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wolverine

Your Dreamed up Commercial Corridors

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It is clear that Detroit has reached its first step in redeveloping a vibrant downtown commercial district. What I mean by a first step is that we now have a couple really great restaurants, a convenience store/pharmacy, some chain eateries, and just a few unique stores that have improved their appearance. Best of all, in the last few years we gained Compuware and another new office building along with more residents downtown in what was abandoned office buildings. To give this stable presence of people downtown even more, we now have beautiful Campus Martius which has become a major destination for the area.

So what now?

I think it's time to go onto the next step. Along with our dreams of new office and residential towers (which could become realities in coming years), I think it's time for some of the major chain stores to fill some of the vacant units downtown. I'm talking about GAP, H & M, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Pottery Barn, Apple Store, etc. These may be a bit much to think about now, but if you think about it, these may come sometime in the near future if Detroit continues to make strides in downtown improvement.

I think chain stores will be Detroit's huge key to making downtown a destination for shopping. It's obvious during this post I'm making hinted references to Chicago's Magnificent Mile. As far as the choice of shopping and dining, there's nothing really different than you would find at the malls here back at home. But people are willing to make a trip to Chicago, just for a day of shopping along Michigan and State Ave's only because these stores are within an exciting and interesting environment that the malls do not offer.

Detroit is already feeling a pull in some areas. Obviously Greektown, and Foxtown have been major attractions, and I only hear how often people visit these areas, but still only go right into the downtown on rare occasions.

So what corridors do I feel have the most potential....

An obvious choice is Woodward, but only it's stretch within the CBD. I feel this corridor has become too severed by recent demolitions and development. Woodward Place is nice, but it destroyed any chance of making Woodward a continuous corridor...if the freeway was bad enough. I can only imagine what will be put up along the West side of the street that will further perpetuate the problem. Reguardless, I expect Woodward within the CBD will be filled with some of the most well known stores in the nation while the northward stretch becomes home to more service related stores and businesses that cater to the local population.

My second choice is Michigan Ave.... yeah it may seem like I'm dreaming, but really. Just imagine if we had a dozen more companies like Compuware to move out of the suburbs and build some new towers on those vacant lots just west of the downtown. Imagine if the asphault lots were replaced with buildings and these areas were cleaned up with newly planted trees and small public squares, as to attract highrise residential. These buildings would be oriented toward the Michigan Ave stretch and open up the possibility of a bunch of retail and restaurants opening at the base of these towers.

What's great about this area, is it's practically a clean slate. I'm sure the people moving to these areas would get healthy tax breaks, but they'll also be able to build the way they want. No pesky triangular lot sizes. No structurally limiting underground parking structures, no style ordinances, and no height limitations. I'm not suggesting complete freedom in architectural design. But what I'm saying is that we can finally build underground parking that supports a 60 story building on a square lot.

I'm looking forward to hearing some of your thoughts, ideas, and criticisms. I think we can finally begin looking at the next step. Afterall, the world has finally seen our city.

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I'd say Grand River, but for the same reasons. But the way that the streets cut though makes it more intimate, imo. Also, the lots are smaller, so I'd imagine that they'd be easier to develop (assuming it won't be malls). There's also more space along it before the freeway, and almost all of it is open, unlike Michigan that has a few buildings. On Michigan the shopping strip could end at Campus Martius. But on Grand River, in the already established area, there are those triangle parks that are easily visible when walking by. Plus Grand River goes into more of the "real" downtown area, so if "the name" spreads, it would help more than on Michigan. Michigan would be right inbetween two casinos though.

Plus, I think there's already a well known Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

But really, most of the major streets could be developed into a Magnificent Mile.

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I'm personally partial to the improvements being made along Gratiot (being transformed into a boulevard, it's proximity to Eastern Market, etc.) along with Grand River and my personal favorite, Washington Boulevard, the stretch of Woodward going through New Center and past Palmer Park. I do wonder however if the creation of more upscale retail on Washington Blvd. would displace those senior citizens. One of my other favorites of course is the area surrounding Cass Park. God, the Woodward corridor just has so much potential.

