Community Development

Over the years MDI has spearheaded numerous redevelopment initiatives encouraging reinvestment in the Midtown community.  These initiatives have changed Midtown’s urban image from an area spotted with abandoned lots, boarded up buildings, and run down homes to an inviting culturally-rich fast-growing neighborhood and a top destination location in the metropolitan Detroit area.  Listed below are Midtown Detroit, Inc. current activities.


The Inn on Ferry Street

Located in the East Ferry Street Historic District, The Inn represents one of the most noteworthy Midtown restoration projects accomplished through MDI’s partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Debuting in November of 2001, The Inn on Ferry Street was converted from 4 historic homes and two carriage houses into a 42-room boutique hotel. Over twenty-four sources of financing totaling $8.5 million were secured in order to restore the entire block of 1880’s Victorian mansions.

Also noteworthy, The Inn has received many local, regional, and national preservation awards including the recognition listed below: 
Expedia Insider’s SelectTM Award in 2007 and 2010, received “Best Historic Accommodations” by the Detroit Free Press in 2004, voted “Best Sleeping ‘Inn’ Detroit” by Hour Magazine in 2003, voted “National Preservation Award” by the National Trust in 2002, won “Honor Award for Restoration” by Preservation Wayne in 2002, recognized by the Detroit Historic Designation Board in 2002.

Equipped with all the modern necessities, the Inn is in a perfect location for corporate and leisure travelers visiting the city as it is in close proximity to the state's finest museums as well as Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center. The elegant historic character of the property is perfect for a relaxing stay, as well as for weddings, receptions and other social events.  MDI is the managing member of the Inn on Ferry Street Development Company. More information about the Inn and how to make reservations can found at:


Midtown Greenway

Currently under construction, the Midtown Greenway consists of a 3.5-mile greenway that includes a 2 mile loop, which connects the campuses of Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center, and a 1.5 mile connector that will run through the Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cut greenway and on to the Riverfront.  The 12-foot-wide shared use walkways follow existing street patterns with enhancements that include a variety of plants, trees, and bushes, bike storage and racks, people and pet drinking fountains, dog waste stations, way-finding signage, benches and LED pedestrian lighting as well as future art pieces.  Once completed, the trail will offer a 10 mile greenway network from New Center to Downtown and the Riverfront.

The Midtown Loop walkway, on the streets of Kirby, John R, Canfield, and Cass, facilitates the flow of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized transportation (with motorized wheel chairs being the exception) to nearby cultural, arts, higher education, and medical institutions in addition to the numerous businesses in the Midtown area.  The additional connector will continue east from the southeast corner of the Midtown Loop at John R and Canfield to the proposed Dequindre Cut Greenway at Eastern Market.

The Greenway will help reclaim rights-of-way for pedestrians in the community by creating widened walkways, improving pedestrian crossings, and using a variety of planting beds to safely separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic. Unique lighting will also replace the current inadequate lighting to improve visibility and highlight the new development and art works along the way.  By reclaiming much needed green space, reintroducing native vegetation,  and incorporating public art along the greenway, a special environment will be created that will contribute to the quality of life and help create a strong sense of place and community. As a $10.5 million investment, MDI believes that the Midtown Greenway project is a critical piece of the overall strategy in rebuilding and reinventing Midtown Detroit, and will ultimately help breathe healthy life back into the community.

Phase I greenway construction, completed in summer of 2011, was made possible through contributions from the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Knight Foundation, the City of DetroitKresge FoundationWoodward Avenue Action AssociationMichigan State University Land Policy InstituteFirst American Title Insurance Company, and from $2 million in federal earmarking.  Phase II will be begin construction in spring 2012 and run east on Canfield from Cass to John R. and then south on John R to Mack.

In addition, MDI recently completed the Midtown Loop Public Art Master Plan with the aid of public art consultant, Susan Wilczak, and the public art committee consisting of representatives from arts organizations in the greater downtown area. The committee identified twelve different sites located along the Midtown Loop that would provide the best placement to view the art pieces.  Themes that define the spirit and potential of the sites were identified while taking into consideration the neighboring institutions’ missions, values, histories, programming, and their connection to the community.  These motifs will help provide the framework for how public art will be chosen for these sites. Ultimately, it is the public art component that will elevate the Midtown greenway to a tourist attraction.


