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/2013/07/detroit-a-tale-of-two-cities-and-worth-checking-out/

Brunch with Bridge

Welcome to Brunch with Bridge!
Every Sunday, you'll find in this space one or more guest columns by interesting Michigan residents with something interesting to say about life in our state. We hope you'll find it a place to stop by regularly, read, and comment.

Detroit, a tale of two cities – and worth checking out

RISING IN DETROIT: Avalon International Breads, an early pioneer in Midtown’s rebirth, is always worth a visit. (Photo by S.J. Carey, used under Creative Commons license)

RISING IN DETROIT: Avalon International Breads, an early pioneer in Midtown’s rebirth, is always worth a visit. (Photo by S.J. Carey, used under Creative Commons license)

Things are pretty tough in Detroit, what with an emergency manager and a possible bankruptcy lurking just around the corner. But despite that, there are enough good things going – the Midtown boom, Dan Gilbert’s investments, Mike Ilitch’s plans and the M1 rail line – to give some hope that things are turning around here.

Those are all big deals, but let’s take a closer look at some developments in the city that don’t get a lot of media attention, but are just as important ub making the city livable and likable. You can’t put your arms around the whole city but here are a few spots worth checking out.

Willis Village: Everybody has heard about Midtown and the big institutions that anchor it. The corner of Cass and Willis Streets, known as Willis Village, is an enclave within Midtown that helps give the neighborhood its allure. The strip along Willis off Cass has been a hipster hangout for decades.

The trendsetting Del Pryor Gallery is right on the corner, with the Tulani Rose gift shop inside. In former years the Spiral Collective, the Cass Corridor Food Co-op and legendary Cobb’s Corner jazz club inhabited this space. Next along the strip is Flo, a boutique selling clothing, accessories and small home furnishings. Then there is Goodwell’s Market, a natural food store and restaurant. At the far end is Avalon International Breads, a gathering spot for locals. Avalon is getting ready to move a block over next to the Traffic Jam restaurant, but it’s hard to imagine its current space (that once housed the Willis Gallery) will stay empty long in a burgeoning neighborhood.

On the other side of Cass, the Auburn building has ground-floor retail (with lofts upstairs) including two restaurants, the Source Booksellers, Butcher’s’ Daughter contemporary art gallery, Hugh, an upscale men’s fashion shop, and Nora, its feminine counterpart. This area, once known more for prostitution and drugs, has stepped up in a big way.

Brightmoor Alliance: Located on Detroit’s far west side, Brightmoor was a neighborhood the city forgot. However, several years ago, the Brightmoor Alliance was established to help access resources for education, jobs, safety, blight, recreation and more. Community members have embraced urban agriculture; there are more than two dozen community gardens in addition to numerous family gardens and a handful of market gardens – beekeeping is growing there as well as chickens, rabbits and even a few goats.

Community members have built a butterfly garden, a nature trail leading into nearby Howell Park and turned an abandoned house into a community stage. There is a youth garden where young people learn about growing food, and also sell it at a nearby market. Brightly colored signs throughout the area show the neighborhood pride as block by block residents are cleaning up and taking charge of their environment.

Blight Busters: The Motor City Blight Busters started 23 years ago when drug dealers who had taken over an abandoned home partied too hearty one night.  The next morning, John George, who lived on the street behind the drug house, began boarding up the place. Some neighbors came out to help him and the Blight Busters was born. Since then the group has parlayed hundreds of thousands of volunteers and volunteer hours into securing, tearing down or fixing up houses.

Blight Busters has made the block of Lahser north of Grand River, where the historic Redford Theater is located, a community development center. Sweet Potato Sensations, which recently began selling its products at Detroit’s new Whole Foods store, is located there. Java House café, Ray-Ann’s Wardrobe resale shop, and the Artists Village community stage were all established with Blight Buster aid. Now the group has started clearing off two full blocks in order to establish Farm City Detroit. One enduring aspect of the farm is already planted — a fig tree brought by George’s grandmother from Italy when she immigrated here.

Central Detroit Christian: They used to call the area Piety Hill for all churches nearby on Woodward Avenue. Central Detroit Christian, a community nonprofit, has laid claim to the area just north of the New Center in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood. CDC has established Detroit’s first fish farm as a for-profit enterprise. Other businesses under its umbrella include Peaches and Greens produce market, Café Sonshine, Higher Ground Landscaping, Restoration Warehouse and Solid Rock Property management. Spreading a little piety around seems like a good thing.

Larry Gabriel is a freelance Detroit Metro Times contributor who was named Best Columnist by the Association for Alternative Newsmedia in 2012. He believes there is wisdom in blues lyrics and that the best brunch is poached salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado. The views and assertions of guest columnists do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

1 comment from a Bridge reader.Add mine!

  1. Jeannene Hurley

    We want more!!!! Thank you Mr. Gabriel!

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

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

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

In northern counties, workers and business find each other lacking

Hidden poverty stalks a Pure Michigan setting

Postcard: How a git-’er-done spirit helps one rural school district

Postcard: When elk is for dinner

Postcard: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy

Postcard: A roof and a bed

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.