Here's Model D's guide to moving to Eastern Market. Interested in visiting there? Click here. Interested in investing in the neighborhood? Click here.
While loft living is the new big thing around town, Eastern Market’s been doing it for decades. Plus, the market is an actual neighborhood that still serves its original function as a center for food distribution, processing and warehousing; and for that, its street cred measures through the roof.
The Atlas Building on Gratiot has been used as live/work lofts since the 1960s. They are lofts in the truest sense of the word: big, raw, open spaces with wood floors, exposed brick and few to no interior walls. Bethany Shorb, a costume and print designer, has had a space on the building’s sixth floor for the last three years. She explains what drew her there: “I wanted a space where I could actually work, get paint on the floor—not just be an artist by fashion. The market has more raw spaces.”
Shorb has found the reality of the working market to be its most intriguing asset. She finds inspiration for her work from its grittiness. “A lot of my photo shoots are food-based, food mixing with fashion. I use a lot of things that are exclusive to the market in my work.”
Ten-year market denizen Kevin Hanson of the Johanson Charles Gallery on Division Street notes how the market’s round-the clock food industry adds to its safety. “Some of the packing places open up at 1 or 2 in the morning,” Hanson says. “By the time they close up at 11 a.m., restaurants and supply places open up until 4 p.m. After that bars and my gallery open up.” It’s a 24-hour cycle that few, if any, other neighborhoods can claim.
There are three common themes that bubble up from conversations with market residents: access to the market itself, proximity to downtown, and the interesting mix of people that live, work in and visit the market. Shorb says, “Even before I moved here, I went down to the market all the time. Now it’s nice to walk there. ...I haven’t been to a regular supermarket in years. I really get just about everything in the market.” Besides having prime access to the market on Saturdays, throughout the week residents have numerous specialty shops from which to purchase cheese, bread, wine, pasta and sauces, coffee and tea, not to mention produce. “We certainly do eat well around here!” Shorb says.
Hanson, who had been living downtown before moving to the market, gives high marks to his neighborhood’s walkability. Hanson walks not only to neighborhood spots like Bert’s and Cutter’s, but also to downtown haunts like Sweetwater Tavern. “Downtown is like my playground,” Hanson says. “How many neighborhoods can you walk out your front door and have your choice of (so many) things to do?”
Shorb also enjoys the proximity to downtown, and can literally see it from her loft. “What attracted me the most was the view,” Shorb says. “I can see the GM Building, I can see Canada, and I can see the river.”
John Gannon, a home entertainment systems consultant, moved a few years ago into the FD Lofts on Russell Street next to Sala Thai restaurant. While he has no river view, he can certainly see a community that he enjoys being a part of. “The market is a unique spot. The first time I went to Vivio’s I got introduced to everyone,” Gannon says, adding that people were so welcoming to him that they would say, “‘He’s our newest neighbor, you got to get to know him!’ I’ve never lived anywhere where that happened before.” He also notes that living near Sala Thai and Roma Café give him great places to wine and dine his clients.
Eastern Market has only rental loft housing to offer, with the notable exception of the Leland Lofts on Anteitam just south of Gratiot. However, Pat Deegan and his fiancée Liz Blondy did buy a building on Gratiot on the same block as the Atlas. They have rehabed the one-and-a-half story building and have been occupying it for over a year now. The couple moved from their Mies Van der Rohe co-op townhouse in Lafayette Park, which, as Deegan describes, was a great place to call home for three years. “We love Lafayette Park, and the fact that the parks interconnect from Gratiot all the way down to Jefferson. We also love the fact that we’re just moving from mid-park to the northern end of it.”
For most people, however, moving to the market will mean looking for a rental loft. There are several options including the Atlas Building, Rocky Peanut Lofts and the E&B Brewery Lofts, as well as the FD Lofts that Gannon now calls home. The 33 units have been completed with rent ranging from $1,000 to $1,500 per month. In five years, FD developer Bob Heide wants the lofts converted to condos.
Many other rental options exist that may require some detective work. Lots of locals hang out at Vivio’s, so put in some time at the bar to hear breaking news on available space, which can range anywhere from $300 to $1,200 per month. The price varies according to size of the space as well as the type of amenities provided. In Eastern Market, lofts can range from the downright raw to the lap of luxury.
Those moving to the market will find not only food amenities, but home furnishing opportunities as well. Savvy Chic and three well-appointed antique stores will help you get your pad fit for living. You can stock your kitchen at People’s Restaurant Supplies, and green up the place with help from The Pottery Guy and the many plant vendors at the market on Saturdays.
Eastern Market provides food products to all of Metro Detroit, but to its residents it provides a high level of retail access, accessibility to downtown, and a connected community atmosphere. As Gannon puts it, “The market has really good vibes.”
Terry Parris Jr. contributed to this guide. Last updated May 2008.
Directions to Eastern Market
From the East:
Take I-94 West and merge onto I-75 South/Chrysler Fwy via Exit 216A toward Toledo. Continue to Exit 52 toward Mack Ave., stay straight to go onto Chrysler Dr. and turn left onto Wilkins St. Turn right onto Chrysler Dr and turn left onto Russell St., arrive in Eastern Market.
From the North:
Take I-75 South. Continue to Exit 52 toward Mack Ave., stay straight to go onto Chrysler Dr. and turn left onto Wilkins St. Turn right onto Chrysler Dr and turn left onto Russell St., arrive in Eastern Market.
From the West:
Take I-96 East and merge onto I-75 North via the exit on the left toward Flint. Continue to the M-3/Gratiot Ave Exit 51B on the left. Turn slight right onto Gratiot Ave and then turn right onto Russell St. Arrive in Eastern Market.
From the South:
Take I-94 East toward Detroit and merge onto I-96 East/Jefferies Fwy via Exit 213B toward Canada. Continue to I-75 North via the exit on the left toward Flint. Take the M-3/Gratiot Ave Exit 51B on the left. Turn slight right onto Gratiot Ave and then turn right onto Russell St. Arrive in Eastern Market.
Take 1-75 North toward Detroit. Continue to the M-3/Gratiot Ave Exit 51B on the left. Turn slight right onto Gratiot Ave and then turn right onto Russell St. Arrive in Eastern Market.
Berts serving up BBQ on Russell Street
Old cobbled stone street welcomes Atlas Building tenants
Sala Thai next to FD Lofts
One-stop shoppping; R. Hirt's, Vivio's, Eastern Market Seafood & Cost Plus Wine Shoppe
Photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.