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Detroit seeks proposals to re-develop iconic Brewster recreation center

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is looking for plans to re-develop the former Brewster-Wheeler recreation center.

The center is best known as the place where Detroit boxing legends Joe Louis got their start in the sport.

It also served as an important community hub for generations of Detroiters who lived in and around the recently-demolished Brewster-Douglass housing projects.

But it’s fallen into disrepair since it closed in 2006, and was recently added to the city’s demolition list.

Now Mayor Mike Duggan is making a final push to re-develop it instead.

Duggan pitched the idea of a new commercial development that mixes the site’s culture and history with “new and modern uses”—similar to what’s planned for the old Tiger Stadium site.

“We’ve got a plan that embraces most of the original field, remembers the heritage, but also builds modern use around it,” Duggan said. “And so as you rebuild the city, that’s what you try and do.”

Duggan said the city will give the effort “our best shot,” but added: “We’re going to be objective and realistic in what we are doing.”

But some neighborhood residents like Ines Harris say the community still needs a recreation center.

“When I was growing up I was able to stay out of trouble by being in this recreation center every day--playing basketball, swimming, doing something,” Harris said. “That’s one of the problems in the city of Detroit now--these kids don’t have nothing to do.”

Harris part of a group that’s trying to preserve Brewster-Wheeler as a recreation center. The group says it has tentative backing from Joe Louis’s son Joe Louis, Jr., and some non-profit groups, but nothing has been formalized yet.

The city has already launched a competitive bidding process for potential developers. The deadline for bids is 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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