5 projects along 8 Mile to bridge more than a geographical divide

Decades. It has been decades of residents fighting the idea that 8 Mile Road is a symbol of social and racial, as well as geographic, division.  

Often encouraged by the 8 Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA), residents on both sides of the road made globally famous by the Eminem film, have formed friendships as they work to revitalize and improve the quality, safety, and visual aesthetics. For almost 30 years, the 8MBA has pulled together and funded groups who see Detroit and the suburbs north of the road as a collaborative set of communities with a shared set of goals for the future.

To continue that mission, the association recently awarded a total of $25,000 to five projects that touch both sides of 8 Mile Road and could have a lasting positive impact on the neighborhoods involved. The projects include a mural, urban gardens, signage, and a community newsletter. 

8 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. Photo by Nick Hagen.

Funding for the grants came from 8MBA’s 2021 networking events and a contribution from Consumers Energy.

The winning projects are: 
  • A mural installation at 8 Mile and Greenfield Roads – Oak Park-Southfield Joint Mural Project ($22,500)
  • "Lots of Love" Garden Project – O'Hair Park Community Association ($1,000)
  • "Farwell Community Garden Upgrades" – Binder Street Block Club O&R ($1,000)
  • "Love and Respect Where You Live" Signage Campaign – Community United for Progress ($900)
  • "Community Newsletter and Beautification" – Evergreen-Lahser Seven-Eight Mile Road Community Council ($510)
The February call for project ideas resulted in three times the amount of requests the association could fund, so competition was significant. Oak Park and Southfield beat out two other applicants, which the association says they appreciated, but needed further details and planning to be successful. Runners-up were encouraged to reapply.  

“[The other projects were] amazing, but would not fit in the allotted time,” says Jordan Twardy, past chair of the 8MBA, who served during the project selection. 

To create the mural, the cities plan to hire an artist to design the concept and possibly another to do the actual painting, depending on the time limits of the talent. The grant also includes materials, permits, and safety precautions to keep any artists safe during production.

E’Lois Moore, president of the Binder Street Block Club, chose to use the money to hire youth to help tend and care for an existing garden, which sits directly across from Ferndale. Neighborhood volunteers currently tend to the garden. By bringing in young people to help, Moore sees an opportunity to pass on pride, civic responsibility, and skills to a new generation.

“I’d love to hire children and teach them how to plant,” she says.

Moore says the garden also plays a special role in the neighborhood by helping provide more nutritious food. “The garden is open to the community,” says Moore. “This garden will provide people to eat healthier by eating fresh fruits and vegetables out of the garden.”

While some of the neighborhoods were initially opposed to the grant, Moore says she was able to change minds. Along with the block club, she had worked with community stakeholders previously, and some even reached out to her about the grant.

Dorthey Menefee, president of the Evergreen-Lahser Seven-Eight Mile Road Community Council, was alerted to the grant opportunity by the office of James Tate, her city councilman. Their project will plant flowers in three locations along 8 Mile at the corner of Lahser, Burt, and Evergreen Roads.
“We hope it will mean something to the people there,” says Menefee. All the flowers and plants will come from local growers when possible. They are considering bringing in some from locations like Eastern Market.

The Community Council will also create a newsletter to bring attention to local businesses on 8 Mile Road.

Currently, the 8MBA has another grant project underway and will open a call for submissions later this year.

8 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. Photo by Nick Hagen.
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