News and analysis from The Center for Michigan • http://thecenterformichigan.net
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at http://bridgemi.com

Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2011/10/entrepreneur-bets-on-detroit-urbanism/

Economy & competitive position/Success

Entrepreneur bets on Detroit, urbanism

If you have taken a tour through downtown Detroit, there is a good chance you have walked through Claire Nelson’s shop, Bureau of Urban Living.

Bureau, as it’s commonly known, is an Urban Outfitters-style boutique with high-end housewares carrying an urban, Detroit theme. It’s in a small space on the ground floor of the Canfield Lofts. Nelson, who lives nearby in Midtown, started the business in 2007 with aspirations of being a small part of a larger tide of change in Detroit.

“I was inspired by small things happening,” Nelson said. “Liz Blondy was opening up her business (Canine to Five dog care) and Lee Padgett had opened Cafe de Troit. I thought I could open something small, focus on that and make it really good. That way I wouldn’t be as frustrated with the big things around me.”

Previous coverage

How far will Midtown’s momentum go?

TechTown broadens focus from high-tech

TechTown firms pleased, but see alleys of opportunity

Advocate keeps selling Detroit to young professionals

How do you hold on to the hipsters?

Young activist finds energy, challenges in SW Detroit

Group pushes belief in Detroit

Nelson, 35, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received her higher education in architecture and design from Smith College in Massachusetts and Columbia University in New York. She met her husband, a Detroit native and Cass Tech High School alum, at Columbia. Francis Grunow convinced her to move from New York City to Detroit in 2002. They married and created a life together in a community both love.

Bureau is one of the fruits of their passion. At the same time, Nelson and Blondy started Open City Detroit, a monthly gathering of local entrepreneurs to help encourage more businesses to open in the city. Nelson and her husband also played key roles in the Council by Districts petition drive that is changing the city’s political landscape more and more every day.

“I didn’t expect to be here this long, but I have been here 10 years now,” Nelson said. “There are cool things happening in my neighborhood so I want to stay here.”

From Nelson’s point of view, having more people focus on smaller things does more than anything else to create positive change.

Nelson also subscribes to the Jane Jacobs ideology of urbanism of eyes on the street, density of people and the delicate dynamic of neighbors watching out for their neighborhood. To Nelson, that means choosing where you live based on the few blocks around you, instead of the larger city overall, because that’s where you spend most of your time.

For her, that necessitates strong urban ideals, such as density, mixed-use buildings, historic preservation, plentiful green space, comprehensive transit options, a variety of strong local businesses and public spaces for people to gather and interact. In fact, Nelson says Bureau has become the latter two because it’s not just a place for people to do business, but a place for neighbors to catch up on what’s going on and brainstorm new ways to improve the standard of living.

“That’s really an important part of building any neighborhood, whether it’s Midtown or Brightmoor (a neighborhood well-known in Detroit for its struggles)” Nelson said. “Both need it.”

No comment yet.Add mine!

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

With roads measure crushed, a search for Plan B

It’s not too late to master the basics of Proposal 1. Here’s a 5-minute version.

Yes, fixing the roads is an urgent need, but no, Proposal 1 isn’t the way to do it

Tax burden Prop 1 would impose too heavy to bear

Todd Courser hits Lansing like a cannonball

Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.