DETROIT, October 20, 2009 — An abandoned police station that was once a conspicuous eyesore in southwest Detroit is being transformed into a community center for the arts and urban gardening.
Southwest Housing Solutions is the developer of the $2 million project that is turning the old Third Precinct building into a valuable community asset. The building is located on West Vernor near the Mexicantown Mercado. It had been vacant since 2005, when the Detroit Police Department reorganized its precincts.
The Creative Arts Center will house classrooms, studio and performance spaces, and office and retail space. “The center will focus on children and senior citizens in the neighborhood, offering a safe and lively place to learn and grow through exposure to working artists,” said Tim Thorland, executive director of Southwest Housing Solutions (SWHS).
“This is a vibrant community filled with restaurants, theatre, music and beautiful parks,” said Kate Brennan, who lives in southwest Detroit and serves on the SWHS board. “A cultural arts center is a perfect addition.”
Two organizations are partnering with SWHS to create the center and are instrumentally involved in the design and development of the facility so that it meets their present and future needs. 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios is setting up artist studios, communal workshops, exhibition space, community arts programming, an artists in residency program, and office space for nonprofit and community organizations.
“This building and location have great potential and is a space that the artists in the community have been anxious to see established,” said Carl W. Goines, co-founder and executive director of 555. “We already have commitments from artists and arts organizations who are eager to use the space and interact with other artists and community members. This will be an exciting and inspirational venue.”
“Having moved locations four times in eight years, 555 is thrilled to have a place to call home,” said Jacob Montelongo Martinez, co-founder and creative director of 555. "We had been looking at the site for some time and feel it's a great location to cultivate an artist's district."
Some of the arts organizations who plan to provide community arts programming in the new space along with 555 include VSA arts of Michigan, Living Arts, Center for Music and Performing Arts Southwest (COMPAS), and Southwest Artists' Network of Detroit (SWAN)
Detroit Farm and Garden will provide landscape and gardening supplies, support services for the "do-it-yourselfer" and design and installation services. Detroit Farm and Garden is moving the remainder of its current design and build operations (Classic Landscape, Ltd.) from the suburbs to the Creative Arts Center.
“I live in this neighborhood and we are excited to finally be able to share our resources with the surrounding community while supporting the urban farming and gardening movement that continues to grow in the city,” said Jeff Klein, co-owner of Detroit Farm and Garden. “We also intend to make the building a showcase of green and sustainable technologies by installing a green roof as well as a cistern for harvesting rain water."
Together Detroit Farm and Garden and 555 are planning to collaborate on a community garden, a green roof, and a rooftop terrace for public arts exhibition space.
The Creative Arts Center will enhance an already vibrant arts scene and community in southwest Detroit, which is already home to more artists than any other area in the city. The development will also help stimulate economic and cultural activity around the Mercado and International Gateway.
“This is a critical economic development project that can be a catalyst for future development along Vernor and Bagley,” said Kristine Miranne, executive director of Southwest Detroit Development Collaborative. “The project can also help stabilize and revitalize housing and businesses in the surrounding areas.”
555 and Detroit Farm and Garden will move into the Creative Arts Center at the beginning of next year. The project is financed through a combination of funding sources, including Brownfield tax credits, ShoreBank, NeighborWorks® Capital, City of Detroit, and Wayne County.