|By Michael Rafferty, Vice President, Small Business Services
Residents in Detroit’s Northwest Grand River neighborhood are bursting with demand for coffee shops, restaurants, dry cleaners and countless other small businesses. They’re no different from the majority of Detroiters, who find themselves leaving the city to buy everything from green beans to garbage cans due to the city’s shortage of corresponding retail options. The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) recently commissioned a study to learn how to recapture some of the $2.6 billion that leaves the city limits annually – money residents spend in Detroit’s suburbs because the products and services they need are simply not available in their neighborhoods.
The DEGC retail study is more than just a report on lost opportunity. It outlines an entire strategy to revitalize the city’s key retail districts where economic energy already exists. The study identifies what specific needs are being unmet in the same commercial corridors that are benefitting from Mayor Duggan’s $125 million infrastructure improvement plan. Corridor improvements in areas such as Livernois-McNichols, West Vernor and East Warren may result in new bike lanes, improved street parking and wider sidewalks to allow for outdoor café seating. The goal is for Detroit’s neighborhoods to harbor attractive, pedestrian-friendly business districts.
Because of this study, we can focus on demand, which is a positive position to take. Detroiters have great purchasing power, and they deserve the goods and services they need right in their neighborhoods. With the knowledge of specific buying habits, we can work with retailers to mitigate business risk and help neighborhoods fill vacant storefronts.”
Using the study as a roadmap, DEGC will work with developers, property owners and retailers of all types to curate investment in vacant retail space in the corridors. This means helping florists locate in neighborhoods that love posies, and directing baristas to areas jonesing for java. It also means reshaping Detroit’s retail landscape into appealing, walkable clusters that serve the shopping needs of residents.
DEGC is already using its small business programs, Motor City Match and Motor City Re-Store, to connect vacant or neglected commercial properties with resources to grow retail. Beyond that, DEGC will examine the new demand data to proactively attract new businesses to the neighborhood corridors that fulfill Detroiters’ needs. The goal: develop and retain attractive, pedestrian-friendly business districts that satisfy retail demand, and keep the spending in the city.