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"Finally!" Developer Dietrich Knoer said that was his first thought when he heard that the QLine, the new modern streetcar that travels along Woodward Avenue, would become a reality.
“A city of this magnitude, importance, history and otherwise really sophisticated infrastructure has to have commuter-type transportation,” said the president and CEO of the Platform, which is committed to transit-oriented, mixed-use developments along the Woodward Corridor. “I am absolutely delighted it is running. Ultimately, we all benefit from a better network of public transportation.”
Susan Mosey, executive director of non-profit Midtown Detroit, Inc., agreed. “People are really happy to have another convenient way to get back and forth from North End, New Center and Midtown to downtown. And businesses along Woodward feel like there are a lot more folks walking around and exploring their neighborhoods.”
A Welcome Addition
Riding the QLine, which has 12 stations along its 6.6-mile roundtrip route from Grand Boulevard south to Congress Street, has become increasingly popular since its much-heralded launch in May. Ridership increased from an average of 4,000 trips per day the week of June 12 to an average of 6,300 the week of July 17.
Following a summertime of free rides thanks to a grant from the Kresge Foundation, the system expects to average 5,000 trips daily during its first full year of revenue operations. Fares, which began this month, are $1.50 for a three-hour pass, $3 for a day pass, $30 for a monthly pass and $285 for a yearly pass of unlimited rides.
To better meet ridership demands, the QLine has increased the number of streetcars operating during peak ridership hours. QLine now runs five streetcars Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. At launch the line had 17 certified streetcar operators, and now employs 10 more.
More impressive still is the $7 billion-plus that has been invested or planned for more than 200 development projects along the QLine route since 2013. This includes 10,000 new housing units and 5 million square feet of new commercial space.
And it’s not just mammoth developments like the Little Caesars Arena, future home of the Detroit Red Wings, bringing in jobs and dollars. Many along the Woodward Corridor report seeing a boost in foot traffic – and sales – since the sleek streetcars made their springtime debut.
That includes the North End Collective, a launchpad for small business with four specialty shops sharing 2,000 square feet at Woodward and West Grand Boulevard (near the Baltimore Street Station). The stores were formerly pop-ups and some will continue to appear at special events like Noel Night and Small Business Saturday, said Jordette Singleton, owner of UnitedFront, a contemporary clothing boutique that shares space with the Traveling Pants Company (trendy women’s clothing), Purple Love (handmade jewelry) and Bath Savvy Naturals (natural handmade body care).
“The QLine has definitely put eyes on the North End Collective and people are coming from all over who wouldn’t have come before,” said Singleton. “I am really enjoying being in a brick and mortar and seeing customers all the time. Destination shopping is coming back to Detroit!”
The QLine, Singleton said, “has become part of the culture. You come downtown, park and then hop on the QLine. We all leave our cars at the North End and take the QLine downtown. We love it.”
Janet Webster Jones, who owns Source Booksellers at 4240 Cass, near the Canfield Street Station, has also seen a bump in foot traffic.
“We have definitely had people come in who said they were on the QLine,” she said of her non-fiction bookstore, which was established 29 years ago and is in its fifth year at its current spot. “Right now, zillions of people are getting work in Detroit with all the things going on.”
Matt Fry is the director of the Detroit Artists Market, a non-profit gallery committed to contemporary art and connecting artists. Founded in 1932, the gallery has been in its present location at 4719 Woodward, near the Warren Avenue Station, since 2000.
“"Relative to some other stretches of Woodward, we have never had a lot of foot traffic but nevertheless we have noticed more people coming from the QLine,” said Fry.
“Consequently, our official entrance, which has been around the back, is moving to the front because of the foot traffic along Woodward. It’s really, really nice to see a cross section of people. We are going to pretty up our façade, put an official sandwich board out and maybe add a coffee cart on the street.”
Apartment buildings are also benefitting from the QLine action.
“At Village Green’s Detroit properties, we have seen a 20 percent increase in inquiries over the past three months. We have heard directly from renters that they want to know how many steps it is from our front doors to the nearest QLine stops,” said Dave Ferszt, president of Village Green Management, whose Detroit properties include Detroit City Apartments at 1431 Washington Boulevard, near Grand Circus Park.
Along the Avenue
Knoer, who partnered with well-known developer Peter Cummings in 2016 to buy the iconic Fisher Building and launch the Platform, transverses Woodward daily to get to his office.
“I am now driving down a boulevard that is fully resurfaced, totally improved and beautified,” he said. “That alone as a benefit that came with the construction of the QLine is amazing.”
Though he himself is behind many of the upcoming developments along Woodward, Knoer admitted that he can be a bit dazed by the dizzying pace of change.
“I really am surprised by how incredibly fast the resurgence is progressing,” Knoer said. “Everything we and others are doing on the Woodward stretch between I-94 and Grand Boulevard, and the retailing in the Fisher Building, is because people see the potential of the QLine. There is so much benefit coming over time we can’t measure yet.”
Visit qlinedetroit.com for complete details on the QLine experience.
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Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.