Opinion: Support Detroit's 'Avenue of Fashion'

Mark S. Lee

As Detroit’s legendary “Avenue of Fashion,” Livernois, undergoes a makeover — scheduled for a March completion date — entrepreneurs are feeling the effects on their businesses and are trying to minimize adverse financial impact on bottom lines. 

It's tough. 

The $17 million construction project that began in May will widen the sidewalks, add bike lanes, and improve the street on a 1.5 mile stretch of Livernois Avenue called the Avenue of Fashion.  But extended construction is taking a deep toll on businesses.

On my radio show recently, I talked to Dolphin Michael, Avenue of Fashion Business Association president, and Derrick Reynolds, owner and proprietor, Good Times on the Avenue. Michael simply stated, “We’re dying over there. We’ve had several businesses go out of business.”

Reynolds, who purchased the former 1917 Bistro in February, invested significant personal resources and has had to delay its opening until later this year.  Its opening date was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, and while it's ready for customers, Reynolds decided not to open this summer due to a lack of customers, accessibility and parking.

According to Michael, three businesses have closed. Others, like Good Times, have delayed their openings and 15 slated to open this year are now on-hold. 

And yet others have decided to shut their doors temporarily. For example, Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles has decided to close until November and focus on its remodeling efforts.

According to Michael, the city has offered tax extensions — however, taxes are paid for the prior year. Therefore, some businesses may not generate enough revenue to pay them. 

He also points to businesses which used to do $1,000 in daily revenue, but are now down to $100 per day. Another business has seen a 20% revenue decline, but has been able to stem the tide against greater declines by aligning itself with a food delivery service. 

This approach has enabled it to stay afloat. 

Michael proposed the following solutions for the duration of the Avenue’s construction period: 

Develop and distribute private grants to affected businesses.

Seek incremental funding support to support businesses for the duration.

Address parking concerns by providing short-term shuttle services for upcoming events while seeking a private company to provide permanent shuttle services.

The city has created a loan program for dozens of shop owners who contend they have lost 40% to 60% of their business due to the city's overhaul of Livernois Avenue.

The most important component, however, is customer's support. It's time to shop, eat and enjoy the many entertainment options on the “Avenue of Fashion.” 

I couldn't agree more that it's time to go out and help these businesses survive. 

Detroit will be better for it.

For a listing of all activities, go to the Livernois Avenue of Fashion Facebook page.

Mark S. Lee is president of The LEE Group, a Plymouth-based integrated consulting firm. You can hear him Sundays, 8-9 a.m., on “Small Talk with Mark S. Lee” via radio.com, Sundays and, “In the Conference Room with Mark S. Lee," 11a.m. – 1p.m. on 910 AM in Detroit.