Welcome to the Neighborhood
Detroit’s Brightmoor volunteers transforming life in the city; residents making key connections in building westside community
A trip to the nearest grocery store was two miles away and hardly convenient.
Getting around wasn’t easy. Only one in three residents in the neighborhood own a car.
In every direction were reminders of blight.
Something had to be done.
"We saw a need for change,” said Brittany Bradd, executive director, Brightmoor Artisans Collective, a group of residents and volunteers cleaning up the neighborhood on Detroit’s westside. "There was a lot of blight, questionable activity going on, and too many kids weren’t engaged (positively)."
Today’s Brightmoor neighborhood has made major strides in cleaning up the blight, engaging local residents and students, and building a sense of community.
After residents formed Neighbors Building Brightmoor in 2009, a local group of artisans went to work, refurbishing and renovating those buildings that were salvageable. Subsequent to their success in “beautifying the neighborhood,” Brightmoor Artisans Collective set their sights on making sure residents had more immediate access to a healthy range of food.
"No matter the time of year, we wanted everyone in the community to stay connected and have healthier diets," said Bradd.
Among the result of their collective effort is the establishment of a neighborhood food hub, supported by a crowdfunding campaign through Public Space Community Places, including a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The fundraising campaign goal was reached in January 2016.
The renovated facility includes a commercial kitchen with a walk-in refrigerator/freezer, large sinks, prep tables, stove, ovens, and accessories, including cooking utensils, pots, and pans. "It's the total package when it comes to sustaining fresh local food operation,” said Nate Scramlin, senior community assistance team specialist, MEDC. "People grow it there, prepare it there, and sell it in the neighborhood."
The renovated kitchen at the food hub is also a place where people are making connections.
"We see a lot of families come in together,” said Bradd. “Sometimes a mother or dad runs the kitchen while their kids are in one of our day camps. It's all connected."
Food education is a big part of the Brightmoor Artisans Collective's vision. Education classes are available for residents to learn how to cook meals with the fresh food. For some of the classes, younger residents design and print menus and recipes. The kitchen is shared with Motown Meals, a six-week series that offers instructions to residents on how to prepare simple, low-cost meals.
The positive changes over the last 10 years has been the recipe for a striking and promising transformation in the Brightmoor neighborhood.
Where there were once vacant fields and abandoned homes, there are gardens, parks and vigilance to keep the neighborhood clean.
Today, buying fresh groceries is just a short trip down the block. And, while residents are out of their homes and shopping, they’re showing that Brightmoor has the most important ingredient in sustaining a community – people.
Said Bradd, “It's amazing to see people getting out to see what the neighborhood has to offer now."
Brightmoor Farmers Market is open 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Fridays, June-October. An artisan café will open in April.