Community Development Practitioner Spotlight! See the career and education trajectory of Tom Goddeeris, Director of Community and Economic Development at Detroit Future City

I started my career in the field of architecture, graduating with a BS in Architecture from the University of Michigan.  I later returned to school part time at Lawrence Technological University and eventually earned my Master of Architecture degree from there.

I worked for several years in a series of small architectural firms in Detroit and became a licensed architect in 1991.  The firm I was working for at the time closed, as the owner and principal decided to relocate to the west coast. My wife and I had also recently bought our first house in a neighborhood called Rosedale Park.

The Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation was a very young organization and its first Executive Director had left.  Being an architect and out of work, I was asked by the GRDC board to step in and help complete a half-finished housing rehab project that was floundering.   Within a couple months, I helped GRDC land on operating support grant from Detroit LISC that enabled them to hire me on full-time.  I ended up staying over 26 years.

The switch from architecture to community development was not as dramatic as it might seem.  My interest in the field of architecture was always driven by a concern with neighborhoods, communities and what at the time was called “advocacy planning.” I was excited to have a job I felt passionate about.

My training as an architect prepared me well for my position as Executive Director at GRDC in many ways.  It gave me a good base of knowledge about buildings and city planning that I applied in my work at GRDC.  I had a chance to participate in a training program run by the Development Training Institute early on at GRDC and that was very helpful in learning the non-profit side of the business and to connect with other CDC practitioners. As a staff of one at the outset. I had a lot of on-the-job learning and my knowledge of community development grew along with the organization.  

After many years, I have begun a new phase in my career as Director of Community and Economic Development at Detroit Future City, a city-wide planning and policy non-profit.  This new position allows me to apply my experience in community development to a broad range of issues at a multi-neighborhood scale. Although my career path has been somewhat “non-traditional,” I believe that each stage has been built upon the previous stage in a way that helped build my own capacity and the capacity of the organizations I worked for.