Hey, Jer here. Big newsletter today.

There’s nothing like a story about taking out a freeway in Metro Detroit to get passions up.

Many of us are married to our cars, and can’t think of any other way to be. Plus, statistically, most people haven’t ever lived Downtown or in Lafayette Park (I have) and only view the project through the lens of their trip to a game Downtown.

But with the news that the federal government will grant about $105 million to help pay for turning I-375 into a boulevard — this has moved from a thing that happens in space to something more, ahem, concrete.

A rendering of the preferred alternative for the boulevard project from recent MDOT planning documents, and after local community feedback.

The new plan as described involves a street-level boulevard that’ll start south of the I-75 interchange and continue to Atwater Street. It’ll be plugged into the existing road network, and it’ll be six lanes most of the route and four from Jefferson to the waterfront.

There’s also going to be a two-way cycle track on the east side of the boulevard connecting the riverfront to Montcalm Street, then extend west to Brush Street and east to Gratiot Avenue, where it will connect with the Dequindre Cut.

For me, here are five reasons in no particular order why I think it’s a good idea - and yes, I’m very familiar with the details. I first covered it in 2019 for DPTV, and I did interviews. I’ve also gone to meetings, and I did the legwork.

  1. The current freeway is crumbling, with bridges falling apart. It hasn’t been truly redone since construction more than a half-century ago. Lost in this conversation and not mentioned in recent news stories is that it’s 25% less expensive to make it a boulevard than to replace what we have now to modern standards. Maintaining it will be cheaper, too. Father time means that one or the other would have to happen, and we’re spending money on this regardless.
  2. Safety. This spur was designed at a time when we didn’t understand how traffic worked as well as we do now. Drivers take what is essentially a ramp going from I-375 to Jefferson at freeway speeds, causing more accidents.
  3. The world has changed. Traffic is down, and I believe it’s been going down since 2009 on this stretch. Way before the pandemic. If we have to redo it anyway, let’s redo it for the needs of today.
  4. It would create better opportunities to have a complete neighborhood connection between downtown Detroit and Lafayette Park. Yes, it’s being replaced with a boulevard and there are questions if pedestrians will be a priority, but with bike lanes and such and some smart planning, I think it could easily be handled.
  5. It could be a step toward righting a historic wrong. Now the press materials focus on this portion — as the construction of I-375 was one part of demolishing and dismantling the historic Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, a racist act that over time pushed 140,000 black people out of their homes. There’s a reason Albert Cobo’s name was taken off Cobo hall.

Now, this proposal isn’t perfect.

Urbanists think the boulevard is too wide. Suburbanites are wringing their hands about an exit ramp they take five times a year, or think it’s another money sink (See previous point about having to replace this stretch anyway - it’s going to cost us one way or another).

Although entertainment traffic has rebounded, office workers have not returned Downtown to previous levels and they aren’t expected to fully come back to offices soon.

Downtown Detroit, despite all the local hype, is still small as far as residential units compared to other midwest cities, and anyone who’s traveled and paid attention can figure out we could turn in that sea of surface parking lots and make them residential for a more vibrant area.

The Short North in Columbus

I was recently in Columbus, Ohio and visited the Short North. It’s one of the near-downtown neighborhoods that’s in one of the cities with more downtown residences than us (more than double).

It was almost constantly bustling with people during my stay with mid-rise buildings with apartments, single or townhouses a block or two off the main strip, residential, parks, shops and bars. A mix of preserved buildings and new construction that mirrors them. And then neighborhoods nearby that also plug into each other.

That’s important as here in Detroit we have strong areas that are often islands you need to drive between.

We have very few spaces at that regular level of activity right now - maybe Capitol Park, but it’s a block.

It’s clear to me that the key to bringing that to Detroit is residents. And we should invest in them.

With I-375, there’s also the question of equity and restoration. Realistically, we’re not going to redo Lafayette Park back into Paradise Valley or eliminate the rest of I-75 that took out far more of Black Bottom; how this particular land is used is a question that needs to be discussed with stakeholders, including residents.

Redoing this opens up valuable land for redevelopment. Some wonder if Black developers will get a shot at it or if it will be lip-service. One friend of mine put it well saying “the dishes are done” when it comes to actual reparation, that neighborhood will never return as it was, but it could be a chance to take some positive steps. We’ll see.

Let’s get to the rest of the stories. If this is your first time here, consider signing up for the newsletter.

p.s. - We’re doing a new thing. If you look below, I’ve added numbers to each link. Not that they’re in priority order, but for easy reference for discussion purposes in the comment section.

