Hubbard Richard's Transformation: Earning the Spirit of Detroit Award 2023

On October 31st, 2023, my wife Jen and I moved from Washington, DC to her home grounds in Michigan. Since landing, we've gotten tremendously involved in our Hubbard Richard neighborhood, District 6, and the City of Detroit at large.

Jen has proudly taken her place on the Hubbard Richard Resident Association (HRRA) board, and together, we've become pillars in this vibrant association.

Some of those things that I've personally been a part of are listed below, as well as on my LinkedIn page:

  • As an official Detroit Mural Hunter, photographed and submitted 12 mural sites to the City of Detroit's Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE) Mural Map.
  • Helped local businesses and property owners improve their sidewalks, landscaping, online shopping carts
  • Helped plan, fundraise, install, document (photos and time lapse video), maintain, & dismantle a decorative pinwheel garden at multiple neighborhood locations
  • Helped reorganize the weight training room at Clemente Center | City of Detroit for better flow and ease of use
  • Located and submitted tree planting requests to the City of Detroit and Greening of Detroit for over 180 addresses to enhance air and sound quality and help increase property values, which lead to over 130 new city berm trees getting planted with more on the way
  • Opened Improve Detroit app support tickets to report blight violations, blocked basins, curbside solid waste, illegal dump sites, park issues, potholes/sinkholes, roadway debris, a snow removal issue, streetlights down/out, traffic sign/signal issues, tree issues, vacant lot cutting, and water main breaks
  • Provided updates and recommendations for the Hubbard Richard page on the City of Detroit’s The Neighborhoods website
  • Regularly participate in community meetings and events
  • Reported over 120 blight violations (tall grass/weeds and debris) plus a sidewalk damage issue to the City of Detroit
  • Reported multiple instances of lights out on the Ambassador Bridge
  • Supported beautification by pruning trees/bushes during Motor City Make Over and at our biannual Stanton Park cleanup days

We've heard Mayor Duggan say at a community meeting that the areas in the city that are the strongest have the best neighborhood associations and block clubs. That certainly seems to be the case with our neighborhood. Just in the short amount of time Jen and I have been here, the neighborhood has improved tremendously thanks to all the work we've put in synergistically with our neighbors.

Today marked a memorable moment, as the City Council acknowledged our collective efforts, bestowing upon us the prestigious City of Detroit award.

District 6 City Council Member Gabriella Santiago Romero presents the Spirit of Detroit Award to the Hubbard Richard Residents Association
District 6 City Council Member Gabriella Santiago Romero presents the Spirit of Detroit Award on behalf of City Council to the Hubbard Richard Residents Association. Pictured from left to right are Council Member Gabriella Santiago Romero, Board Member Cinthya Casillas, Board President Sam Butler, Board Member Jennifer Giroux, and active HRRA resident member Jaacob Bowden.

About the Spirit of Detroit Award

The "Spirit of Detroit'" award is more than just a recognition; it's a tribute from the City of Detroit to those who've made remarkable contributions to its citizens.

Hubbard Richard Resident Association's 2023 Sprit Of Detroit Award

The award takes its name from the iconic "Spirit of Detroit" statue located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit. This statue, created by Marshall Fredericks, is an iconic symbol of Detroit and depicts a large seated figure holding a family in one hand and a golden orb (representing God) in the other.

The award is typically given to individuals, organizations, or events that have exemplified the values and spirit of the Detroit community. The criteria can vary, but it often includes acts of kindness, significant contributions to the well-being of the community, or notable accomplishments that bring positive attention to the city.

Throughout the years, a variety of recipients, including celebrities, athletes, organizations, and everyday citizens, have been honored with this award for their contributions to Detroit's community and culture.

Looking Ahead

For us, it's not about accolades, but rather the genuine love and commitment we all feel for our neighborhood. Being recognized with such a distinguished award only adds to our motivation. The journey has been incredible so far, and we're more energized than ever to continue our transformative work.

