Detroit to pour $45 million into recreational centers

Rec centers often served as places for people to go when they needed help feeding themselves or their families

The city of Detroit announced a significant investment into repairing neighborhood recreation centers on Thursday (March 17), making good on a promise from Mayor Mike Duggan during his State of the City address.

DETROIT – The city of Detroit announced a significant investment into repairing neighborhood recreation centers on Thursday (March 17), making good on a promise from Mayor Mike Duggan during his State of the City address.

The investment will funnel $45 million to eight different recreational centers in some of the city’s most underserved communities. Of that money, $30 million will be pulled from federal American Rescue Plan funding, $10 million will be from city bond funds, and $5 million has been donated by racing legend Roger Penske. Penske’s donation is specifically earmarked for the renovation of Lenox Center in the Jefferson Avenue, Chalmers Street neighborhood.

For decades recreation centers were the beating heart of Detroit’s predominantly minority neighborhoods. They often served as places for people to go when they needed help feeding themselves or their families, a place to go for afterschool activities, and were often places where church services were held on the weekends.

But, beginning in the late 1980s, funding for grants for the centers began to dry up, and city leaders closed 20 of the city’s recreation centers leaving many seniors and children who relied on services provided by their local rec center without any place to go.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Brenda Gardner. “I’m over, and I can’t wait for the neighbors to participate, to have a place to go and fellowship, and all the things that we used to do.”

Gardner’s family moved into the Russel Woods neighborhood in Northwest Detroit 50 years ago. She came to see the announcement of funding into her local center, the Dexter-Elmhurst Center.

Gardener was part of efforts to save the centers for decades.

“I would like for my great grands, because I have adult grands, to come back and see what I experienced, what I was a part of what I tried to hold together and mend together,” Gardner said.

The City also announced the investment would go beyond the walls of each rec center. They plan to turn nearby vacant lots into parks. The city is also planning to go after neglectful property owners in many of the neighborhoods aiming to clear the streets of blight and make for safer neighborhoods.

“The land bank is in this neighborhood right now going after these properties and going after the bad property owners,” said Services and Infrastructure Group Executive Brad Dick. “If you’re a property owner in this area and you’re neglecting your property, you might want to think quickly about what you do.”

Many of the projects will take years to finish. Most are slated to be done by 2022 or 2023.

Here’s a list of funding and projects for each community center:

$30M ARPA-Funded improvements

Dexter-Elmhurst Rec Center

Status: Vacant and closed.

Project Details: The City plans to purchase the community building this year and fully renovate it, as well as staff and operate it as a new city recreation center.

Timeline: Out for bid for Design Services this summer. Construction starts Spring 2023

Cost: $8.5M renovation


Chandler Park

Status: Currently an outdoor sports field at Chandler Park.

Project Details: City plans to install a new indoor center and full-size dome covered football field

Timeline: Currently out for bid for Design Services. Construction is expected to start in summer 2023

Cost: $12M


Farwell

Status: Open and Operating

Project Details: Expansion to include new gymnasium, lockers, and walking path

Timeline: Currently out for Design Services. Construction expected to start spring 2023.

Cost: $4M


State Fair Band Shell

Status: Open and Operating

Project Details: Historic amphitheater will be relocated to Palmer Park

Timeline: Construction expected 2022

Cost: $3M

$10M City Bond-Funded improvements


Adams Butzel

Status: Open and Operating

Project Details: Full renovation including roof replacement, HVAC upgrades, pool, and locker room improvements

Timeline: Completed in 2021

Cost: $4.2M


Coleman Young

Status: Under Construction

Project Details: Major interior renovations, updates, and improvements to lobby, entryway, restrooms, kitchen, etc.

Timeline: Summer 2022

Cost: $1.5M


Butzel Family

Status: Under Construction

Project Details: Major interior and exterior updates and renovations

Timeline: April 2022

Cost: $1.5M


Heilmann

Status: Open and Operating

Project Details: Major renovation, including interior renovations, updates, and improvements to lobby, restrooms, kitchen, etc.

Timeline: Opened in March 2022

Cost: $1.2M


Patton Rec Center

Status: Open and Operating

Project Details: Major renovation including pool and gymnasium improvements, HVAC upgrades, and renovated dance room

Timeline: Opened in 2021

Cost: $900K


Crowell

Status: Under Construction Construction

Project Details: Major renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen, etc., as well as landscaping

Timeline: April 2022

Cost: $828K


Clemente

Status: Under Construction

Project Details: Major renovations and updates to lobby, restrooms, kitchen, etc., as well as landscaping

Timeline: April 2022

Cost: $750K


Mini Libraries - $500K to completely renovate mini-libraries at 11 city recreation centers. Completed October 2021

$5M Roger Penske donation

Lenox - $5M to completely rebuild this abandoned recreation center in the Jefferson Chalmers Neighborhood


About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.