Ground has been broken, the rumbles have been heard– Midtown Detroit, on the heels of an impressive 95% residential occupancy rate, is getting its largest mixed residential-retail development. Ever. Yep.
I think the project alone, isolated, is interesting, very worthwhile and answering the call for demand that exists in the area for not only just housing, but serves as a crucial piece in creating a more walkable neighborhood. Not only will their be 58 residential units in the new development, there will also be 11 retail spaces.
Think about it. Avalon set up shop almost 14 years ago and has served as an anchor in the neighborhood creating the kind of cultural destination that goes far beyond just grabbing a loaf of bread. And beyond creating cultural capital, it laid the groundwork for other businesses to follow. What started with a bakery has spawned an organic foodstore, clothing boutiques, book stores, galleries, a modern homegoods shop and more– constructing much of Midtown’s current identity.
With 11 more shops going in, or at least being available, it could really create an organic force that expands the anchor that Avalon began years ago. I am sure at this point it is unknown what sorts of shops will go in the development, but if carefully chosen, it could really expand the area with some homegrown, useful businesses– maybe the bagel brothers can go there, or perhaps the new Hatch Detroit-funded business (or if not the funded one, perhaps some of the runner-ups that didnt get the big startup check) can call this new development home.
With Detroit having isolated pockets of brilliance all over the city limits, this development gets me excited if only over the prospect that those pockets engaging a little more with one another to create a real vibrant part of town seems a likely possibility.
Sue Mosey, president of the University Cultural Association, and fierce Detroit advocate and developer, got a nice pat on the back via a pleasant article in the Detroit News. For the past 23 years she has managed to help nearly every condo development, park construction or business facade improvement succeed in Midtown. That’s a long time. That’s a lot of vision. That’s a lot of commitment. Pretty cool. “Visionaries show up and disappear. Mosey has fixed her gaze, and energy, on a particular place over a sweep of time. Instead of making a fuss, she has gotten things done.” Bravo. Thanks to you, Ms. Mosey.
In other news, the artist Swoon is in Detroit for the Juxtapoz/Powerhouse art residency. Check it.
In the past month, the New York Times has written three overly positive articles about Detroit from a variety of different angles– a look at business growth, a look at neighborhood growth and a look at art as a tool to create social change. The most recent of which was the the article on neighborhood development through a discussion of Midtown and how it is remaining stable throughout the ongoing recession and housing crisis. The article claims that “many obsolete buildings in Midtown have been converted to rental housing in recent years, and the rental market has been strong. An association study found that 92 percent of the 4,295 rental units in the area were occupied last spring.” Sue Mosey, prez of the University Cultural Association that oversees a lot of development in Midtown, adds â€œWe really have lost almost no businesses during the recession.” Not too shabby.
What’s interesting though, is that it seems all of this positive press in the New York Times is having a general effect on outsider opinions of Detroit.Â On a recent visit to New York to try and get some of the DL! merch in shops over there (a shop and gallery space in Brookyln called “By and By” is now selling some pieces!), it’s very clear that people’s opinions are changing.Â When presented with the Detroit Starter Kit and a general explanation of what DL! is, there was a lot more “oh yeah, Detroit is the new place to be” than there was “Eeek! Detroit is a shithole, isnt it?”— which is great. That feels good.