East-side Detroit corridor prepares for revitalization plan

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Visiting her grandmother as a child, Maureen Dritsan remembers the East Warren corridor 60 years ago as a bustling place with numerous restaurants and shops. Visitors could walk along the avenue, dine at one of the eateries before stopping for ice cream or to play an arcade game before heading home.

“I spent a lot of time when the corridor was really vibrant,” said Dritsan, an East English Village resident. “I know what it was, and I’m really looking forward to it coming back.”

Community leaders expect the stretch of East Warren both east and west of Cadieux to continue to revive with an influx of businesses, streetscape improvements and housing stabilization.

Flux City is redeveloping this old Charter One bank into a three-story mixed-use building located at 16530 E Warren Avenue in Detroit that will incorporate retail programming on the ground floor, and two residential floors above that will have a primary focus of creating more affordable housing options for the corridor.

During a scheduled Monday evening virtual meeting, the city will present its E. Warren/Cadieux Framework plan that has been more than a year in the making with input from Dritsan and other residents of the East English Village, MorningSide and Cornerstone Village neighborhoods. Potential projects planned for the area represent more than $7.5 million in public and philanthropic funding, according to the city. There will also be private investment. 

“It was really a great opportunity to build upon some of the momentum that was already happening thanks to nonprofit organizations in the neighborhood,” said Katy Trudeau, acting director of the city of Detroit's planning department. “And really target some city investment and help expedite that along as well as leverage some things that are helping in the single-family housing market.”

The area studied encompasses the three east-side neighborhoods and is bounded by Interstate 94 to the north, Mack Avenue to the south, Alter to the west and Moross to the east. Central to it all is east Warren with its numerous storefronts of various occupancy and condition.

People walk along East Warren Avenue near Courville Street on Friday, March 12, 2021. The East Warren Cadieux Neighborhood Framework Plan hope to improve the neighborhood. 
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

The plan is part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, a city initiative seeking to revitalize 10 areas in the city with the help of philanthropic money. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2019 pledged $5 million to the area. East Warren/Cadieux is the eighth neighborhood with framework plans completed, officials said.

The partnership “was a great opportunity for Blue Cross to collaborate with the city and make a financial commitment to residents that would be meaningful and fit their needs," said BCBS CEO Daniel Loepp in an email. 

Their work has included school cleanups, support of nonprofits Eagles Sports Club and Arts and Scraps as well as conducting mobile COVID testing, said Suzanne Miller Allen, senior director of community responsibility and social mission for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Loepp said he grew up in the area.

“My childhood memories are filled with pick-up games on the street, sledding at Balduck Park, and trips to Cunningham’s Drug Store and the Sanders Ice Cream shop, just a short walk from home,” he wrote.

The framework plan will focus on commercial and mixed-use development, park improvement and neighborhood stabilization.

Streetscape improvements along East Warren are also in the works with the city’s general services department set to take on the next step in the design phase, said Allen Penniman, a planner in the city’s planning department. The framework plan features potential options for the streetscape to improve lighting and slow the flow of traffic. It would extend from Three Mile to Cadieux.

Motorist travel along East Warren Avenue near Three Mile Drive on Friday, March 12, 2021. The East Warren Cadieux Neighborhood Framework Plan hopes to improve the neighborhood.

“I want to see the streetscape come to fruition. I want to see better lighting,” said Dritsan, first vice president of the East English Village Association.

The idea is to get rid of vacant eyesores and make the corridor "feel like a very warm, welcoming place," she said.

The plan will also highlight the ways to stabilize the neighborhoods, including through the sale of side lots to neighbors, demolitions and home rehabilitations.   

A person walks along East Warren Avenue near Three Mile Drive on Friday, March 12, 2021. The East Warren Cadieux Neighborhood Framework Plan hopes to improve the neighborhood.

Balduck Park in Cornerstone Village is slated for work, including possible improvements to the Aspen Trail and the creation of a central promenade walk.

Among the first improvements people will see along East Warren are additional businesses.  Owner Garnet Terri plans to renovate a 4,000-square-foot building for her bakery, Terri's Cakes, that also has a 1,200-square-foot apartment above. She says construction could begin this summer.

“We are renovating it to be what we want it to be,” said Garnet Terri, who lives in the area. “Right now it’s just a building that doesn’t look like anything special, so we are making it look like a bakery.”

Garnet Terri, who currently bakes specialty desserts in a private kitchen, said her new space will have a full kitchen for both bakers and chefs as she plans to offer space for dinner parties when it’s safe to do so. She also plans to teach classes there and offer a high school internship program.

Garnet Terri, owner of Terri's Cakes Detroit, with commercial size mixers and ovens at this East Warren Avenue business space in Detroit on Saturday, March 13, 2021. She plans to open in September 2021.

Shovels could hit the ground by the end of the year for a mixed-use project called The Ribbon at 16530 E. Warren, the site of a former Charter One Bank, said its developer Edward Carrington of Flux City.

The project is named for the ribbon farms, long narrow pieces of land that extended from the Detroit River in the area in 1800s giving many farmers access to water.

The plan calls for a three-story mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor and two residential floors with the focus on affordable housing.

“During our ongoing engagement sessions, the business types that the community has requested the most are coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and wellness options,” Carrington said. “These are the types of retail tenants that we’re actively engaging with at the moment.”

These businesses and others like the Detroit Pepper Company and Flamz Pizzeria are joining numerous longstanding businesses along East Warren including BikeTech, Eastside Locksmith and Rabaut's Cafe. 

“Throughout history it was a corridor that could meet all of your community needs,” said Joe Rashid, an East English Village resident who is the executive director of nonprofit East Warren Development Corporation. Rashid is also a consultant for the framework plan.

“I think that this plan overall helps give context and a voice to what people have wanted to see all along,” he said. “We’ve wanted to see a streetscape coming. We wanted to see improvement to parks. We want to see actual business development.”


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN