I am part of an organization that is seeking to purchase a house to create a youth-centered community space in Detroit, Michigan. Do you have any information about how groups have converted different spaces to community centers and the challenges they faced and how they were successful?
Hi Emily, thank you so much for contacting us at Ask an Advisor. This sounds like an excellent project! Many cities around the country are undergoing similar initiatives. You are wise to seek out information on other’s experiences, and to plan in advance for potential challenges.
I did a quick search on what’s publicly available, and unfortunately could not find a single resource that specifically addresses your question (again, which is an excellent one!). However, let’s see if we can help you figure out how to find what you are looking for.
First, if you haven’t already, you may want to contact other organizations in or near the Detroit area that either work with youth, housing/housing development, or both. Connecting with local organizations will be paramount, as those organizations will have more specific input on local matters (such as information on existing community needs, zoning laws, available grant funding, etc.). They will also potentially know key stakeholders and contacts (e.g., contacts in city government that handle zoning paperwork, contacts to great contractors, etc.) that might help your project. When researching nearby organizations to contact, don’t overlook city government; revitalization efforts conducted by the city would be informative to your work, as well.
The benefit of approaching other organizations is that you may very well end up with additional collaborators and partners, which could bring expertise and resources that can strengthen your project.
Second, you might want to check out the resources available through the Center for Community Progress (https://www.communityprogress.net/); specifically, their Building American Cities toolkit. They also provide general resources on property revitalization efforts that might help you.
We hope that this information has been helpful. For additional information on how to approach possible partnering organizations, you may want to look at Chapter 18, Section 3: Identifying Targets and Agents of Change: Who Can Benefit and Who Can Help, as well as Toolkit 1: Creating and Maintaining Partnerships. Best wishes for success!