Things are humming along nicely in the East Jefferson Corridor. It’s reimagining itself with new businesses and cultural experiences, public spaces and clean-up and safety programs.
If all goes according to plan we’ll see East Jefferson Avenue transformed from “a sea of asphalt into a pedestrian friendly, multi-model environment” that supports economic development and business activity.
In case you’re wondering the East Jefferson Corridor runs six miles on Jefferson Avenue from I-375, just east of downtown, to Alter Road, Detroit’s east boundary adjacent to the Grosse Pointes. It’s an area that has seen better days and has been cited as an example of Detroit’s outmigration issue …the wealth has moved out of Detroit. East Jefferson Avenue connects a vibrant Downtown to the Grosse Pointes. It is one of Detroit’s widest streets including four lanes for traffic, two parking lanes, and a middle turn lane .In the past, the ride down it became progressively seedier as you passed orphaned, abandon buildings until it hit the increasingly wealthier Grosse Pointes.
As the eastern gateway to Detroit’s downtown, Jefferson links historically significant neighborhoods with the East Riverfront, cultural amenities and civic institutions. However, the street’s physical condition, aesthetic appeal and sheer width have inhibited connectivity, social interaction and economic exchange.
That’ll end if Josh Elling, his teams at the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA), Jefferson Creative Corridor and hundreds of volunteers and neighbors have their way … and I think they will. They’ve already made great progress.
East Jefferson Avenue is unique. It runs parallel to the Detroit River and has some tremendous neighborhoods committed to the area’s rebirth. How many people have taken the time to drive down one of the side streets toward the water and visit the Marina District? Here canals run up to backyards and residents can quickly take their boats from their backyards to the river and on to Lake St Claire. And, guess what? Those homes are very affordable.
There is absolutely power in location.
If you’ve ever been to Jazzin’ on Jefferson you’ve seen a fun, vibrant community with a rich musical heritage. Last year more than 1200 people attended the two-day event.
Take a look at what else has changed on East Jefferson:
- Eight new businesses opened in the East Jefferson and Marina Districts.
- Pop-ups such as Suddle Creations Art Gallery, the Food Lab during Jazzin’ on Jefferson and a fashion show highlight local artists and businesses.
- The Chalmers Square Apartments opened.
- JEBA was able to support for more than 100 individuals through the Business Resources Center.
- Five façades/interiors got facelifts.
- Overall, crime dropped 21% over the past year.
- The Jefferson East Police Patrol was launched. It employs Detroit police officers via the Secondary Police Officer Program. As a result there were 1400 hours of targeted patrols by uniformed officers. The officers not only targeted crime hot spots but also spent a great deal of time interacting with business owners, residents and visitors. The results were encouraging. (Such community engagement programs have worked well in other areas such a Grandmont/Rosedale where during a 120-day pilot program earlier this year there were 32% fewer home invasions compared to the same time last year.)
- JEBA helped 23 residents in the Jefferson/Chalmers neighborhood make security upgrades to their homes.
- Thirty-one vacant homes were secured and protected from vandalism in West Village and the Jefferson/Chalmers neighborhoods.
- The Brodhead Armory will be redeveloped thanks to a grant from the National Register of Historic Places that helps with pre-development studies and work.
- Motorcities Heritage Area Wayside signage that documents the area’s contributions to the auto industry will be added thanks to a grant from the National Park Services.
- The Jefferson Avenue Clean Team and Clean Downtown removed more than 20 tons of trash and weeds from 125 city blocks, mowed vacant lots and targeted graffiti and street spam.
- Fifty vacant lots and several side streets were cleaned up thanks to more than 80 volunteers who bagged and dragged rubbish and overgrowth.
- Neighborhood block clubs maintained 144 vacant lots.
- In collaboration with the Greening of Detroit JEBA mulched more than 300 tree pits.
The East Jefferson Avenue Business Association laid out all this and more at its recent annual meeting, where Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II served as the keynote speaker. During his speech he mentioned Cleaver’s law … the amount of enthusiasm at the beginning of a task is disproportionate to the amount of enthusiasm at the end of a task. He indicated that if we don’t maintain our enthusiasm “the biggest ship that’s coming our way is hardship.”
From what we’ve seen as East Jefferson Avenue’s transformation has progressed the enthusiasm has only grown and the ships we will see there are more new ones sitting in residents’ backyards in the Marina District.