Local redevelopers like Marcus Jones are making a big impact on neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing in Detroit, Michigan through a local initiative backed by JPMorgan Chase.
For Jones, the city of Detroit is full of opportunity. It’s for entrepreneurs, creatives, and anyone looking for a blank canvas where they can make their mark on the city’s comeback. Jones is one of the many people with the passion and drive to rebuild and renew the city.
“I came here with the sole intention to make the city better,” says Jones, entrepreneur, developer and owner of MJ Realty Service. “I wanted to create housing so people can start to reestablish their neighborhoods.”
After the historic bankruptcy in 2013, the city of Detroit had to deal with many homes that were abandoned or severely blighted. Residents in neighborhoods across the city lacked access to basic necessities. But Jones never lost sight of the opportunity in the once booming motor city.
And he wasn’t the only one.
Over the last 10 years, JPMorgan Chase has committed $200 million to the city’s economic recovery. With 90 years of service to the city, the bank recognized the need to work alongside local government officials, organizations and community leaders–like Jones.
Blight was one of the biggest challenges in Detroit, so a big part of JPMorgan Chase’s commitment focused on the city’s outer neighborhoods, many of which lacked access to restaurants, grocery stores, small businesses, and housing.
JPMorgan Chase worked together with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to address these needs and get support into the hands of locals like Jones.
Jones is one of the developers working to rebuild the city’s communities after the city’s economic downturn, and he’s doing it hand-in-hand with local residents. He sees opportunity for affordable housing and community spaces built for Detroiters, by Detroiters.
Upskilling to Revitalize Neighborhoods
Jones’ vision started even before he called Detroit home. While studying science, urban planning and real estate in graduate school, Jones says he fell in love with Detroit because he saw the potential of what it could be.
He also realized that Detroit residents were determined, but needed both quality housing and good jobs if the city was going to continue to recover.
His plan was to not only help rebuild the city, but to train and upskill locals in construction so they too could be a part of the revitalization of the city and the building of a stronger Detroit workforce.
Jones and his business partner launched the Detroit Training Center (DTC) with support from the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, an initiative launched by the Detroit Development Fund and backed by JPMorgan Chase, providing vocational training and certifications for workers who would then be able to get involved in the revitalization of the city.
To give his students real hands-on experience, Jones began to purchase homes across Detroit for them to rehabilitate. Then, in 2016, he launched MJ Construction Service, which hires new graduates and emphasizes sustainable building for new and rehabbed residential and commercial projects.
“We studied how to rebuild in a way that supports people who are already here and how to rebuild neighborhoods in a way that is sustainable,” says Jones.
As DTC grew, it expanded to include heavy construction equipment and offer training and certifications to veterans and the homeless.
Today, it offers even more customized vocational training, connects its graduates to jobs in Detroit, and has plans for new projects in residential, commercial and mixed-use spaces.
Investing in Detroit Long-term
A large part of JPMorgan Chase’s $200 million investment in Detroit’s recovery focused on revitalized neighborhoods and increasing access to affordable housing.
This effort has resulted in 5000 housing units being created or preserved as of 2023, with more affordable housing units expected in the future. JPMorgan Chase also collaborated with Capital Impact Partners to launch the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), which mentors developers like Jones.
“From the onset, we knew that improving access to safe and affordable housing was fundamental to the city’s success,” says Peter Scher, JPMorgan Chase Vice Chairman who led the bank’s investment in Detroit. “It’s one of the critical ways we’re able to help improve family stability and help Detroiters build generational wealth.”
Jones is one of more than 200 local developers that have been trained through EDI programming in the past four years. For Jones, this has helped him continue his work across Detroit, rehabbing more than 50 homes since 2012.
“I think I got lucky that I came to the city at the same time JPMorgan Chase was investing in Detroit,” says Jones. “I’m boots on the ground, working in the neighborhoods, while JPMorgan Chase is making that investment in the city so that other folks will know that Detroit is a place that’s coming back.”
Building a Pipeline for Future Success
Jones’ strategy for neighborhood development has always been to remove the “worst of the worst” properties in the neighborhood that are affecting an otherwise stable environment.
This not only rehabs the abandoned property, but hopefully starts a ripple effect, in which residents see the improvements happening and start to take pride in their block again, so that investment and rehabilitation continues.
“Kids need a stabilized safe block where they’re not walking by blighted homes and they can get to and from school safely,” says Jones.
Jones’ company MJ Realty Service focuses on making homes as sustainable as possible, installing high-efficiency furnaces and hot water tanks so residents are able to keep utility costs low.
“Ten years ago, nobody wanted to be here. Now, you’re seeing Detroit rank on top tourist lists: there’s new restaurants, new developments, and people actually want to come here,” concludes Jones. “It feels good to see what is happening, knowing we’ve got a ways to go. But we’re on the right track.”
And the relationship doesn’t stop after Jones has handed over the keys to the house: his commitment includes making sure the residents are living comfortably throughout the year, providing services such as landscaping, cutting grass and shoveling snow.
Photo of Marcus Jones courtesy of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
This article originally appeared on the JPMorgan Chase website. Reprinted here (with minor edits) by permission.