Golf Fest 2023 And A Day with JTA Realtors at Chandler Park Golf Course

It was great to be asked back for Golf Fest 2023 as part of the JTA Realtors team!

Jaacob Bowden and the JTA Realtors team at Golf Fest 2023, Chandler Park Golf Course

With it being partly cloudy, 81 degrees, and approximately 9 mph winds, the weather made for a fantastic day out at Chandler Park Golf Course, and included:

  • Eating from food trucks
  • Playing golf
  • Enjoying happy hour with signature cocktails inspired by Grey Ghost, Basan, and Second Best with sounds by DJ Blab Golf
  • Having a strolling BBQ dinner featuring grill masters Jermond Booze, Davante Burnely, and Fried Chicken & Caviar

A Big Thank You To The Sponsors

Thanks so much to the sponsors who generously supported the event benefitting Detroit Achievement Academy and Detroit Prep. Without their contributions, the event would not have been possible. It was privilege to partake with each one of you.

About Detroit Achievement Academy & Detroit Prep

"Detroit Achievement Academy and Detroit Prep are free public charter schools serving 700 kindergarten - eighth grade students, and exist to holistically support the education and development of students who have the determination, drive, and skills to shape their own path of high achievement with the ultimate goal of creating civically engaged, joyful citizens who are ready to change the world. 

Our school buildings are integral in living out our mission to serve thousands of Detroit students, but are an enormous investment. We believe that a joyful, student-centered space in which to learn and play should not be a privilege associated with socioeconomic status or zip code. We also believe that being responsible neighbors is also really important. We have a longstanding goal to be intentionally enmeshed with the neighborhood and to serve as active sites for our community to gather. Detroit Prep’s building was sitting empty for ten years before we brought it back to life. Detroit Achievement Academy’s building will have a state-of-the-art gymnasium and performance space that will be used by community groups, recreation leagues, and city organizations like Detroit PAL. We are not just schools in neighborhoods; we seek to be assets who add stabilization and value to our neighborhoods."

For more information about Golf Fest 2023, visit the visit the official page.

Interested in booking celebrity professional golfer Jaacob Bowden for a golf outing?

Join Jaacob for an experience to remember!

INVESTMENT: Starting at $20,000/day

TRAVELS FROM: Detroit, Michigan, USA

Jennifer Giroux
+1 833 988 3951


Reviving Detroit's Legacy: The Journey to Reclaim the 'City of Trees' Nickname

Many people know Detroit as the "Motor City", but Detroit was also once referred to as the "City of Trees" because of the city's extensive boulevard system and the many trees that once lined its streets and parks.

This nickname and its reputation can be traced back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In the late 1800s, Detroit began a significant boulevard construction effort. Under the leadership of people like Mayor Hazen S. Pingree, the city undertook extensive efforts to beautify the streets and add green spaces. Pingree, who served as mayor from 1890 to 1897, was also known for his tree-planting initiatives. He believed that trees could enhance the city's beauty and improve public health. As a result, thousands of trees were planted throughout Detroit during his tenure.

In the early 1900s, the city's broad avenues and streets were lined with trees, and its numerous parks were lush with greenery, earning it the "City of Trees" nickname.

Contributing Factors of Detroit's Tree Loss

However, between 1950 and 1980, its estimated that around 500,000 trees were lost due to a variety of factors that included:

  • Dutch Elm Disease: In the mid-20th century, Dutch Elm Disease, a devastating tree disease, hit North America. This disease ravaged American elm trees, which were commonly used in urban landscapes across many U.S. cities, including Detroit. The disease led to the removal of thousands of trees in the city.

  • Urban Development: The expansion and development of the city also meant that many trees were removed to make way for roads (Ex. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956), buildings, and other infrastructure. This is a typical story for many cities undergoing rapid growth and industrialization.

