Corktown community approves $10 million aid proposal from Ford


The Corktown Neighborhood Advisory Council voted unanimously Monday to accept Ford's Community Benefits proposal that comes with a commitment of $10 million as the automaker redevelops the area around the Michigan Central Station. 

The proposal will now go before City Council. Should the council approve it, it will become a binding agreement between the city and Ford.

Ford's proposal is one of the various steps in the Community Benefits process that began over the summer. It is a response to the series of requests submitted last week by the Corktown Neighborhood Advisory Council — a group of nine residents selected to work with Ford to make sure developments surrounding the automaker's move take into account the concerns of those living there.

Since August, the council has been meeting to come up with a proposal of what it believes the community needs from Ford. 

Last Monday, the council presented a plan asking for $15 million to go to the City of Detroit for neighborhood development ($5 million), affordable housing ($5 million), education and workforce training ($5 million), and $24 million to go toward funds for the "Impacted Area" — which included Corktown, North Corktown and parts of Hubbard-Richard in southwest Detroit.


In addition to these financial commitments, Ford spoke of more goodwill, neighborly promises, such a commitment to preserve the culture and historical accuracy of the neighborhood, and a pledge to increase mobility in the area by "engaging the community on mobility pilot projects."

On the environmental and construction front, Ford promised to have a hotline and online portal with project updates and other pertinent information during construction. Officials also promised to publish the Environmental Protection Plan (EPP) and make that report accessible and available to the public.

Additionally, the proposal committed to ensuring that "all retail and services, such as child care facilities, that are within Ford buildings will be available to the public and inclusive." 

"To me, this is a really significant investment, a lot focuses on the impact areas and some will now be available to Detroiters everywhere," said Sheila Cockrel, chair of the advisory council.

While Cockrel was excited about the plan, a few in the room were frustrated with the offer. 

"This is a global company with significant resources, I think they can do better," said resident Bill Cheek. Ford has nearly $17 billion in cash on hand, according to its most recent quarterly report filed with the SEC. 

"$5 million for affordable housing and neighborhood development is totally inadequate and should be doubled," Cheek continued.

Under the Community Benefits resolution passed in 2016, a Neighborhood Advisory Council is to be formed when a development project is worth $75 million or more in value, gets $1 million or more in property tax abatements or is given $1 million or more in city land. The council is then charged with advising the developer of any concerns community members have about the anticipated project. 

In March, WDET-FM did a report on the efficacy of Community Benefits in Detroit. At the time, only six projects had been subjected to the law — four of them Dan Gilbert initiatives. The end results, according to WDET, were a lot of talk and not many actual benefits. 

"WDET found that after 12 weeks of community benefits talks with residents across the four projects, Bedrock committed to two community benefits in its agreements with the city. The first: Bedrock would communicate with residents about construction-related activity. And the second: Bedrock would support job training initiatives, something the company has been doing for years," the WDET report stated. 

Ford expressed a hope that its commitment to the neighborhood is long-lasting and not just talk. 

"We recognize that the CBO process is a transaction but we hope over time we'll develop a relationship with the community," said Shawn Wilson, multicultural manager of the Ford Motor Company Fund. 

The Detroit City Council will be reviewing the community benefits proposal in October, at the same time it is scheduled to review a tax abatement proposal Ford has created with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Ford is asking the city for $103 million in tax abatements — 43 percent of the total $238.6 million in aid it is asking for. 

Train station price tag: $90 million

Ford Motor Co. paid $90 million for the long-vacant Michigan Central Station, according to the property records on the City of Detroit's assessor's website.

The number puts to rest months of speculation since Ford announced in June that it had purchased the depot from Manuel "Matty" Moroun and had plans to renovate it as the hub of a tech campus in the Corktown area that would bring 5,000 workers to the neighborhood.

The Moroun family picked up the station after tax foreclosure in the 1990s.