Robert Dewaelsche has been named president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA). The appointment was announced today by SDBA board chairman Michael Odom.
“Rob brings to the SDBA more than 35 years of experience, including senior level roles with local nonprofit and for-profit organizations where he worked to support, strengthen and build strong communities,” says Odom. “As a longtime Southwest Detroit resident, Rob understands our community’s rich, diverse cultural history as well as its significant potential for economic and community growth. We are confident Rob will diligently work to improve the quality of life for area business owners and residents alike.”
Dewaelsche replaces former SDBA President Kathy Wendler, who served in that position for more than 35 years and recently announced her retirement.He will continue the organization’s focus on business and residential development, safety and immigration issues.
A long-time community development advocate, Dewaelsche is president of Sustainability Knocks LLC, a consulting and communications firm that helps neighborhood and faith-based organizations build their capacity. His 35 years of corporate and non-profit experience also include deputy director of Detroit LISC and as executive director of Habitat for Humanity Detroit.
Dewaesche most recently served as neighborhood economic development director for TheHUB, where he helped launch the ongoing #LiveLoveDetroit campaign and community investment series.
“Southwest Detroit is a dynamic community with an abundance of creative and dedicated residents and business leaders,” he says. “I’m very excited to be coming back to the neighborhood where my wife and I raised our two daughters for more than 20 years. It’s a great time to be here as investors and businesses are considering moving into the community. The challenge will be in managing the changes to come, so both long-time and new stakeholders respect one another and their respective social and cultural values.”
During his tenure with TheHUB Dewaelsche headed its heralded community mapping project, which outlined development efforts and pinned them on a digital map showcasing the concentration of neighborhood development investments. To date, he has outlined and coordinated coverage of Detroit Districts 5 and 2, highlighting innovative, affordable housing and retail initiatives being planned or already underway.
Through a publishing partnership with the SDBA Dewaelsche will also collaborate with TheHUB for the third installment of “Living In and Loving Detroit Neighborhoods” (#LiveLoveDetroit), which will spotlight the SDBA’s home District 6 this fall.
“TheHUB is a ground-breaking publication and an important and authentic voice of Detroit residents,” says Dewaelsche. “The #LiveLoveDetroit series gave me an opportunity to interact with developers and residents alike and allowed me to highlight more of the good things happening at the neighborhood level.”
His leadership is evidenced by the success of the initiative, according to Jackie Berg, founder and publisher of TheHUB.
“Rob made a lasting mark on our organization,” she says. “His work has helped elevate the importance of neighborhood development efforts, making it easier for everyone to have access to relevant information about what ‘is’ and ‘is not’ happening in our neighborhoods.
“With Rob’s support, we’ve elevated our neighborhood advocacy efforts and become a reliable and trusted source of investment information that, until now, would typically be restricted to insiders only. We are proud of that, of Rob and our continued association with him as he transitions into his new leadership role,” she says.
Formed in 1957, the SDBA is one of the city’s most formidable community advocacy organizations, serving to support investors, entrepreneurs and residents of the area. A lifelong Detroiter, Dewaelsche becomes the association’s first new president since 1981.
“Southwest Detroit is one of city’s most ethnically diverse, vibrant communities with walkable neighborhoods and strong commercial districts,” says Dewaelsche. “It has attracted a healthy mix of business development and residents to the area, while also serving as an ideal destination for visitors given the community’s large number of restaurants, mercados, bakeries and merchants. And with the major infrastructure development projects like the Gordie Howe International Bridge on the near horizon, the community outlook is very promising.”
Dewaelsche lives in Palmer Woods with his wife, Eva Garza Dewaelsche. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from University of Michigan.
Photos courtesy of Rob Dewaelsche and Ethos Development Partners
Story originally appeared on TheHUB.