Last month we got a chance to wander around a bit in some really distinctive retail spaces in Detroit’s West Village. One of our clients, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, was doing an open house for prospective occupants and we tagged along to help make the most of the event. It was great to see so many people show up and to hear about why they want to set up shop in our city. In the end we got to witness what may very well be the rebirth of retail along this picturesque street.
The West Village may be known for its historic charm but it was the neighborhood’s untapped potential that really struck a chord with these intrepid entrepreneurs. Like many parts of Detroit the West Village is a densely populated area starved for retail. Residents are forced to travel to the suburbs for things they’d rather buy closer to home. It’s a phenomenon known as retail leakage and it costs the city of Detroit an estimated $1.5 billion a year.
The DEGC is working with local neighborhood associations and property owners to help turn that trend around. The open house was just one small part of a larger retail initiative, one that promotes small business growth by facilitating positive relationships between building owners, entrepreneurs and the community at large. If their efforts in the West Village prove successful they plan to roll out customized versions of the program in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Hopefully efforts like these along with the growing number of successful startups in places like the Woodward corridor will let people see past Detroit’s problems and once again recognize it as a place where great business ideas can become great businesses.