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Down and Dirty in the D

From a bird's eye view, Detroit is a great place to live, work, write. But from street level, it's pretty clear the city could use a good Swiffering.

So this weekend, a wide swath along Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile will receive the white-glove treatment. It is part of the third annual Clean the D project, and it promises to be another massive effort to get Detroit squeaky, springy clean.

Here's my plan: Show up, remove graffiti, plant some flowers, pick up trash. Get a T-shirt, a picnic lunch and the satisfaction that I'm taking a part of Detroit off the critical list. (Can we include Cass Avenue next year?)

Some background: Clean the D is a partnership between the Woodward Avenue Action Association, the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce and the Eight Mile Boulevard Association. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 10 sites along Woodward and Eight Mile.

Last year, the beautification project had more than 300 volunteers tackling 15 projects with one ton of trash being collected from area streets, graffiti removed from 80 light poles and flower beds being either newly planted or maintained.

I spoke this week with Nicole Brown, Outreach and Promotions Coordinator for the Royal Oak-based Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3). She told me that WA3 has gotten down and dirty around the famous roadway for seven years before starting Clean the D two years ago.

They expanded the project willingly. One of the key areas will be the 6-8 Mile Woodward Business District, a core project for the WA3 and the stakeholders there. This area is getting mucho attention from the city, groups like WA3 and others, Brown said. Some of the physical changes along that stretch are starting to come together, like a $30,000 facelift for the fabulous La Dolce Vita restaurant. Some cleaning along those two miles will go a long way.

For you out-of-towners, Woodward Avenue deserves a little respect. It is home to so many of Detroit's most significant landmarks (the Ford/Highland Park plant, where the $5 a day, minimum wage concept took root, for one).

It also has several impressive designations. It is one of America's Byways and a All-American Road (ranking us among other cool roads such as Route 66 and the Las Vegas strip. Take that, Elvis.) With that All-American status, WA3 has brought home millions of dollars to the region – money that will help communities along the route do physical improvements, invest in regional tourism and boost historic preservation, Brown noted.

“We're working right now to design a framework to give communities a way to save the historic structures within them,” Brown said. “Just because it's a historic landmark doesn't protect it against demolition.”

There are still volunteer opportunities available for individuals and corporate teams at all 10 sites. For more information please call the Woodward Avenue Action Association at 248-288-2004 or visit out the WA3 website.

Rain or shine – hope to see you there!

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