Planet Detroit Article on Canfield Consortium's Alley Activation Work

The Canfield Consortium, a neighborhood organization in East Canfield Village on Detroit’s east side, is one of eight teams across North America awarded funding through the Salazar Center’s Thriving Cities Challenge. The group placed second in the challenge and was awarded $50,000 to “activate” an alleyway in their neighborhood to promote sustainability and improve the quality of life.

The alley, located off Warren Avenue and French Road, is located five blocks west of the Stellantis Mack Assembly Plant. The project will host an expanded rain garden, a council circle, and a community tool shed to start. Canfield Consortium also aims to host a small business as a pilot project which would operate out of a garage or within the alleyway, with a vision of reimagining the alleyway as an incubator space for small businesses using garages that are no longer in use.

“The alley can become a learning phase and a model for what a more circular economy might look like while at the same time making tangible improvements in local environments that matter to people,” said Paul Draus, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan Dearborn who served as an advisor for the project. “Having a safe and beautiful walking path that’s accessible for older people and children becomes appealing to a lot of people.”

The alleyway now features a rain garden and mural. Partners involved with the project include the Canfield Consortium, DAVIS, Draus, and the Wildlife Habitat Council.

Sisters Rhonda and Kim Theus co-founded the Canfield Consortium and grew up in the East Canfield neighborhood. Rhonda Theus told Planet Detroit the area was once a “very thriving and self-sustaining community.” Like many other neighborhoods in the city, disinvestment led to a decline, leading Rhonda and Kim back to their childhood stomping grounds to do something about it.

Canfield Consortium’s mission is to “restore the East Canfield community to a contemporary, healthy, thriving, and inspiring urban community.”

“We deserve a nice quality of life, and we deserve a beautiful neighborhood in which to live. So, that is the foundation of our organization,” Rhonda Theus said.

Korey L. Batey, president of Detroit Ain’t Violent It’s Safe (DAVIS), connected with the Canfield Consortium through his work as a community liaison for the City of Detroit’s alleyway clean-up project. Batey helped the Theuses bring their vision to fruition using experience from other alleyway projects he’s worked on across the city.

DAVIS published a video as a part of the grant submission to help persuade the funding panelists of the project’s “potential to advance climate resilience and racial equity.”

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