  • Economic Decline and Population Loss: The latter half of the 20th century was marked by significant economic decline in Detroit, especially with the evolution of the auto industry. This shift led to population loss, abandoned properties, and reduced maintenance. Overgrown and dead trees were often not cared for, and some fell or were removed due to safety concerns.

  • Lack of Replanting Efforts: A combination of dwindling city finances and other pressing priorities meant that tree replanting was not always a focus for the city.

In the early 2000s to mid 2010s, even more trees were lost due to the Emerald Ash Borer.

Decade Population Notes
1701 Around 100 Detroit founded
1800 1,650
1810 2,211
1820 1,422
1830 2,222
1840 9,102
1850 21,019
1860 45,619
1870 79,577
1880 116,340
1890 205,877
1900 285,704 Ford Motor Company founded in 1903
1910 465,766
1920 993,678
1930 1,568,662
1940 1,623,452
1950 1,849,568 Dutch elm disease and, all in 1956, Ford moved Admin HQ to Dearborn, the last Detroit Streets Railway streetcar was shut down and many tracks were eventually paved over, and the Federal Aid High Act passed which lead to the federal interstate system beginning to be built through Detroit
1960 1,670,144 Dutch elm disease, federal interstate system built through Detroit
1970 1,514,063 Dutch elm disease, federal interstate system built through Detroit
1980 1,203,368 Greening of Detroit founded in 1989
1990 1,027,974
2000 951,270 Emerald Ash Borer disease detected in 2002
2010 713,777 Emerald Ash Borer disease
2020 639,115

Reforesting the City

In recent years, however, there have been concerted efforts to reforest and rejuvenate Detroit's urban canopy. Several organizations and community groups like Greening of Detroit (founded in 1989) have engaged in tree planting events, aiming to restore the value of trees in the city.

Benefits of Trees

Benefits of trees can include:

  • Improving air quality
  • Regulating temperature by providing shade
  • Reducing energy costs for buildings & homes
  • Absorbing CO2 from the air
  • Breaking rainfall to improve stormwater drainage
  • Making cities quieter
  • Providing habitat for wildlife
  • Improving mental health
  • Encouraging being outdoors
  • Promoting social interaction
  • Increasing safety
  • Boosting community morale
  • Increasing property values
  • Buffering wind

Getting Involved in Our Neighborhood

My wife and I decided to help.

About a year ago, we went for an evening walk and jotted down on a spreadsheet on one of our smart phones the precise location for every city berm (the grassy area between the road and sidewalk) spot where we thought a tree should go, which totaled about 200 trees in the immediate blocks surrounding our home. We attempted to submit our list to be included as part of the city's "10,000 Up!" tree planting program, but were unsuccessful in being added to their planting list.

But as luck would have it, we got invited by our friends Rich and Janessa to The Greening of Detroit's Sip and Taste on August 22nd, 2022 and found out that Greening was looking for spots to plant in Southwest Detroit, but didn't know where to plant…and serendipitously, we were able to provide them with what they needed, they subsequently put our neighborhood on the Spring 2023 planting list, and we managed to get 130 new trees planted along our streets on March 23rd and 25th thanks to the assistance of various Greening staff like Jenna Johnson and Christina Ridella along with many volunteers.

As the trees bloomed and the leaves came in during spring, our neighborhood felt transformed!

It was such a success that Greening invited us to speak on behalf of our community during their Greening Bus Tour on June 21st, 2023, which I was happy to do since Jen was out of town.
Jaacob Bowden and his wife Jennifer Giroux were champions in helping to organize the planting of 130 new trees in Hubbard Richard
Looking Ahead

We still have a number of spots to plant. We're planning on marking those spots later this summer with Greening and, hopefully, our neighborhood will then be added to their Spring 2024 planting schedule, at which point we would conceivably have 100% berm infill in Hubbard Richard.


This will be so great for our neighborhood and it's my hope that what we're doing can be replicated throughout the entire city in order that Detroit, once again, becomes "The City of Trees".