For more than two decades, Jeffrey Ramsey has been a leader in revitalizing the neighborhood in which he has lived his entire life.
As executive director of Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, Ramsey has created public and private sector collaborations that have led the Near West Side neighborhood to prosper. It’s evident in the district’s 33 new businesses, its 502 new jobs, its large restoration projects, including the Capital Theater, and the area’s ongoing development. But where Ramsey’s true innovation and leadership play a role is in the neighborhoods.
Ramsey has helped develop affordable housing and foster the growth of the private housing market in the area. From 1990 to 2004, DSCDO collaborated with other nonprofit organizations to build and restore 500 housing units. The projects laid the foundation for future growth, evident in the fact that from 2004 to 2007, the neighborhood led Cleveland in new housing starts, the majority of which were by private-sector developers.
Ramsey’s innovation led DSCDO to create programs to address the recent foreclosure crisis, including developing the Westside Housing Center, a collaboration among eight nonprofit organizations that addresses foreclosure prevention, homeownership education, home repairs and financial literacy. Under Ramsey’s direction, DSCDO also created a program to address vacant and abandoned homes, an effort that has rehabilitated 54 homes and led to $4 million in investments.
Ramsey knows he can’t revitalize the neighborhood alone. In order for DSCDO to be competitive among community development corporations in attracting good talent, he has created a culture that allows employees to contribute both to the success of the organization and of the area.
One of the major ideas that he has implemented is annual performance plans and employee evaluations. The performance measures allow employees to feel empowered in guiding the organization’s vision and adding creativity and innovation to DSCDO projects. The goal is to develop new ideas that will add to the more than $500 million invested in the neighborhood so far during Ramsey’s tenure.