Peck Park Redevelopment

Peck Park is located in the Art Center District on Brush between Fredrick Douglas and Kirby. Once a lively and popular park, it was abandoned and fell into decay by the year 2000.  In 2003, MDI, the City of Detroit, and the Art Center Citizen’s District Council collaborated to create a plan that included a new playscape, performance stage, volleyball court, walkways, decorative lighting, landscaping, picnic tables, trash receptacles, benches, and a wonderful pond, teaming with aquatic life, at a total cost of $1,000,000.  The $800,000 raised by MDI made it possible for the park to be open to the public in the summer of 2004. MDI is responsible for maintaining the park and has volleyball equipment available upon request. Today Peck Park is enjoyed as a fun and relaxing outdoor space and is also used as an outside classroom by the Michigan Science Center  for their “The Great Outdoors” program, which is designed to inspire children and their families to discover, explore and appreciate the natural environment.


Woodward Avenue Streetscape Enhancements

The four-phased streetscape plan involved a number of physical improvements, including the addition of new sidewalks, flowering trees, historic style street lighting, trash receptacles, and other features. Completed in 2000 at an investment of $1.8 million, Phase 1 has enhanced the Orchestra Place area transforming what used to be a highly depressed section of Midtown Detroit into a successful urban area.  Phase 1 of the project occurred in tandem with the creation of the Max M. Fisher Music Center and included restoring and modernizing Orchestra Hall along with other major developments including construction directly across from Orchestra Hall of the Ellington, an urban, mixed-use development consisting of 55 loft-style apartments, 12,623 square feet of retail space and a 954-space parking structure.

Phase 2 cleaned up the area around the Detroit Institute of Arts  and the Detroit Public Library, while Phase 3 was completed in time for Super Bowl XL, helping to create a more desirable and safe walking environment for the thousands of visitors new to Downtown Detroit. The total investment of Phases 2 and 3 was $5.2 million. Phase 4, from Sheldon to Warren, was completed in 2008. The total streetscape enhancement project cost was an $11.6 million investment.  MDI also manages all post-streetscape maintenance and beautification efforts along Woodward Avenue.


Sugar Hill Arts District Project

MDI, a number of its membership and the State of Michigan are creating a plan for the three-block Sugar Hill Arts District located south of the Cultural Center and adjacent to the Detroit Medical Center.  The district, which is bounded by E. Forest, John R, Garfield, and Woodward, is already home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.

The District is named after the former Sugar Hill neighborhood which was once an important Detroit jazz and entertainment center where both black and white musicians and patrons would come together to perform and enjoy music.  In 2002, the district was designated a national historic district which allowed for the creation of an overall development plan.  In 2007, MDI commissioned Albert Kahn & Associates to create a plan, consistent with the area’s artistic musical past that identifies potential areas for creating outdoor performance spaces, gardens, walkways, pedestrian corridors, art walls, and landscaping treatments to promote and establish a cohesive, attractive, walkable art district.

The plan includes generating mixed-income housing, commercial, and arts-related uses on vacant properties in the district.  Objectives for enhancing the area include, fostering synergies and collaborations between adjacent art providers; retaining young Michigan artists; bringing in arts-driven retail, and tapping into the 24/7 market of Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center.  Each Sugar Hill stakeholder has pledged to work together to carry out the plan as developed and to share resources and facilities in order to strengthen the district as a unit.

In January 2009, The New Economy Initiative contributed $2.5 million over two years to help leverage the estimated cost of $34 million needed to revitalize the Sugar Hill Arts District.  Funding for a variety of projects in the plan was obtained from the City of Detroit, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), Detroit Renaissance, Detroit Investment Fund (now Invest Detroit), private lenders and the New Economy Initiative.

In 2011, MDI received an Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) -, one of only 51 grants awarded nationwide.  The $100,000 grant supports the development of an integrated public art plan for the Sugar Hill Arts District.  MDI also received $900,000 from Art Place to restore and redevelop an abandoned historic church in the area creating a center that will showcase art, music and the performing arts.

