Why southwest Detroit is ripe for investment

Why southwest Detroit is ripe for investment
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Saying Detroit’s District 6 is a hot market, is as likely an understatement as there is in development circles right now. Although its neighborhood development efforts are not as visible as Detroit’s downtown district, they are there. Ask any investor.

“The time to get in is ‘now,’ according to Kraemer Design Group Co-Founder and Principal Bob Kraemer, who has been following Detroit’s residential property trends for over 10 years.

“Residential real estate is at a “crazy fever right now.” says Kraemer (see TheHUB’s related coverage).

District 6 (see the map) covers what would be considered greater Southwest Detroit. The district extends from West Outer Drive on the Ecorse River (the border to Lincoln Park) in the extreme southwest of the city, all the way into Midtown, Cass Corridor and much of downtown. Its northern boundaries run roughly along Interstate 94 and Grand River on the north, with Wyoming and Oakman among the western boundary streets (at the border of Dearborn).

Corktown is arguably one of Detroit’s most recognized neighborhoods. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Subdivisions in the district include some of the best known communities, like Corktown (Detroit’s oldest neighborhood), Mexicantown, historic Hubbard Farms, Woodbridge, Delray, and Core City Neighborhoods. District 6 is also home to some vibrant commercial corridors including West Vernor Highway and Bagley Avenue, along with business strips that have struggled to regain their luster, such as Michigan Avenue and Fort Street.

For decades Southwest Detroit has been a hot spot for immigrants to enter Michigan and the Midwest in search of a job and a lifestyle that would help them provide for their families. Ethnic populations have ebbed and flowed in and out of the area while industry and entrepreneurship have had their ups and downs as well.

Remarkably, over the past two decades and more, Southwest Detroit has largely maintained its population base and helped keep Detroit from falling even faster into population decline. Through all the pressures, which vary from economic, social, cultural and political, Southwest Detroit keeps moving forward and remains one of the most dynamic areas of greater Detroit.

Area business owners like Rodrigo Padilla owner of Taqueria El Nacimiento restaurant, are betting that the Gordie Howe International Bridge will bring increased foot and vehicular traffic to District 6. The district is the home of more than 6,000 small locally-owned shops and restaurants hungry for new business. Photo courtesy of Motor City Re-Store 

HUGE INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE

Planned developments in District 6 include the massive infrastructure investment being made by the State of Michigan and Canada – the Gordie Howe International Bridge. It will be the largest such border crossing project across any international border in North America. It will be financed almost entirely by the Canadian government, which will be repaid by bridge tolls. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority expects to select a prime contractor for the construction sometime next summer.

Add to the new bridge construction the ongoing rebuilding of the I-75 freeway and the proposed widening and improvements along the I-94 freeway and we have our own infrastructure stimulus program in Detroit. The question is whether Detroit-area small contractors and laborers can take advantage of this capital infusion by securing contracts and jobs to benefit Detroiters.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT

A major undertaking by residents and supporters of the Delray neighborhood has resulted in the first government concessions agreement in Delray’s history. Negotiated by the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, in exchange for the city’s receipt of funding for property and roads needed to construct the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the benefits to Delray will include:

  • $2.4 million to conduct health studies and air-quality monitoring before, during and after the bridge is built
  • $32.6 million to let occupants move into fully renovated Detroit Land Bank Authority houses in exchange for their current homes, which would be demolished, or let some choose windows and air filtration to reduce noise and air impact in surrounding houses
  • $10 million toward city-wide job training and placement programs
  • $10 million to retain access to community health and social services and improve pedestrian safety along the freeway

The monumental effort involving advocacy by neighborhood activists and legislators empowers families and future generations of Southwest Detroiters who might otherwise have found themselves displaced and disadvantaged by the bridge’s construction.

Bridging Neighborhoods, a program established by the City of Detroit, has begun assisting residents by providing real estate support and helping enforce the benefits that were negotiated.

