Central Detroit Christian revitalizing north end one property at a time

When people talk about the “rebirth of Detroit,” they tend to picture the downtown or Midtown areas. But Lisa Johanon sees it differently.

“Detroit is surrounded by a bunch of neighborhoods where stuff is happening, and that’s where we’re really seeing a rebirth in people and in communities – and that’s where it counts,” she said.

Johanon is the Executive Director of Central Detroit Christian (CDC) Community Development, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering people and creating opportunities in Detroit’s north end. IFF helped finance the CDC’s recently opened new headquarters, which re-purposed a vacant church in the neighborhood.

The CDC is no stranger to buying, rehabbing, and removing blight in the neighborhood – the organization owns and manages more than 30 properties within its 24-block territory and has grappled with complex and creative financing packages to transform these properties and, along with them, the community. According to Johanon, their goal is to have zero abandoned and vacant homes in their area, and they have about 24 buildings left to go.

“Amazingly, removing blighted properties is just one of the things CDC is working on,” said Kirby Burkholder, President of IFF’s Social Impact Accelerator. “They own about a dozen businesses that are putting people to work in the neighborhood. They serve hundreds of kids every week. And they provide access to high-quality, affordable housing. They are truly working on community transformation.”

The new CDC headquarters will house all of the organization’s youth and family programming and housing counseling services, as well as classroom space for their Pathways to Promise pre-school and a Wayne State Medical Clinic. Among its amenities are a full-court gymnasium, dining area, and central multi-purpose room in the former sanctuary space.

“We are going from 3,000 square feet to more than 38,000 square feet, so this is a huge change for us,” Johanon said. “That means we’ll have all of our programs and offices under one roof for the first time in CDC’s 23-year history. That’s huge. And to be in newly renovated space doesn’t hurt morale either.

“Working with IFF has been a pleasure,” she continues. “I will always shout IFF’s praises – super easy to work with, very accommodating, and very helpful at every turn.”

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