By MJ Galbraith
December 8, 2014
Like so many of their neighbors, Tom Goddeeris and his wife were sort of recruited to move to Grandmont Rosedale. It's the type of community where a house hits the market and neighboring residents immediately begin to call their friends and family. It's the type of community where houses don't stay on the market too long. The five neighborhoods that make up Grandmont Rosedale—Rosedale Park, North Rosedale Park, Minock Park, Grandmont, and Grandmont #1—are distinct from each other, yet understand that what benefits Grandmont Rosedale as a whole benefits each individual neighborhood.
The Goddeeris family didn't need much convincing to buy a house in Grandmont Rosedale. There are the beautiful houses, each one with its own unique design and build, which certainly pleased then-architect Tom. There's the family-friendly reputation the neighborhoods have earned over the decades. Goddeeris says, too, that Grandmont Rosedale's being a racially-integrated community played a big role in their purchasing a home in 1991. Grandmont Rosedale has held steady over all these years, attracting as many homebuyers as ever before.
“It's kind of like when I bought my house here 25 years ago,” says Goddeeris. “Homebuyers are looking for a diverse neighborhood, a strong community feel, and they're attracted by the high quality houses you can buy at an affordable price. Over half of our buyers in the last few years are actually people moving into Detroit, whereas if you went back 10 or 15 years, our typical buyer would be someone moving from one neighborhood in Detroit to Grandmont Rosedale.”
This is not to say that Grandmont Rosedale isn't subject to the same maladies as any other neighborhood; it's just been able to better manage threats to neighborhood stability like chronic vacancies and blight through a very proactive approach. The idea of Grandmont Rosedale as one continuous community is a result, in part, of the formation of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation
in 1989. Community-led efforts to board up houses, cut lawns, and get people in houses existed well before the community development corporation, but it was the GRDC that united an area roughly 2.25 square miles in size containing five neighborhoods, 5,500 houses, and 14,000 residents. The GRDC pushed the idea that what's good for one neighborhood is good for the others.
Tom Goddeeris was hired by the GRDC shortly after moving to the neighborhood in 1991. Since then, he's led the GRDC as its executive director, slowly but steadily establishing the organization as one of the most effective CDCs in the city, one that other CDCs look to for inspiration. Goddeeris has accomplished this through a number of programs and initiatives that have aggressively addressed threats to neighborhood stability, like a very successful home rehabilitation program. Goddeeris credits much of this success to his predecessors for establishing the CDC when they did, before residents and businesses had already left the community. Rather than working to re-build a neighborhood, the GRDC was able to work to preserve theirs.
“When I started here, there probably weren't more than a couple dozen vacant houses in the whole five neighborhoods, and then we got to the point where there were almost no vacant houses,” says Goddeeris. “And then we ran into the great recession and foreclosure crisis around 2007 and 2008 and the issue of vacant property became a much bigger issue for us.”
The GRDC's initial mission was to fight vacancy and blight, purchasing vacant homes, renovating them, and selling them to new residents. Of the 100 houses the GRDC has purchased to rehabilitate and put up for sale, 50 of those have come after 2009. The houses sell fast and real estate value in Grandmont Rosedale continues to slowly rise. The GRDC spends the money to ensure that each house is renovated with quality in mind, using grant money to break even on many of the sales. Another program assists existing homeowners in funding home improvements.
Before the great recession, Goddeeris broadened the GRDC's focus to include commercial development, park improvements, and community building. Those efforts continue on in addition to the renewed focus on fixing and selling homes. The group recently celebrated a major overhaul of Stoepel Park and the grand opening of Grand River WorkPlace, a co-working space and small business incubator.
“I think today that a lot of people in the city recognize the importance of a neighborhood like this for stabilizing the city as a whole,” says Goddeeris. “It's a combination of being both a reliable, successful organization but also fitting into a bigger strategy that makes sense for the city.”
All photos by Doug Coombe.