WS

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Washington Blvd. seems ideal for me. There are some empty lots that could be developed as well as existing buildings that could be converted. Woodward is also an obvious choice. I agree with you Wordsmith about Gratiot. I think the stretch of Gratiot downtown could be turned into a commercial/residential district. I can picture buildings ranging from 5-10 or 12 stories sprouting up along that route or just off of it like on Broadway or towards Greektown with residential on the upper floors and some sort of name retailer on the bottom. It wouldnt be like Chicago but it could be a pedestrian friendly retail district.

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1) Washington Blvd, especially between Grand River and State, where it had the streetscape redone and then the major facade replacements right before the Superbowl. Those storefronts are ripe for being filled in and that should happen before any developer thinks to build new stores on empty lots further out. The bottom floors of a renovated Book-Cadillac could even have an arcade to fit retail even more densely on this block.

2) Grand River has tons of available space both directly facing it and for blocks beyond on either side. The portion that cuts through the southwest corner of Midtown, connecting downtown and the Motor City Casino, continues to be way underdeveloped. Imagine the old Cass Tech being redeveloped into a big box, perhaps an urban Target store. Beyond the casino until Grand River meets Grand Blvd, Grand River and the surrounding areas are reverting to greenfields, although a little over a mile beyond the casino there exists a distressed West Warren Business association of some sort around the intersection with G.R. which could turn that area into a couple blocks worth of a viable shopping district. Where Grand River intersects Greenfield Rd a few miles further out there's already a relatively strong retail area which could be reinforced and expanded towards the core, while retail from the core expands outwards. One day in the future a resident along Grand River could take a GR streetcar/light rail or even rapid bus and do 100% of their shopping on this street.

3) Vernor Hwy is already a lively downmarket retail and restaurant street. Unfortunately it doesn't start until you get west of 75. There's potential for redeveloping Vernor around the MCS into a great shopping district. Many planners have envisioned a mixed-use redevelopment of the MCS and its 'front yard'. This would be a part of the revitalization of Michigan Ave in Corktown. It's also only 6 miles from here to Dearborn's first downtown at Michigan and Schaeffer, closer than the 'downtown' at G.R. and Greenfield. Some form of mass transit could one day allow a resident of Michigan Ave to get all their shopping down in either of Dearborn's two downtowns, Corktown/MCS, downtown Detroit, or any store in between.

All in all, Vernor already is a solid retail street and Grand River, due to is being so empty and undeveloped now, has the most potential for being a solid retail corridor. There are lots of other streets with high potential too though.

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Where Grand River intersects Greenfield Rd a few miles further out there's already a relatively strong retail area which could be reinforced and expanded towards the core, while retail from the core expands outwards.

I'm not sure if that area (the Mammoth shopping center) qualifies as relatively strong retail area. It used to be, but it's seen continued decline in the past decade.

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I'm not sure if that area (the Mammoth shopping center) qualifies as relatively strong retail area. It used to be, but it's seen continued decline in the past decade.
Michigan Ave. in Corktown needs help. Instead of having bars and and a couple of small resturaunts, it needs clothing stores, music stores, a couple of major resturaunts, a book store, video store, a Starbucks, and even a movie theatre. It's time to think major and diverse retail. Think of what suburban shopping centers have, but broken up along the individual historic storefronts of Michigan Ave. I Suppose that would also be a good idea for Detroit corridors period. It's time to get people on the streets in the open air, rather than be stuck in a mall all day.

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Why'd you quote Jin, just wondering? He was talking about Grand River at Greenfield.

I agree about Michigan Avenue. The area has excellent visibility, and would really benefit from the basic building blocks of retail.

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I'm not sure if that area (the Mammoth shopping center) qualifies as relatively strong retail area. It used to be, but it's seen continued decline in the past decade.

I guess it depends on what you compare it against and there are plenty of stretches that have devolved into empty lots. What I like about this area in particular is the multiple multi-storey buildings and the skywalk across Grand River connecting them. I see potential in this high concentration of commercial buildings out there. I'm always curious to hear of more urban pockets if you have some to share.

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