Community Benefits Agreements

By LaToya Morgan – CDAD Public Policy Manager & Aaron Goodman – CDAD Community Outreach Associate


CDAD has identified Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) as a policy priority area.  Community Benefits Agreements are a necessary tool to facilitate thriving communities as Detroit goes through a revitalizing and rebuilding era.  CDAD supports the creation of CBA’s throughout the city where large scale change is occurring that will impact resident quality of life, and when public tax dollars are being used in new developments.  These agreements are an opportunity to change the development paradigm in the city of Detroit that creates mutually beneficial change.


Benefits of CBA’s[1]:


  • Community benefits tools maximize returns on local government investment in development.
  • Community benefits programs can transform regions through stronger, more equitable economies.
  • Community benefits help generate public support for economic development projects.
  • Delivering community benefits is smart business.
  • CBAs hold developers accountable for their promises to local governments and residents.
  • Public input results in better projects that benefit the whole community and attract local customers.
  • Community benefits are part of a smart growth agenda.
  • Time is money, and projects with CBAs often enjoy a faster, smoother entitlement process.


For more information on Community Benefits Agreements in general and in Detroit please visit the following resources:

Partnership for Working Families: Community Benefits Agreements and Policies

National Survey of Community Benefits Agreements in Place

Equitable Detroit Coalition Panel on Community Benefits Agreements, May 14 2013


Currently, there are several groups in Detroit working to establish Community Benefits Agreements in conjunction with planned developments in the City.  Below is brief synopsis of some ongoing efforts to gain community benefits agreements.


Proposed new NHL hockey arena and accompanying development in the lower Cass Corridor

Plans were unveiled in 2013 for a new $650 million development in the area between downtown and midtown.  This includes the building of a new home for the Detroit Red Wings and a surrounding 45 block entertainment district that the Detroit City Council recently approved to be included in the expanded Downtown Development Authority (DDA) district.  About $285 million of this development will be paid for by public funds via the DDA.  Several community groups, including Corridors Alliance and the People’s Platform have called on the City Council to establish a framework for a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with this development.  Specifically, these groups are requesting that any of the necessary land transfers for this project be made contingent on the creation of Community Steering Committee that is representative of the affected communities and is empowered to negotiate the terms of a Community Benefits Agreement with the developer, Olympia Development of Michigan.

City Council is expected to take action on this proposal at the end of the month, and Council Members Mary Sheffield (District 5) and Raquel Castañeda-López (District 6) are hosting a community meeting this week about the arena development:

When: Wednesday, January 15th
6:00-8:00 pm

Where: Allied Media Projects
4126 Third St
Detroit, MI 48201

Come get an update on the proposed hockey arena, ask questions, and discuss the creation of a community steering committee.

Please direct all event questions, comments, and concerns to: Jeffrey Nolish, Policy Analyst / Community Advocate Office of Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López 313-224-3015 ·

This event is free and open to the public
Parking lot and street parking available

More information on the proposed arena Community Steering Committee:

MLive: Plans for $650 million Detroit Red Wings arena and entertainment district unveiled

MLive: City Council gives partial go-ahead to proposed Detroit Red Wings arena amid public opposition

Corridors Alliance Letter to City Council requesting Community Steering Committee and CBA


Read more about other CBA efforts Detroit here: [AG1]


New International Trade Crossing (NITC) in Delray, Southwest Detroit

The announcement in 2012 of an agreement between Canada and Michigan to build a New International Trade Crossing (NITC) linking Detroit and Windsor was the culmination of over a decade of rumors and speculation on the future of a new bridge in Southwest Detroit.   Throughout this time, the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, a community-initiated organization with an elected community board and over 250 members, has been working on behalf of residents and other community stakeholders to identify the community’s needs for mutually beneficial development in exchange for hosting the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project.

Southwest Detroit already hosts a number of transportation projects and heavy industries.  As a result, residents bear many negative environmental burdens including heavy truck traffic, illegal dumping, and air and noise pollution. To date, the NITC project has not adequately assessed specific impacts on the immediate community or the cumulative impacts that will result from adding another large transportation development to the area.  The Community Benefits Coalitions is seeking to negotiate a binding CBA to ensure that the community receives proper mitigation from the impacts of the bridge and also to secure benefits for Delray and the City of Detroit in the form of sustainable redevelopment.

