Ultimately, Detroit’s neighborhood businesses need more customers. And, in an effort to get the thousands of local residents who drive and walk by the many small mom and pop shops that line iconic city blocks to shop in them, Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC), have chosen the front curb as a starting point.
The proposed start time?
Well, it‘s “now,” say Duggan and DEGC‘s Vice President of Small Business Services Mike Rafferty, who solicited business from the podium of their joint announcement to invest $2 million in façade and exterior improvements of Detroit‘s neighborhood businesses over the next year.
The effort, formally coined the Motor City Re-Store program, will provide $500,000 in matching grants each quarter to existing businesses, with the goal to help stabilize and create more walkable, attractive and viable neighborhood business districts.
” We‘ve always looked good on the inside. Now, it’s our turn to look good on the outside, too.” -Darlene Alston, Owner, Just a Bit Ecletic Tea Shop
Although the program aims to help individual owners spruce and fix-up their building facades, exterior landscaping and parking areas, the benefits will be sweetened for area businesses who agree to collaborate.
Starting June 15, business owners and commercial landlords must jointly apply for 50 percent matching grants up to $25,000, and multiple businesses applying as a group can apply for 75 percent matching grants.
“The small neighborhood businesses that have hung in there over the years and have sustained our city are part of Detroit’s revitalization. That’s why we created Motor City Re-Store,” Duggan says. “This is how we are going to bring our city back, by supporting our existing businesses and residents as we welcome new ones to our neighborhoods.”
The effort is welcome news to many, including Grandmont Rosedale Community Development Corporation’s Executive Director and CEO Tom Goddeeris.
“The Motor City Re-Store program will provide much needed resources to support businesses that have been up and operating in Detroit neighborhoods. With so much attention focused on new businesses opening up, we need to make sure that existing businesses get the assistance they need to remain competitive,” says Goddeeris.
The effort may be particularly impactful in Southwest Detroit, according to Southwest Solutions CEO John Van Camp, who notes “the concentration and cohesion of business owners in the area bode well for improvement efforts like Motor City Re-Store.”
City officials are asking for support from entrepreneurs.
CUSTOMERS: PLEASE COME OUT
“People always ask, ‘What about the neighborhoods?'” says Detroit City Councilman James Tate. “We certainly have to invest in our neighborhoods, but we cannot do it alone.”
Infrastructure investments must be buoyed by everyday citizens and small shop owners, Tate says.
“If Detroiters don’t participate, we won’t succeed,” says Tate.
Business owner Paul Bologna, who has been in the Old Redford neighborhood for more than 60 years, remembers when hundreds of families shopped his city block, and wants to see the crowds return before his retirement.
“Newer” businesses like Ettafly Thomas’ Sweet Potato Sensations, Alicia George‘s Motor City Java House and Darlene Alston’s Just a Bit Eclectic Tea Shop are luring new customers and increasing the foot traffic of surrounding businesses.
These welcoming eateries and coffee houses often serve as ad hoc retail incubators, community hubs and promoters, sharing marketing materials from surrounding shops service providers (See How Detroit’s coffee shops are shaping neighborhood redevelopment)
And with shiny new storefront improvements, they hope to do more to attract the kind of customer interest and loyalty that Bologna remembers.
HOPE IS HERE
Together, they have defied the odds and are survivors, now counted among the “been-ups” on Mayor Duggan’s score card.
“There’s a feeling of hope pouring into our neighborhoods,” says Alston. “And with that hope, comes expectations, which we hope will be realized.
” We‘ve always looked good on the inside,” she says. “Now, it’s our turn to look good on the outside, too.”
About Motor City Re-Store
Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program and other sources, the program will offer $2 million in grants annually.
Business owners and commercial landlords must jointly apply for 50 percent matching grants up to $25,000, and multiple businesses applying as a group can apply for 75 percent matching grants for use in façade, landscaping and parking improvements. Funding may also be used to support design and architectural services related to facility upgrades.
The round one application window will close Aug. 1. Subsequent round applications will open on the first days of September, December, March and June. The DEGC will manage the program, which will award up to 20 grants per cycle. The funding and transactions will be managed by the Economic Development Corp. of the City of Detroit.
“We know how important it is for businesses to have attractive façades facing the street because they help to build a business’ brand,” says DEGC’s Rafferty. “Motor City Re-Store is designed to improve that exterior look for qualified businesses. We feel the result should create more inviting and stable commercial districts throughout the city.”
Potential applicants can register for the program and attend a June 22 or June 29 information session to learn more about the grant and application process.
For more details call 844-749-8359 or visit: motorcityre-store.com
Editor’s note: To learn more about Detroit’s neighborhood businesses and their owners, see TheHUB’s Small Shops series.