What to know…

1 » Sudden shutdown to make way for development: My Dad’s Bar in Detroit on the Grosse Pointe Park border is closing this weekend. They also posted about it on Facebook that it was the end, and on Instagram tonight (Friday) was the last night.

The bar was purchased four years ago by the Cotton family who entered the billionaire zone off the sale of Meridian Health in 2018.

The bar will be demolished to make way for a new development on that corner.

My Dad’s Bar was part of our list, “Let’s get epic on the East Side.” The other bars on the list written in 2015 are still open. That’s quite a run.

Being that post was written seven years ago, I rarely get epic anymore and may have forgotten what it’s like. Hat tip to Engineer Randy for the find.

Zooming out, Grosse Pointe Park is one of the most population dense areas of Metro Detroit and has been seeing far more investment as of late. Watch that space — and on the Detroit side of the border, too.

2 » Taqueria El Rey is reopening in Lincoln Park. The popular eatery’s Southwest Detroit location caught fire, but they will rebuild in the suburbs. A twice-weekly service will continue at Batch Brewing in Corktown. [EATER DETROIT]

My two cents: There’s a trend of the hispanic community moving downriver. Local officials should note this as there’s double-digit growth. [OUTLIER MEDIA]

3 » Health inspection placards are NOT coming to Detroit restaurants anytime soon. Council member Coleman A. Young II said Scott Benson who introduced the ordinance should “hug it out” with the business community. It’s gone back to committee — so who knows how long (or if) this comes back to the table.

4 » A new $190 million, 14-story hotel will rise next to Little Caesar’s Arena. [URBANIZE DETROIT]

The site was a former headquarters for Motown Records for a few years. The Donovan Building was built in the 1920s and demolished in 2006. [HISTORIC DETROIT]

5 » Demolition on parts of the Packard Plant to begin next week. [CRAIN’S DETROIT]

6 » Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack is retiring after serving on the bench for 10 years and as chief justice for four years. She feels that it is time to step down so younger people have the chance to lead the court. McCormack will be CEO of the American Arbitration Association’s International Center for Dispute Resolution next year, and a strategic adviser to University of Pennsylvania’s law school’s Future of the Profession Initiative. [MLIVE]

7 » Big Red Orchards in Washington Township is for sale. The orchard has 11 buildings on the site. Will the future of this site see another orchard owner or a developer for a subdivision? [CRAIN’S DETROIT]

8 » A Detroit police officer was suspended this week for having an OnlyFans account. DPD Chief James White launched an investigation and suspended Janelle Zielinski on Tuesday morning when he learned about the account; and before knowing about her resignation the day before. The officer graduated from the police academy and started working for DPD in March.

Chris Graveline of DPD’s Professional Standards division says officers have a duty to keep their personal lives “unsullied.” (Having cops as family members, “unsullied” is an interesting choice of words as a bar to meet).

What do you think? If an employee has pornographic content on their Only Fans account, does that warrant suspending them? [FOX 2 DETROIT]

9 » Bagley Central will permanently close at the end of September. Mike Ketelhut, the bartender, manager, and co-owner said he decided not to renew the neighborhood pub’s partnership agreement. Final events will be posted on their social media.

10 » Four Bed, Bath & Beyond locations are closing in Metro Detroit. 150 stores nationwide will also fall silent as part of a major financial restructuring. The stores are in Chesterfield, Farmington Hills, Northville Township and White Lake Township. [BED BATH AND BEYOND]

11 » Comerica Bank is consolidating most of their offices and moving them to Farmington Hills. 2,000 employees will be impacted. [HOMETOWN LIFE]

On our podcast…

12 » Radio personality turned communications pro Craig Fahle joined me on the podcast to talk about the changing media landscape, finding common ground and his hopes for the future of the region.

13 » Detroit City FC’s surprise win over Colorado Springs all but assures them a playoff spot. So what’s ahead? Fletcher Sharpe and I preview the Tampa Bay Rowdies match this weekend; plus discuss Ryan Shellow and Deklan Wynne. We get into a little Lions and college football talk, too.

14 » The auto show in Detroit is different this year, as the big reveals are gone and it’s more of a consumer experience. Eric Trytko joins me and Devon to talk about it. We also get into I-375 and some places we’ve been, such as the University District home tour and Beppé in Royal Oak.

Thanks to Bob and Paul for supporting us last week by buying coffees. Your support matters. If you’d like to send a gift to us too, hit the button.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to have as awesome of a weekend as possible and we’ll talk next week.


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