Doing Development Differently By Putting The Neighborhood First

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The nonprofit Jefferson East Inc. has been working since the 1990s to redevelop Detroit’s hard-bitten Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood and business district, located on the far east end of Jefferson Avenue near the border with Grosse Pointe Park.

Recently, the organization and its for-profit real estate development arm East Jefferson Development Corp., held a weeklong community workshop to solicit ideas from residents about what they want to see in their neighborhood.

On today’s episode, we speak with EJDevCo CEO Derric Scott and Jefferson East Chief Exec Josh Elling about what the organization learned from the process, how it’s working with would-be tenants to best serve the immediate needs of the neighborhood, and how the for-profit development unit helps expand what the organization can accomplish.

Scott says East Jefferson Development Corp. owns or controls 87% of the properties located within Jefferson-Chalmers, a once-thriving business district that stretches along Jefferson from Lenox Street to Alter Road. The district is filled with some incredible architecture, but also many vacant and blighted buildings. It’s also home to the first protected bike lanes in the city.

Residents who came out to the workshops expressed a desire for things including a new first-run movie theater, a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and a redevelopment of the formerly whites-only Vanity Ballroom as an inclusive mixed-use asset to the community.

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