This is a guest blog post written by Mac MacDermaid,
Marketing Specialist for Stokas-Bieri Real Estate.
My mom used to talk about how cool it was growing up in Detroit. At the time, I couldn’t even begin to fathom what this so-called bustling city could have looked like. As I knew it, there were only a sprinkling of residents left. A look inside vacant buildings where businesses once operated revealed an overnight desertion. One building I was in still had the office keys in a desk drawer and accounting ledgers in the filing cabinet. It was as if the entire city of Detroit came to a screeching halt. I never imagined I’d see this city the way my mom saw it over 50 years ago. There has been so much change in the past few years that most people are anticipating what’s next.
I decided to hit up Campus Martius to see what consumers thought about Detroit’s future, how the M-1 Rail will impact the area, and what it could mean for downtown Detroit retail. Of everyone I spoke with, there were surprisingly similar remarks. For one thing, it felt like they were bursting with optimism. The excitement in everyone’s voices was clear – Detroit’s been the underdog for too long and faith in what this city can become has spread like wildfire.
It just so happens that all of the people I met today work downtown. But get this – no one shops here. Is anyone really shocked? With only a handful of retail options within walking distance, they have nowhere to go. The routine is the same: work, eat lunch, work some more, go home. So what types of stores would entice these consumers to shop on their lunch break, after work, or on their day off? Familiar brands, such as H&M, Express, Forever 21 Men, and lululemon were popular responses. But big box stores like Best Buy also sparked some interest.
Blake, who lives in Downtown Detroit, mentioned that he’d like the convenience of running errands during his lunch hour instead of driving into the suburbs after work to get the things he needs. Compared to Chicago, where most residents don’t even own a car, Blake points out that it’s not even an option for downtown Detroit residents. “People won’t give up their car because they still have to drive to get what they need.” Everyday conveniences, like hardware and grocery stores, are just not available yet.
The current M-1 route will be entirely within greater downtown. As Katie from Royal Oak mentions, “The bigger need is to fill the gap from the suburbs.” Making it accessible to more people means a fast, inexpensive, and convenient way for them to shop, dine, and go to events. Consumers are hopeful for a designated shopping district and between the upcoming The District Detroit (http://www.districtdetroit.com/) and the M-1 Rail, we may have a winning combination.
Detroit resident, Veronica, said she’s looking for a shopping area with variety. A mix of high-end and affordable stores, along with unique boutiques will certainly appeal to the masses.
Megan, who drives from Commerce, sees the potential for more retail and better nightlife. We chatted about how when friends come to town and want to go out, Detroit is definitely not at the top of the list. It’s not even in the top 10. Let’s face it, unless there is a special event, there really isn’t anywhere to go. First-floor retail shops along the M-1 Route can create a pedestrian friendly area where people feel safe and can spend the day.
In turn, as Mike from Macomb points out, store business hours would have to change as well. If consumers come to the city for dinner,
they are likely to spend some time shopping during their visit. With our beautiful July weather more people stick around after work. But as most of us know, once evening rolls around, the city starts to become a ghost town. Sometimes you can literally hear crickets.
I met up with 2 co-workers, David & Ibrahim, who love working downtown. David just started working in the area and was shocked at how many amazing food options there are as well as how vibrant the business district is. I get the same response when people ask me how I like working downtown and I tell them that it’s oozing with energy and passion. Ibrahim has been working here for a year and commented, “We’ve gotta get the word out about everything the city has to offer.” Maybe a shopping district will help give it the exposure it needs.
What retailers would attract you to spend a day shopping downtown? Would you take the M-1 into the city from the suburbs? Please let us know in the comment section!