Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI) a nonprofit planning and development agency charged with revitalization of Detroit’s Woodward Corridor, recently bought a historic, abandoned church property in the emerging Sugar Hill Arts District with a grant from ArtPlace. One of the goals of this project is to transform the structure into a neighborhood performing arts center.

ArtPlace spoke with Annmarie Borucki, the special projects manager for MDI, about the challenges involved with the redevelopment and re-use of historic structures and how this is impacting the current discourse on creative placemaking in Detroit.

ARTPLACE: What have been some of the challenges working on this latest church project?

The cost alone to purchase the church building was definitely not cheap, but in the end, worth it to ensure that the right thing happens with this structure in Sugar Hill. We also know that it’s not going to be an easy road obtaining the necessary financing to build out this church into a performing arts center, especially with the poor shape that the roof is in. We also know that we’re going to need to layer strategy on strategy to not only construct the center, but to also fund the ongoing arts programming that we envision presenting there.

ARTPLACE: Are there things you’ve learned in your work that others in the creative placemaking field can learn from?

ANNMARIE: It’s critical to have partners in the public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors when trying to strategically shape urban centers like Midtown Detroit. MDI is working with our partners in the Sugar Hill District, including fellow ArtPlace grantee, MOCAD, to map out the development over the next five years to understand how resources can be shared, to concentrate efforts on priority projects, and to preserve the remaining historic buildings in the district. These partnerships will also help to ensure that all of our projects complement each other and work towards the same goal: to create a distinctive arts district with increased livability, diversity, more jobs and economic vitality.

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