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The Turnaround of Puritan Street - An Update

A follow-up to: "Want to Help Detroit? Grab a Paintbrush..."

Andrea Darnell was thrilled on Saturday with what she and her neighbors had created. A parking lot on Puritan Street was transformed into the Community Pride Festival, a celebration of their turnaround project for this neighborhood in northwest Detroit. And just beyond the gates that contained Saturday's festival, the vision that Darnell set out to achieve was taking form. Mayor Dave Bing was there to salute the grassroots effort. "People don't understand the heart and soul of Detroit," he said, "especially in this community.”

The first step was a giant spring cleaning to set the tone of a new environment. In mid April, nearly 70 volunteers worked to restore the project's target area: the one-mile stretch of Puritan that runs from Wyoming Street to Livernois Avenue. Graffiti, illegal postings and garbage were removed from the area. To keep things tidy, the group tapped donations from community members to hire a maintenance service. The street-cleaners visit Puritan every other week to check if touch-ups are needed. So far, the absence of new graffiti and trash has been striking.

Darnell thinks it's too early to tell whether the clean-up will achieve the larger goal of helping to boost community morale. But another active community member, Carol Campbell, believes change is underway. “Because we came out and made that first initial clean-up, people apparently have been respecting their properties,” Campbell said. “They've been cleaning up a lot of the businesses, and it's just better. And it's going to get even more better.” Future improvements will include banners proclaiming neighborhood pride, as well as five building murals painted by Summer in the City, a community-service program for teenagers.

Aside from celebrating the clean-up, the festival honored leaders who have influenced both the Puritan community and Detroit as a whole. “Right now, we're working with less and needing there to be more,” Darnell said. “We're just called to engagement.” And she hopes that recognizing each leader helped to further engage them. Among those honored was Wayne County Commissioner Keith D. Williams, who has helped with the project, bringing in crews to clean alleys and establishing a budget for the banners. Bing, who was honored as well, seems to be right about the heart and soul. Citizens had few other resources to launch this project, but on this one-mile stretch of Puritan Street, they're actually making progress.

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