Annual Letter from the President & CEO

Dear Partners and Neighbors of Eastside Community Network,

I am honored to return to Eastside Community Network and humbled to succeed Maggie DeSantis as President and CEO. Much has changed in the almost 20 years between my service as Deputy Director for Programs at Warren/Connor Development Coalition and my current appointment. Parts of the lower eastside are challenged by vacancy, blight and divestment, even as others are experiencing a resurgence beyond anything we dared imagine in 1997.

Detroit's riverfront is beautiful and vibrant, Belle Isle is restored as a shining gem in our community, new housing and retail space has been developed in pockets of our community, including the Jefferson Corridor and West Village.

Over the years Eastside Community Network has been a key partner to community development initiatives, including sponsorship of impactful programs and organizations, new retail centers, new parks, new green developments and new seed funding for resident-based projects. We are proud to have sponsored creation of the Mack-Alter Square and development of the Wow! Gas station; to partner in the development of Mack-Ashland multi-family housing; to catalyze the development of the Chandler Park Conservancy, which will create a state-of-the-art park right in our community. We are most proud of our investment in forming a Lower Eastside Action Plan that convened community partners to reimagine and influence reclamation and reuse of abundant parcels of vacant land and provide a cohesive vision for community growth and development. 

YES, we support strengthening the availability of quality, affordable housing and YES, we support vibrant commercial retail in our communities. But YES, we also believe in the power and value green re-development - of removing broken buildings and replacing them with pocket parks, flower gardens, urban farms, agri-businesses, and well-landscaped greenways. YES, we support new businesses locating in our community. YES, we support the power of the people on the lower eastside to control their own land and develop their lots. And we advocate to ensure local benefits from any new development, including hiring of local residents, using environmental and design best practices, and ensuring affordability within local markets.

As President and CEO of ECN, I commit to continuing the work of Maggie DeSantis and our many community partners; to be a voice for Eastside residents, ensuring that our principles of practice, the goals and objectives of our LEAP plan, and the needs of our resident, business and institutional stakeholders are both honored and respected. I also commit to ensuring that the changes we envision for our broader community are reflected in all that we do with our youth, our families, and our seniors - creating healthier homes, enhanced access to community resources, increased opportunities for jobs and new business development, and greater access to resources that encourage college and career success.

I look forward to working with you. We are stronger together.


Yours in Partnership,

Donna Givens Williams