Parker Street's historic row houses stand shoulder to shoulder on deep
lots bordering Detroit's Indian Village. The homes display their antique
charm with painted wood siding and large inviting porches, bracketed
with ornate columns. Situated among these uniquely detailed row houses
are further specimens of Victorian stateliness, including high-rise
apartments, cottages and stable houses, all built in the first days of
the 20th century.
Part of historic West Village, and one of the communities that make up
neighborhood, Parker Street is located just east of Van
Dyke, between Jefferson and Kercheval. Within walking distance of
commercial strips, the RiverWalk
and Belle Isle, Parker is also just
minutes away from downtown. These richly detailed but affordable homes
have attracted a steady stream of new residents undertaking a multitude
of restoration projects over the past few years.
The street is occupied by a diverse group of artists, writers,
developers, community activists, business people and entrepreneurs who
have collectively decided to make their street one of the city's most
vibrant. They are friendly, passionate about their homes, and they have
big plans for their neighborhood.
Take a stroll down Parker. As you walk, don't be surprised if someone invites you up
the steps to their porch. You might find yourself talking to new friends
and asking yourself, "Why haven't I been to this neighborhood before?
Why don't I live on this block? How did this wine glass get in my hand?"
West Village and specifically Parker have earned some national
attention. Time Inc. purchased a 3,000-square-foot home on Parker in
2009 to operate as headquarters for their Detroit-based bureau for the
duration of its Project Detroit
Time Inc.'s subsidiary, This Old House Magazine
, also has its eye on the
neighborhood. It recently selected the Villages of Detroit as one of
the 50 best places to fix an old house in the country
for its annual
"Best Places to Buy an Old House" contest. Calling the neighborhood a
"bargain-hunter's bounty of architectural riches," This Old House
to the area's affordability and to "people who share an appreciation of
finely crafted homes that have plenty of past and lots of future."
On Parker alone, potential residents can choose from flats, rental
properties and high-rise apartments, in addition to historic homes.
An average two bedroom rental ranges from $600 to $800, 3 bedrooms are
up to $900. Homes run from $30,000 to $200,000, according to Realtor Joy Santiago
, who sits on The Villages board and sells a lot in the neighborhood. "Its definitely a good selling neighborhood, and Parker is one of the hotter streets in West Village," she says.
Resident Bill Swanson also saw potential in West Village. In 2004, he purchased a 1907
row house fixer-upper on Parker for $25,000. Although the house was the
worst on the block, a few qualities caught his eye. "The
African Mahogany throughout the house was in perfect condition. It had
never been painted," he says. "In this neighborhood, there are historic
buildings and homes built by named architects. I knew this house was
In 2007, Swanson won the Governor's Award for Historic Restoration for
his work on the house. "I took something that should have been torn down
and put it back together," he says. "But I won the award because I put
it together the way it was supposed to be. When it was built, it was a
beautiful home. I knew it could be beautiful again."
In the last six years Swanson has seen other improvements on the street.
"A lot of young people are moving in," he says. "There used to be four
empty houses on this block -- now there's only one, and it's not in
foreclosure, it's for sale."
Swanson sees a link to progress made in downtown Detroit to the
evolution of Parker and West Village as a whole. "This neighborhood was
originally built for people who wanted to experience city life but still
wanted their own space. They don't want an apartment. They want a
house, a lawn. Here, people can live close to the city and get what they
Steve Lambers was attracted to the neighborhood for affordable
rental opportunities and it's proximity to Belle Isle. Lambers, an
active rower on Belle Isle, could bike from Parker to the nearby island
daily for training. "There's an unbelievably strong sense of community
there," he says. "Everybody knows everybody. You feel a very strong
sense of belonging."
Most people living on Parker are quick to point out this sense of
community. "It's a very solid social network," explains Swanson. "My
neighbor grew up here and still mows the lawn for the people across the
street. I don't think he gets paid for it any more but he keeps on
mowing," he says.
"On this street, everyone knows each other and everyone's looking out
for each other. People aren't fleeing this neighborhood. They're coming
This sense of community may come from the physical nature of the street.
The closely situated homes create a sense of communal living that
promotes interaction. "The houses are close together and everyone has a
front porch, so we see each other a lot. We talk. That's what really
reinforces a neighborhood," he says.
Many Parker residents frequently get together for barbeques, walks, progressive dinners and parties.
Together with his wife, Vittoria Katanski, Swanson hosts the annual West
Village Wassailing Party that brings more than 100 residents into the
streets carrying steaming hot liqueurs and belting out carols at the top
of their lungs.
"Everyone just hangs out here," says Parker resident Kirsten Ussery
Boyd. "We've been lucky with new people moving in," she says. "It just
happened. Everyone is really committed to the neighborhood and to its
success. We want to attract more good people here."
The commitment to the neighborhood has created a sense of stewardship
too. Most residents admit to taking an active role in recruiting new
neighbors to pick Parker. "If I see
someone looking at a house or a place to rent, I'll introduce myself
and try to make them feel welcome. And it's not just me, everyone does
Business, and the future
When Yolanda Graves and Tylie Harris began renovations in a commercial
building on the corner of Parker and Kercheval, it wasn't long before
they were introduced to many of their new neighbors. "People saw what we
were doing and were very supportive," says Harris. "Everyone is excited to see something happening here."
The owner of TeAri Massage Spa
, Harris is a native Detroiter who was
drawn to West Village. "I've always felt this was a safe neighborhood. I
could exercise here," she says. "This area has a lot of pride and I
wanted to bring healthy living along with that pride."
The spa held its grand opening earlier this year in conjunction with
Suite 7 Salon. The salon's owner, Yolanda Graves, is also enthusiastic
about her new location. "There's a lot of new and exciting things
happening here," says Graves. "Since I moved the business here, it's
taken off faster than I thought it would. The architecture, the details,
you don't get that in a prefab home. People are drawn to history and
diversity, and you get that in this neighborhood."
Across the street, Pearl's Music has been in business since 1992. Owner
Walter Esaw credits Pearl's success to the connections he's made in both
the record industry and in the neighborhood. "We have many of the same
customers we had in '92 today," he says.
holds frequent customer appreciation events, including
album release parties and Pearl's underground concerts in the store's
basement. Saturday nights in the summer feature live outdoor DJs and
music for the community. "Pearl's wants to be involved in making this
neighborhood better. I know it works both ways," he says.
"So many positive things are going on here, and now we're getting an
opportunity to tell this neighborhood's story," says Swanson. "Parker is
becoming a natural place for people to move. As the riverfront and
Jefferson continue to develop, this neighborhood gets even more
walkable, more vibrant and more connected to the city."
Mike Gentile lives on the East Side
and writes for Model D, and both offer him ample opportunity to ask,
"How did this glass of wine get in my hand?"
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