More information on the NITC:

Free Press: Delray neighborhood residents have mixed reactions as new bridge project moves forward

Metro Times: Bridge fight hardly over

Find out more about the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition


The West Grand Boulevard Collaborative Community Coalition (WGBC) and Henry Ford Hospital

The West Grand Boulevard Collaborative Community Coalition (WGBC3) is composed organizations and residents that live and work in a neighborhood located just outside of the Midtown area in Detroit.  Midtown is one of the few sections of Detroit experiencing population growth and is a focal point of economic development plans.  West Grand is a neighborhood of modest homes and dedicated residents but is also an area pocketed with entrenched poverty.   Upon learning of the proposed construction of a large Henry Ford Hospital medical warehouse abutting their community, the WGBC3 voiced support for the project, but sought a dialogue with developers to address community concerns. This development is the first of what will be a multi-million dollar investment in the neighborhood by Henry Ford Health System. In response to concerns about the project, in late 2012 Detroit City Council passed a unanimous resolution in support of a CBA between Henry Ford Health System, developers, and WGBC3. Unfortunately since that time, progress towards an agreement has stalled.

Since 2004, WGBC3 has brought together local residents, organizations, and stakeholders to uplift and stabilize the West Grand Boulevard community at the highest level of safety and aesthetic appeal, and to enhance and support good stewardship of natural resources.

More information:

West Grand Boulevard Collaborative

Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit Newsletter, January 2013

Sugar Law Center: Community Benefits for Stronger Michigan Communities


Equitable Detroit Coalition and Whole Foods Market

When the Whole Foods Market announced its plans to open a store in Detroit in 2013, many were excited that a national chain grocer would be in the city for the first time in many years.  That it was a natural foods grocery with an expensive reputation locating in Midtown also raised concerns of community groups and food justice activists.  Would a store that had earned the nick name “Whole Paycheck” be too expensive for most Detroiters, doing nothing to improve much needed access to healthy and fresh foods for low-income community members?  Would the new store’s presence follow it’s pattern in other cities of accelerating development pressure and rising real estate prices in Midtown, driving out long-time residents just as new services are raising the quality of life and desirability of the neighborhood?  With the new store benefitting from several million dollars in city tax subsidies, would there be jobs with decent wages for Detroiters?  Finally, Detroit already had a burgeoning and vibrant local food economy filled with many aspiring local entrepreneurs, growers, and producers.  Would Whole Foods become unfair competition to local businesses who labored to succeed without the benefit of tax breaks or would the store help support and ultimately grow Detroit’s food economy?

These are just some of the questions that led to the formation of the Equitable Detroit Coalition by members of the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, Building Movement Detroit, Great Lakes Bioneers, MOSES, and others.  The coalition directly engaged with Whole Foods leadership, who were open to the dialogue, to ensure that Detroiters who have persevered through many tough years now stood to benefit from the investment of their tax dollars in the new store.  This collaboration between the Equitable Detroit Coalition and Whole Foods has led to tangible benefits for the community, although it falls short of a negotiated Community Benefits Agreement.

Through the engagement with Equitable Detroit, Whole Food increased their commitment to local jobs resulting from the new store from 35 to 110, 70% of which are Detroiters.  The store also committed to promoting local food businesses and working with entrepreneurs to improve their products so that they have an opportunity to be sold at the store.  The coalition also notes successes in the nutrition education and outreach work that Whole Foods has been doing and their overall efforts to make the store relevant to the economically and culturally to the greater community beyond Midtown.  They have measured their efforts against the question of how do Detroiters across the city benefit from the Whole Foods market?

Equitable Detroit Coalition’s experience of negotiating for community benefits with a corporation was an innovative process.  While there are still areas where coalition members feels the store could do better they look forward to continued engagement and dialogue.  Furthermore there are hopes that this experience can serve to inform an emerging model for negotiated Community Benefits Agreements attached to future development projects in the Detroit.


More information about the Equitable Detroit Coalition and their work with Whole Foods can be found here:

Salon: How is Whole Foods Thriving in Detroit?

[1] Partnership for Working Families,,  Policy and Tools: Community Benefits Agreements and Policies




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