Castaneda-Lopez, Sheffield hold meeting on community benefits for tax-funded arena project
By Gregg Newsom
Special to the Michigan Citizen
On Dec. 20, the last day of their term, former City Council members approved the expansion of the Detroit Development Authority into the so-called ‘catalyst’ area around the proposed new hockey arena, but held off their vote on the transfer of land in a move that offered more time for engagement and outreach in the community.
On Jan. 13, with the new City Council members seated, the offices of Councilmembers Raquel Castaneda-Lopez (District 6) and Mary Sheffield (District 5) announced they would host a community meeting Jan. 15. Held at the Allied Media Projects office, the meeting was called to gather input about the proposed new arena and the potential for community benefits to be included when council votes , Feb. 4, on the land transfer.
Council Member Castaneda-Lopez, her staff and volunteers facilitated the meeting that featured presentations on the arena project and questions for Council Attorney Julianne Pastula, City Planner Greg Moots and Francis Grunow of the Corridors Alliance. Sheffield, who was not able to attend, was represented by members of her staff.
Before the council voted last year, at the public hearing, the recently emerged Corridors Alliance group, with support from Doing Development Differently in Detroit (D4) submitted a document with their vision for community benefits and a community steering committee be attached to the deal. The Corridors Alliance has been criticized on their community engagement process and D4 for their current failure to support for grassroots campaigns and the lack of racial diversity in their staff. In addition to proposing what some activists have called “lukewarm, in name only, community benefits,” the document also proposed a community committee structure that did not include representation from District 5, which shares a border with the arena project on the east side of Woodward.
After questions, Council Member Castaneda-Lopez asked those gathered to suggest names for a 16 member ad-hoc committee on the project. Among other individuals and organizations, participants chose the Sugar Law Center, Henry St. Tenants’ Association, Allied Media Project, Corridors Alliance, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management and the Community Benefits Agreement Policy Group who have been working citywide on a CBA ordinance.
Council Member Castaneda-Lopez hosted two follow-up meetings Jan. 20 and 22 with many of the organizations named at the meeting.
Both councilmembers welcome further input. Contact Councilmember Castaneda-Lopez at 313.224.2450 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Councilmember Sheffield at email@example.com.