Revitalizing Detroit’s Retail Landscape, One Neighborhood at a Time

Ashley Hennen

| 2 min read

Ashley Hennen is the Communications Manager for Hatch Detroit. She is passionate about doing her part to help build up vibrant and diverse retail in Detroit, spurring more walkable and healthy communities.
While we’ve become well known for our annual Hatch Detroit Contest, awarding a $50K grant to startup retail businesses looking to open a brick and mortar shop, we as an organization are also looking toward helping existing independent businesses around six core neighborhoods in the city. In the next few years, we’re partnering with local community development corporations, listening to the community and determining how we can help in the efforts to revitalize Detroit’s retail landscape.
Last year, we set our sights on the Avenue of Fashion (that’s Livernois between 7 and 8 mile roads). Historically, it’s where Detroit did a lot of its high-end shopping. B. Siegel Co., Woolworths, and Grinnel all called it home. But as shopping malls proliferated, business started to relocate. Now? Livernois is seeing a bit of a revival of their shopping district (though it hasn’t ever gone away!).
We wanted to focus on businesses that have been long-established and have long served their surrounding community. With local artists Jessica Janda, Joshua Smith, and the Detroit Design Center, we created pedestrian-scale signage for five businesses. These helped in creating an aesthetic-defining characteristic for the district, and was also practical in helping each business with their sheer visibility. Our aim is that these signs encourage more people to go out and take a stroll down the district, leading to more walk-in traffic for each business: Jo’s Gallery, Jo’s Gallery Cafe, Micah’s Salon, Times Square Men’s Clothing and Motown Portrait Studio.
Our focus for this year has been the Villages. If you’ve been to the new restaurants Craft Work or Detroit Vegan Soul (a Hatch Contest alum!), you know the Agnes Street retail strip. Aiming to improve the sense of safety and security on the block, we’re installing new lighting for the parking lots and repaired the gas lights along Agnes. To increase the pedestrian friendliness of the block and businesses, we’re pouring new sidewalks while installing new bike racks as well as signage for Craft Work, Detroit Vegan Soul, the brand new Red Hook Cafe, and Tarot & Tea. The project will be completed this fall as we move on to our next neighborhood and area of focus.
For more information on the Neighborhood Initiative or Hatch Detroit, visit For more on building healthy communities in Michigan, click here.
Photo credit: Ashley Hennen

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