The first new major development on the Avenue of Fashion will include a restaurant, yoga studio

With $1.7 million in beautification and streetscape upgrade investments on the way and a concentrated effort by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to grow this district's retail presence, the Avenue of Fashion is poised to regain its former glory as Detroit's premiere shopping district.
There is one large-scale development project that has already captured the attention of residents in neighboring Green Acres, Sherwood Forest, University Commons, and Palmer Woods – all safe, vibrant communities full of people who have lived there for decades and want to see retail growth in their neighborhoods. This project is located at 19344 Livernois, just north of Seven Mile. and is overseen by Detroit-based designer and builder Chad Dickinson.
As a designer and builder, Dickinson is specifically interested in sustainability, process, and community. He has built world-class recording studios in Nashville, has done a variety of home design work and custom furniture from reclaimed materials (including all the furniture in Green Garage), and is currently doing major renovation work at Envirosolids waste treatment and recycling facility in Dearborn. His recently-established real estate development company I'm Here is the developer of the 10,000 square foot building at 19344 Livernois (formerly the Hunter's Supper Club). He has a specific vision for the space and is willing to take the time and the money to do it the right way.
"Detroit has a unique opportunity to create a new model of urban revitalization that works with the existing community," he says, noting how other examples of urban revitalization he has seen across the country have meant pushing out existing residents and businesses (in other words, the dreaded "gentrification," something Detroiters – whether they agree if it is or is not currently happening – seem to be in agreement that they don't want to happen). Dickinson, a Green Acres resident himself, wants to involve the community in his project, to find out what they want to see there, what their needs are, and how to best serve them. He nods to businesses that have been on the Avenue for 30 years and residents that have lived there their whole lives and wants to work with them, not despite them.
His vision for the massive property, which is split into several distinct spaces, is to be a gathering place for the community offering a number of different social and lifestyle experiences. The U-shaped building wraps around a large courtyard, which will be the centerpiece of the property and the main entry point. Upstairs there will be a reading area and a yoga studio (Dickinson is a long-time yoga practitioner and wants this to be a space that also invites community interaction). Downstairs will be a café/restaurant and a high-end retail store that will specialize in footwear (he is also a self-professed shoe addict).
The building that will be home to the restaurant dates back 100-150 years. Dickinson and his team believe it was the barn of German immigrant Anton Grix. The Bavarian-inspired building retains its original wooden beams and massive stone fireplace, all of which will be salvaged and restored during the renovation. The second building that is connected to it, home to the yoga studio and retail store, was built in the 1950s.
The project will be an expensive one but Dickinson says he will spare no expense to do it well. He repeats several times, "It's not about the money." Instead, it's about serving the community well.
The work will be completed in phases. The courtyard will open this summer as a grand unveiling of the project as a whole. There will be events programmed to activate the space and build community excitement. Dickinson says the next space to open will be the yoga studio later this year. The café and restaurant will likely be last, and Dickinson estimates the completion of that portion is at least two years out. But he's in no hurry, and is set on seeing the project through, even if it's all through personal investment.
As the developer, Dickinson is not trying to open and operate these businesses himself. He is looking to partner with aspiring business owners who are equally as passionate about serving the community in a thoughtful, respectful, sustainable way and who will in turn have the full support of the DEGC, the University Commons Business District, and other business development organizations.
Source: Chad Dickinson, designer and builder
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.