Last week the
Urban Land Institute
(ULI) unveiled its formal recommendations for a city-owned 6.9-acre site on W. Vernor in the middle of the Vernor Commercial District currently overseen by the Southwest Detroit Business Association
Eight renowned ULI experts analyzed the vacant property, formerly the Detroit Public Works property at W. Vernor Highway and Livernois. They conducted over 60 interviews with local community and business leaders as well as Detroit city stakeholders and government officials, transit officials from organizations like SEMCOG
, and economic development authorities in Detroit and neighboring Dearborn (which abuts the site) to shape their recommendations on what the greater community feels it needs.
Currently the old DPW property is the midway point between the east and west ends of the commercial district, in effect separating them instead of joining them. The plan that the ULI panel unveiled on Oct. 7 will act as a commercial district connector and a hub for business growth in Southwest Detroit. "It really does create quite a blighted influence in the neighborhood and in the commercial district," says Kathy Wendler, SBDA president. "We feel it’s a great opportunity to create an anchor and connect these commercial districts."
The panel proposed a project named "Vernor Square," built around a central plaza area that would include public gathering spaces, a variety of major retailers, and also space for artisan businesses that are very prominent in Southwest Detroit including ornamental ironworkers, potters, and ceramic mosaic makers.
"We absolutely want to start this process," Wendler says. "The panel tested the market so we know there is a demand on both fronts." Now the SDBA will focus on addressing the issues of site remediation and number-crunching to make it work.
"This is a great location smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood on the commercial corridor which gets huge traffic," Wendler says. The site also borders Livernois with easy access to both I-75 and I-94. "The location is critical to its success."
Though the city still owns the property, the SDBA has a hold on the site through October 2014 and hope that they will be able to leverage ULI's site proposal to work with the city on the redevelopment of the site, especially as the city determines how to dispose of surplus property such as this.
Source: Kathy Wendler, SBDA president
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
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