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Detroit Considers Community Benefit Agreements for Megaprojects

As developers plan city-saving projects like a billion-dollar bridge to Canada, Detroit residents demand that tangible benefits go to their communities. City council may pass an ordinance to that effect.
March 26, 2015, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Angela Anderson-Cobb

Detroit has recently become the focus of a number of high-dollar redevelopment projects, and hype abounds about the city's open future. For residents still living in what remains of "old Detroit," these projects can be a mixed blessing. Alexis Stephens reports on the movement for community benefits agreements (CBAs). "For new projects with an investment of at least $15 million, expansions or renovations of at least $3 million, or projects seeking at least $300,000 in public tax subsidies, developers would have to create legally binding documents guaranteeing jobs or quality-of-life protections for the community [...]"

Stephens interviews Rashida Tlaib, a past Michigan State Representative and current community partnerships and development director for the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice. According to Tlaib, "Many of the community residents had recognized that saying no to the projects wasn't working anymore and trying to get a seat at the table would be a better option."

Tlaib argues that previous attempts to include community voices foundered as electoral sponsors rotated out of office. A mandatory CBA requirement might begin to address the problem. "We are embedding it into a Detroit ordinance, [because] I think it was just critical. I think Council President Jones hit it on the head when she said, 'Look, when I’m gone, I want something in place so we’re not always relying on trying to reeducate people that are coming into office.'"

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Published on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in Next City
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