Downtown Detroit grabs the headlines when it comes to talk of the return of Motor City, and while downtown has indeed changed drastically – we remember the days of the 2006 Super Bowl, when they had to fill the windows with artwork to make it look like it wasn’t a total ghost town – other parts of the metro area transformed as well. Here are a few to watch out for.
It’s over with the old and with the new at Royal Oak. While a number of longstanding restaurants have closed in recent years, others have opened: although Cantina Diablos has closed, there is now Condado Tacos, and although Bean & Leaf Cafe is kaput , there is now Proving Grounds Coffee. Further developments see Royal Oak looking up – literally. The city’s skyline has expanded with projects such as the Royal Oak Civic Center Development, which includes a new six-story Henry Ford Ambulatory Care Center and a $63 million project that includes a new city, a new police station and a 581-place parking structure, while the old city hall will become a downtown park. There’s also a new Hyatt Place hotel, and in the southern part of town is the Griffin, an upcoming project that will include lofts and retail.
Pontiac has changed in ways both big and small. At the larger end of the spectrum are massive developments like the M-1 Concourse, a high-end race track and luxury garage on GM’s former proving grounds, and the former Strand Theatre, which was recently restored as Flagstar Strand. A future Pontiac Transportation Museum is expected to open later this year. As for small businesses, there’s the Alleycat Cafe, opened by the owners of 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit, and Exferimentation Brewing Company, a lab-themed brewery with classic video game consoles in tables. For the past two years, the Pontiac Arts Crawl has been held in May to introduce the new activity.
The City of Detroit is using $80 million in bond financing to improve neighborhood and commercial corridors across the city to show that the city’s redevelopment isn’t just downtown. Projects include the addition of bike paths and pedestrian walkways, as well as plants and new signage. In Mexicantown in southwestern Detroit, Main Street recently underwent a $5.4 million facelift that uses a sidewalk-less design, with dark bricks serving as a parking lane and bricks clear forming wider sidewalks. The result is an open feel that makes the restaurant and mall feel like a square.
Businesses along Livernois’ historic fashion avenue felt the squeeze last year as construction began on its $17 million streetscape redesign, among the city’s biggest redevelopment projects. Detroit. It’s a shame, because the neighborhood has the highest concentration of black-owned businesses in the city, including neighborhood favorite chicken and waffles Kuzzo, which took the opportunity to close to focus on renovations, and newcomer Table No. 2, a new white-linen restaurant that opened just weeks before construction began. The good news is that construction recently wrapped, eliminating a contentious median that has been a point of contention for 13 years, with businesses as well as police and fire departments expressing concerns that motorists had to drive too far to make U-turn in Michigan. But the project was not only utilitarian; the facelift brings resurfaced roads, wide tree-lined sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, and plaques dedicated to the Avenue’s historic businesses in the neighborhood. Other upcoming developments include an $8.3 million project that will turn the former B. Siegel department store into retail space and 10 residential apartments and a second Motor City Brewing Works outpost.
We have to admit, we weren’t originally fans of the idea of closing the intersection of two of Detroit’s major thoroughfares right downtown – we forgot we couldn’t turn onto Woodward Avenue on the way down Jefferson. However, just because we are the Motor City doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be walkable either. Combined with Campus Martius Park and the Woodward Avenue Esplanade, Downtown Detroit’s Spirit of Detroit Square complements a pedestrian-friendly urban core with art installations, seating and food trucks, creating a scenic route to the riverfront access at Hart Plaza. It seems many others agreed: City Council voted to keep the intersection closed and promised nearly $800,000 in renovations, including playground equipment, landscaping, a fountain drinks and other conveniences. It’s the kind of place a big city downtown should have, and we apologize for complaining about that.
Grand River gets a new streetscape on a 2.8-mile stretch from M-39 Service Drive to Berg Road, with improved on-street parking, pedestrian islands, mid-block crossings, landscaping landscaping, new signalized intersections and bus islands.
Eastern Market’s Riopelle Street is undergoing a stunning makeover that includes a sidewalk-less design concept similar to a plaza like Mexicantown, extended sidewalks and landscaping. The project extends from Division Street to Fisher Service Drive.
Joseph Campau’s construction improves the commercial corridor between Jefferson Avenue and the Riverfront, with road resurfacing, bike lanes, improved lighting, landscaping and a connection to the Detroit Riverwalk.
The Conant streetscape project spans from Davison to Carpenter, including new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, street resurfacing and signage.
The Grand Parklet streetscape project is planned for the corner of Puritan, Plainview and Grand River Avenues, including a park, new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and a funky concrete design.
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