Detroit — Joe Rashid has one goal, and that’s to bring life back to the streets of East Warren on the city’s east side.
Rashid, the commercial co-chair for the East English Village Neighborhood Association, said the area — East Warren between Bedford and Guilford — needs support now more than ever with just less than 40 percent business occupancy in the community.
“We are hoping to work with the community to bring business back to the area,” he explained. “Our goal is to create a community-driven, viable business corridor with businesses that cater to the community’s needs.”
Rashid said the community is ready to clean and beautify East Warren and patronize the local businesses, but it needs funds to finish the project dubbed “Restorin’ E. Warren.”
“We would be able to purchase the materials needed to paint murals and crosswalks, build planters, benches and signs to make East Warren more walkable and appealing for the community and business,” he said.
Organizers are working closely with the Department of Neighborhoods; Planning and Development; Housing and Revitalization; Public Works; General Service; and the Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.
Many residents already have started the process that will improve the area, said Rashid, who recently earned a master’s degree in community development from the University of Detroit Mercy.
“I worked on my master thesis with a group of students on how to breathe new life into the corridor,” he explained. “We put a bulk of our efforts into starting a monthly business and community group to help understand where things were at on East Warren.”
More than 30 people attended a meeting that Rashid hosted in November and “within a month, residents mobilized and helped put together a holiday pop-up shop with over 40 vendors. Many being local residents who had businesses already but are not currently in a brick-and-mortar location.”
As a start to assist the project, Rashid reached out to a platform specifically targeting civic projects: ioby, or in Our Backyard.
The Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit group’s mission is “to bring neighborhood projects to life, block by block.”
“The ioby campaign has given us the resources to get the project off the ground. They were able to help us with corridor cleanup, events and promotion,” Rashid said. “Our hope is that we can put events like these on for years to come, to help highlight local business and drive foot traffic to East Warren.”
Rashid noted the variety of business owners along East Warren such as Rabaut’s Cafe, Royalty Dance Studio, Bike Tech, Tiger Chung Tae Kwan Do, Jeff’s AAA Dry Cleaners and new businesses moving in, such as the Craft Café, which will be opening in early 2018.
But to add more, the area needs to overcome a hurdle not unfamiliar in Detroit.
“We have businesses that want to move into the area; however, many of the buildings have years of back taxes and owners who are nowhere to be found,” he said.
Candice Meeks, the owner of The Craft Café, said she is thrilled to be a part of the new development on East Warren.
“This area is home to me,” Meeks said. “I grew up in this area on Balfour, which is the Morningside community. I currently live in East English Village, and I want to see the area I grew up in thrive again. I am excited about the development coming to the area. We need things to do that is close to home, and so we need to put some businesses in these vacant properties.”
Detroit resident Marquita Brown said she is willing to volunteer her time in hopes of helping the area.
“I’ve been a Detroit resident for over 40 years and to see that people actually care about this area is a wonderful feeling,” Brown said.
To learn more about the East Warren Community Development Project, go to www.restorinewarren.com.