes.
“That’s what happens every day in places like Nairobi,” Lindsay said. “They are starved for resources. People realize everything they have is an asset.”
The Detroit neighborhood chosen is a mix of homes and small manufacturing. It is anchored by Focus: Hope, a social and economic services agency.
As part of the project, a so-called Resilience Center will be created to attract “urban homesteaders and migrants from other neighborhoods, cities and countries to relocate to the area,” the World Policy Institute said in a release.
Staff also will work with entrepreneurs to find funding and other support for their ventures.
“We want to create this pop-up community center where we would bring in new arrivals and help them acclimate to their conditions,” Lindsay said.
The two-year project is in the design and development phase and is starting with in-kind contributions. It hopes to expand with partners from the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative. The initiative was establish in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton. It brings together foundations, business and government leaders to develop solutions to challenges impacting people around the world.