As a photographer I was stoked when my latest assignment landed me on the streets of Greater Downtown Detroit, toting my camera and tripod. Initially it seemed like a quick task: visit all the new retailers that have opened up shop in the past year, take a few photos, and get some quick information. It’s no secret that the city has gained an incredible amount of momentum but seeing the amount of new businesses on paper really puts things into perspective.
In fact, the list was so overwhelming that I had no choice but to tighten it up to only a handful of retailers. I guess that’s a good problem to have. We’re excited to publish the first video of our new blog series “New in the 7.2”, which highlights recently opened shops and restaurants in the 7.2 square miles that encompass Greater Downtown Detroit. It’ll feature before & after photos of the space, as well as a coming soon portion to help keep you caught up on all the exciting new businesses that become part of the community.
Check out the video HERE!
In all honesty, with changes at this rate of speed, this may become a full-time assignment. We’re looking at the end result of years of behind-the-scenes work to bring this place back to life. I felt like I had quite an adventure while compiling the majority of the places for this assignment were ones that I probably wouldn’t have ever gone into otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast meeting business owners and managers while photographing their space for this blog series. But for me, certain stores were either intimidating or not all that appealing to me as a consumer.content for this first video. I walked the Dequindre Cut for the first time, which is my new favorite place. I bumped into our state senator, Debbie Stabenow, while photographing Detroit Water Ice. And I’ve been inspired to go outside my comfort zone, which was a life lesson in and of itself. It may help if I elaborate on this since my experience may resonate with some of you. We’re all friends here, right?
A perfect example is John Varvatos, which opened in April. For starters, I’m a chick. They sell guy stuff. So, I don’t necessarily have a reason to go in there. But even without that, we’re talking about a high-end retailer. I imagined they could smell my clearance-rack Target shirt from a block away. They’d alert the security guard that I was coming so he could quickly close the doors, as to prevent my income level from seeping into the clothes. The look of disgust would be written all over the employees’ faces – heck, probably even the mannequins’ faces. A rendition of that classic scene from Pretty Woman would ensue because it was just that obvious that I didn’t fit in.
Yes, these are the things that make an appearance in my brain when I’m pushed out of my comfort zone. At the end of the day, I was so glad that I stopped in. And not just John Varvatos, but other retailers as well. Each place offered something unique, whether it was the atmosphere, clothing, food, or simply the architecture of the building. And, believe it or not, none of them shut the doors in my face. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. It encouraged me to check out other places where I’m not exactly the target demographic. I hope it encourages you, too. You just never know what you might discover.
At a recent Stakeholder Meeting with the Downtown Detroit Partnership we learned about some of the things that are about to explode onto the Detroit market as well as the success of recent additions in the area.
Coming up on its 1 year anniversary, The Belt has evolved into an attraction. The cobblestone alley has been transformed with street-art, patio style lighting, benches, and planters. Even bigger plans for the project include 2 new bar/restaurants. Opening this month, Standby will be bar-focused but also serve food. We’ll have to wait a little longer for the outdoor bar, The Skip, which is slated for a spring 2016 opening.
Monroe Street in Greektown has recently gotten a facelift as well, thanks to placemaking efforts which has helped make it more pedestrian-friendly. Paul Howard, co-owner of Cliff Bell’s and Bronx Bar, will be adding another bar to his resume. We’re waiting on a name announcement, but we toured the space several months ago and we can’t wait to see the finished product. Located next to PuppetART Theater at the intersection of E Grand River & Farmer, look for an opening in the next few months.
One of the biggest programs that will debut next year is Detroit Bike Share. Hundreds of bikes will be available for public rental at stations throughout the area. Transportation in the city is certainly getting a hard-core makeover, especially with the M-1 Rail, which now has over a year of construction under its belt.
While walking to Greektown to photograph the new changes, a woman approached me and quietly asked, “Excuse me, is it safe to walk around by yourself down here?” Sometimes I forget that Detroit’s stigma, most recently stemming from the fallen economy, bankruptcy scare, and Kwame’s shenanigans, is still fresh in people’s minds. I was happy to brag about the city and gave the visitor from Texas a long list of amazing places to go. As we parted ways I turned and shouted, “Tell your friends!”
What new retailers are you looking forward to seeing in Detroit? What are some of your favorite places in the city? We’d love to hear from you!