On the vacant lot next to Dan Davis’ house on Washburn in Detroit, there is a homemade movie screen, a bonfire pit, a swing set, a barbecue grill and weights for working out.
Across the street, Davis turned a stretch of lots into a go-kart track and athletic field ringed by a wall of tires.
It’s all part of his goal to transform his block on the city’s west side into a place where families can have safe fun close to home. He mows the grass up and down the street and makes sure there’s no trash on the ground.
“He’s like an icon around here. What he does for the neighborhood, people look up to him for it,” said one of his friends, Michael Knight, 51.
Davis, 50, grew up in the area. As a child, he was always cleaning or fixing things. His mother made him clean up trash outside their house.
Inspired by an outdoor movie screen he saw at Campus Martius Park, Davis decided to build his own, using sheets of wood spray-painted white that he positioned on top of a metal stand. On warm nights, his neighbors gather around on lawn chairs as Davis uses a projector to play kid-friendly movies and music videos.
“Everybody comes out, about 10 to 15 people. … and then some people, they just sit on their porch and watch it, and it’s all good. It’s beautiful, lovely,” he said.
The same field holds a bench-press, dumbbells and a mirror. A few feet away sits a play set and swings. Basketballs and toys are scattered on the ground, and there is a sand pit for playing horseshoes.