Renovation and construction projects in the Arts District include:

  • Sugar Hill Arts Building
  • 71 Garfield
  • 76 East Forest
  • 52 East Forest
  • Sculpture Park (developed by MOCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit)
  • Newberry Hall
  • Phase II of the Midtown Loop greenway


Historic District Designations

Over the years, MDI has been an integral part of creating numerous local, state, and nationally certified historic districts within Midtown. Historic designations help stabilize and improve property values, foster civic beauty, preserve the city’s heritage and strengthen the local economy. Greater Midtown includes the Historic Districts of Brush Park, Cass Farms, Cass Park, Cultural Center, East Ferry, East Kirby, Peterboro-Charlotte, Sugar Hill, Warren-Prentis Area, Wayne State University, Woodward East, New Amsterdam, New Center, and Virginia Park.


Community Gardens

Created in the spring of 2009, the North Cass Community Garden is located on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Willis Street in the North Cass neighborhood. The 0.37 acre garden was built on 3 adjoining blighted parcels of property.  The garden offers seventy-five individual 4'x8' raised garden plots, ten 8'x12' restaurant/commercial raised beds, and six 4'x4' ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible raised garden beds all available to neighborhood residents and businesses to rent each growing season. JJR (now SmithGroupJJR) of Ann Arbor was chosen as the landscape engineers who designed the garden site without charge through their Employee Volunteer Program (EVP).  Many of the area residents participated in the planning process and the actual construction of the garden. Thanks to the many contributors including The Kresge FoundationFirst American Title Insurance CompanyMGM Grand Casino DetroitLandscape Forms, and the Colin Hubbell Memorial Fund, for providing funds and/or in-kind materials for this project.

The Art Center Community Garden is located at the southeast corner of John R and Palmer in the Art Center district.  Similar to the North Cass Community Garden, the garden is constructed on three vacant City of Detroit parcels covering 0.67acres.  Completed and ready for the 2010 growing season, the garden offers six ADA-accessible 4x8' plots, eighty individual 4’x8’plots, and ten commercial 8’x12’ plots to rent by neighborhood residents and businesses each year.  JJR used their design expertise again to create a visually appealing functional garden. With funding support and/or in-kind materials from The McGregor Fund, The Americana FoundationDetroit LISCThe Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Kaufman Memorial Trust, and Tom Delaney, a MDI Board Member, the garden has been a valuable resource to the neighborhood.

Learn more about the gardens HERE


Midtown Green Alley Demonstration Project

The Green Alley, open to pedestrians and bicyclists in September 2010, is a model example of transforming a trash-strewn, muddy, weed-ridden, unsafe passageway into an inviting brightly lit oasis of native plants and shrubbery and a walkway of historic brick pavers - all using green construction processes.  The 220' alley is located off of Second Avenue between Canfield and Prentis and is flanked by the Motor City Brewing Works and the Green Garage.  The eco-friendly Green Alley also includes induction lighting, a storm water system, a waste and recycling center, and collapsible bollards creating a safe pedestrian and bicycle zone restricting all vehicular traffic except for service and emergency vehicles.

Leading the project is the nonprofit Green Garage which focuses on building world class skills for “green collar” jobs and future sustainability-based service and product businesses.  MDI, in partnership with Motor City Brewing Works and the Green Garage, provided support and oversight on the project. North Cass Neighborhood residents and other nearby property owners provided additional support and involvement.  Funding was provided by the Kresge Foundation, the Americana Foundation, DTE Energy, and the Colin Hubbell Fund.  In the future, the Green Alley will be linked to the Midtown greenway project.


Public Infrastructure

Over the years, MDI has been involved with a variety of public infrastructure projects and site plans for the neighborhood. MDI and the Woodward Planning Group developed the original concept plan for the site located at Woodward and Forest where Studio One Apartments and the new Wayne State parking deck are now located.  Funding for the plan was provided by the Hudson-Webber Foundation. Currently, MDI is now working on plans to install new, decorative street lights along Cass Avenue between I-94 and Canfield.