Community Investments Aim to Spur a New Detroit

Creative Corridor, Job Training and Public Internet Access Get Boost from Knight Foundation

Renowned Cranbrook Educational Community Establishes Detroit Presence

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced more than $5 million in grants to spur a new economic foundation for Detroit.

Below is a summary of the grants:

Creative Corridor:

  • Cranbrook Educational Community ($1.08 million): to strengthen Detroit’s Creative Corridor by creating a partnership between the Cranbrook Educational Community and the Arts League of Michigan. Together they will host joint exhibits and programming.
  • College for Creative Studies ($1.01 million): to help create an art and design campus at the new Taubman Center, a former General Motors design facility.
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra ($500,000): to expand and diversify its audiences by launching a community concert series at places of worship, schools and malls.

Jobs:

  • Detroit and Southeast Michigan Fund for Innovative Workforce Solutions ($1.025 million): to train workers for skilled jobs in the region’s health and green sectors by creating a new funder’s workforce collaborative, managed by the United Way of Southeastern Michigan.

Digital Access:

  • Detroit Connected Community Initiative ($810,000): to enhance residents’ ability to use the power of the Internet to improve their lives by providing high-speed Internet access to two low-income Detroit neighborhoods, Central-Woodward-Northend and Osborn-Northeast.
  • Detroit Public Library ($866,000): To help meet Detroit’s information needs by expanding free Internet access at the Parkman Branch library through a new technology and literacy center.

(DETROIT) Nov. 4, 2009 – In an effort to help create new economies and a new cultural foundation in Detroit, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced more than $5 million in grants to strengthen the city’s creative sector, increase job training and expand public Internet access.

At the effort’s core: investments to help transform the city’s newly-designated Creative Corridor into an economic engine and national destination.  In a major boost for the corridor, the renowned Cranbrook Educational Community will establish a Detroit presence through a partnership with the Arts League of Michigan. The two organizations will produce joint programming and exhibits with a $1.08 million grant.

Other creative sector grants include:

  • College for Creative Studies ($1.01 million): to join other funders in helping the college create an art and design campus at the new Taubman Center, originally a General Motors design facility. The center is expected to bring 2,000 people to the premises daily. Some 300 college students will live on site, giving the Creative Corridor the live-work spaces it needs to thrive.
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra ($500,000): to expand and diversify its audience by creating a community concert series at places of worship, schools and malls.

“A local economy that attracts talented professionals and fuels growth is key to Detroit’s future,” Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO, said at a press conference today at the Arts League of Michigan’s historic Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center.

“We hope the Creative Corridor will help unleash Detroit’s creative energy and build a new economic foundation that will help the city thrive,” Ibargüen said.

Said Rick Nahm, Cranbrook’s CEO: “Investments in the Creative Corridor will help create a new identity for the city while buffering Detroit against the swings of economic cycles.”

Jobs and Digital Access

In addition to the creative sector grants, Knight Foundation is working to help transform the local economy through jobs and digital access.

A new funder’s collaborative will train workers for the city’s health and green sectors. The group – with a $1.025 million grant from Knight Foundation, support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and managed by the United Way of Southeastern Michigan – will help prepare low-skilled residents for skilled Detroit health care and green economy jobs.

“While unemployment in Detroit is among the highest in the nation, regionally we have found a mismatch of skills and available jobs,” said Brenda Price, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit. “The health sector, the state’s largest employer, and the growing green sector are natural ways to move residents into the knowledge economy.”

Knight Foundation believes that digital access is critical to thriving communities. The blue-ribbon Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy last month concluded that American democracy is threatened by the lack of equal access to quality information. Universal broadband access is key, it said, to meeting the information needs of America's communities.

To that end, the foundation is providing grants to:

  • Detroit Connected Community Initiative ($810,000): to increase high-speed Internet access to two large, low-income Detroit neighborhoods, Central-Woodward-Northend and Osborn-Northeast. Lead partners include The Community Telecommunications Network, Focus: HOPE, 4Cs/Family Place and Matrix Human Services.
  • Detroit Public Library ($866,000): To expand free Internet access to the public at the Parkman Branch library by building a new technology and literacy center. The library will be able to serve an additional 400 patrons a day with access to the Internet and an ever-growing range of activities including job searches and resume building.

“Digital access is essential to first class citizenship in our society.  Without digital, you lack full access to information, you are second class economically and even socially,” Ibargüen said. “If a job application at Walmart or McDonald’s must be made online, how can we pretend that we have equal opportunity when significant portions of our communities don’t have access?”

“Extending broadband access is one of several critical components to revitalizing Midtown and Detroit,” said Jay Noren, president of Wayne State University, a key member of the Community Telecommunications Network that is administering the project.

“By connecting the many participating stakeholders, this project will change lives, uplift
 neighborhoods and help move this great city forward,” Noren said.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

 

Contact: Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; fest@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.