NEIGHBORHOOD COMMERCIAL DISTRICTS

A business owner in the West Vernor & Springwells Business Improvement District (BID) takes care of the investments made in the area surrounding his shop. Mayor Duggan hopes to expand sister projects in 23 neighborhood commercial corridors throughout Detroit.  Two commercial strips in District 6 are on the list for reinvestment – W. Vernor Highway and Bagley Avenue (in the heart of Mexicantown). Photo courtesy of SDBA

Mayor Duggan recently announced, and the Detroit City Council unanimously approved, a new $125-million bond program to rebuild and improve 23 neighborhood commercial corridors across the city in an effort to keep Detroiters’ purchasing power invested in the city. Two commercial strips in District 6 are on the list for reinvestment – W. Vernor Highway and Bagley Avenue (in the heart of Mexicantown). Bond funds will be repaid by Detroit’s share of the increased gas taxes and will be used to upgrade sidewalks.

HOUSING – REHABS AND NEW CONSTRUCTION

New and rehabbed housing projects are sprouting up in some familiar places in District 6 including historic Corktown and Hubbard Farms neighborhoods. Corktown will see new mixed-income housing as part of historic Tiger Stadium’s site redevelopment at Michigan and Trumbull, while in Hubbard Farms seven long-vacant townhomes will be renovated by Southwest Housing Solutions with financing from Invest Detroit.

SMALL BUSINESS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, GRANTS AND FUNDING

District 6 is well-represented by small businesses. Many have taken advantage of the ever-growing menu of programs and services that have sprung up in recent years to help start-up and existing businesses find the technical assistance, training, resources and funding they need to get started or expand their businesses in the city.

Restaurants in and around District 6’s Mexicantown, the hope of community entrepreneurs and Michigan Avenue attractions like The Sugar House craft cocktail bar paint a portrait of the downtown area and Southwest Detroit. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

A variety of small business support programs are offered by nonprofit organizations, place-based business associations, community development financial institutions (CDFI’s), and governmental agencies.

In this issue TheHUB takes a look at a couple of these programs, including the initiative by the Southwest Detroit Business Association to renovate second-floor residential units over neighborhood commercial storefronts (see TheHUB’s Lofty Heights coverage).

AIM FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

In a market where a boom in development has prompted conversations about gentrification and the need for intentional inclusivity, there is, and should be, a higher level of attention to affordable housing efforts. Among the publicly-funded housing developments examined, TheHUB was able to verify the city’s 20 percent goal for affordable housing is being met.

OTHER CITY INVESTMENTS 

The City of Detroit Recreation and General Services Department has invested millions of dollars in recent years to improve city parks for the benefit of neighborhood youth and people of all ages. In 2017, the city plans to invest a total of $44.4 million to improve neighborhood parks throughout District 6, including new walkways, playground equipment, basketball courts, picnic shelters and other amenities.

District 6 offers some of the biggest development challenges alongside some of the city’s most visible and successful projects. The development boom in the 7.2 square miles of the downtown area will continue to push outward. This movement pairs with both entrepreneurial interests in Southwest Detroit as well as monumental projects like the Gordie Howe International Bridge to substantially change the district in coming years.

Lead photo by Paul Engstrom

See more of TheHUB’s #LiveLoveDetroit coverage on District 6:

Why investors are pouring $5 billion into southwest Detroit

The $5 Billion Zone: Southwest Detroit is a hotbed of development

City Living’s Austin Black explains why housing investments are on the rise in District 6

Eighty-eight southwest Detroit shop owners eye potential to build-out profit-producing loft space

ProsperUS helps southwest Detroit entrepreneurs climb aboard $3.9 billion economic engine

Model development in Southwest Detroit builds housing that suits neighborhood need while driving additional investment

Detroit’s Rivertown readies for improvements to waterfront

‘Life changing’ program helps young Detroiters through high-growth skilled trades industry

Bridge to new beginnings: One small Detroit community fought for its share and won

Changing the Tide: Public officials work to reduce negative impact of deportation

 

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