News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Detroit to celebrate new Community and Civic Center

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Detroit Lake Community and Civic Center is nearing completion and will hold a grand opening June 4, signifying a major milestone in the area’s recovery from the 2020 wildfires.

Located at 345 Santiam Ave., in Detroit, the grand opening will feature refreshments, games, live entertainment and presentations from community leaders, all for free from 2 to 6 p.m. 

Jamie Dobrowolski, spokesperson for Detroit Lake Foundation, who backed the project, said the opening of the center represents the many ways Detroit has come together during wildfire recovery.

“It’s just a tribute to how strong this community is and how resilient they are,” she said. “It took a lot of different people and different kinds of work and different lifestyles to come together for this kind of work to start to heal and start again.

This opening also coincides with Detroit city administration moving into the center after being relocated to Stayton following the wildfires. 

Mayor Jim Trett said nearing completion of the center is a sign that the community is emerging from the wildfires stronger than before.

“It’s a visual, tangible sign that Detroit isn’t going to go away, it is coming back,” he said. 

“It was a great palace before, and it will be a little bit better than it was.”

Rallying after disaster

During the Santiam Fire in September, 2020, numerous buildings throughout the region were destroyed, including Detroit City Hall. As the area recovered, community organizers identified the need for a civic center that could host community events and centralize services such as city offices and recovery resources.

The Detroit Lake Foundation took the lead and, in March of 2021, acquired the site of the old Detroit High School building. The gym was still standing, and plans were made to add on meeting spaces, offices and other community resources.

Around this time, the Santiam Rebuild Coalition was organized through Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) Construction Alliance. They eventually brought together 70 contractors, construction professionals and non-profits to support the project with donations of labor and materials.

Leading the was Rich Duncan Construction, of Salem, who also acted as general contractor. Also instrumental were Owen Construction, of Salem, David’s Masonry, of Salem, Northside Electric, of Salem, Allied Rock, of Stayton, Siegmund Excavation & Construction, of Stayton, and Withers Lumber, of Silverton.

The general public was also given an opportunity to support the project through the purchase of engraved bricks to pave the entryway. These bricks could carry personalized messages such as the donor’s names or words of hope, and opportunities to purchase bricks remain with small bricks sold for $150 and large bricks sold for $300.

City Hall, RFPD moving in

With the building ready for occupants, Detroit City Hall has started the process of moving in. City staff plan to be operating out of the building full-time by May 31, when their lease for their current office in Stayton runs out.

Trett said residents can expect a return of full services out of the new building, from accepting utility payments to City Council meetings. He said city staff are excited to again work from Detroit, as they have been away from the city for too long.

“We want to get home, we’ve wanted to get home for quite a while now, get back to holding meetings in our own home,” he said.

After city administrators move into the new facility, the city will manage and operate the building with plans to eventually receive ownership of the property from Detroit Lake Foundation. The city will also play a role in helping determine what types of programs operate out of the building, such as a potential tool library, a food pantry, and a resource center for wildfire recovery.

In addition to Detroit City Hall, the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District will have space in the center to house a fire engine and a brush rig so volunteers in Detroit could staff a vehicle locally rather than traveling first to the fire station in Idanha. The district is additionally in the first stages of planning for a new fire station in Idanha using a $2.4 million grant.

More features to come

Even though the civic center is ready to occupy, some work remains including the addition of a commercial kitchen and wifi routers to provide free internet to guests. Dobrowolski said this would help make the center “a true community space” able to host potlucks, weddings and similar events.

“It just opens it up to a lot more versatility, and we are actively seeking grants to cover those expenses,” she said.

She said the Santiam Rebuild Coalition will continue to spearhead efforts to acquire funding for expansion, adding the labor and materials are ready and waiting and just need the right resources to be mobilized.

After this last phase of planned construction is completed, Dobrowolski said they will spend time making sure City Hall, the fire district and community members are getting what they need from the facility. If anything needs to be added or adjusted, the foundation will make plans to do so as time goes on.

The ‘unity’ in community

Dobrowolski added, during the June 4 grand opening, community members will be able to hear from foundation members and other community organizers who helped make the center possible. Other guest speakers will include Marion County commissioners and representatives of groups that have provided grants and other resources.

Foundation President Davis Evenson said so many people and groups coming together to help their community rebuild is a sign that Detroit residents know how to support each other during a crisis.

“This finished project is a representation of the amount of strength and resilience the Detroit community embodies,” said Evenson. “Mother Nature tried to knock us out, but we were merely knocked down. Together, we got back up and will continue to thrive.”

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