For those not familiar, a little background on this project: together, with Spackman Mossop Michaels (SMM) as the landscape architect, NTH designed a new streetscape across the entire width of the public right-of-way on Livernois Ave in Detroit from 8 Mile to just south of 7 Mile. This project turned the previously high-speed section of roadway into a more walkable and bikeable streetscape by adding expanded sidewalks, larger outdoor patio areas, protected bike lanes, and rain gardens to promote sustainable stormwater management. The City of Detroit’s goal with this project was to rebuild this section of Livernois as a Complete Street. The city initiated this project due to the area’s history as a hotbed of locally owned clothing stores, boutiques, and other businesses, which earned this area of Livernois Avenue the nickname, Detroit’s “Avenue of Fashion.”
Since the project has since been completed, engineers from NTH had the opportunity to go on a walking tour of the area with the Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association (MAP) on June 23, 2022. The tour was hosted by MAP representatives, as well as Kim Tandy and James Hanning from City of Detroit, who led our group as we walked up and down the Avenue of Fashion. Kim Tandy grew up in the area and still lives nearby, so her firsthand knowledge of the history of the Avenue of Fashion helped put the importance of this streetscape renovation into context. During the tour, she and James Hanning encouraged business owners to tell their stories and share their experiences on Livernois Ave. We sampled desserts at the award-winning Good Cakes and Bakes bakery, saw local artists’ work at Jo’s Gallery, and checked out some new clothes at a local boutique called Simply Casual. These business owners each described how they feel connected as part of the historic Avenue of Fashion, and they are optimistic about what the future holds for this area!
As we looked around on our walking tour, we saw several new businesses, apartments, and offices opening up, as well as existing businesses renovating their storefronts, and a few of us commented on the fact that there were only a few vacant properties. Our tour ended at Good Times on the Avenue, a local restaurant which had a large outdoor dining area that was very busy on this Thursday night. This area was originally added to promote safe outdoor dining during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now serves as a pleasant, covered patio to enjoy good food and drinks with friends.
This streetscape renovation shows how strategic investment in public infrastructure can be a boon to economic activity and development in an area. The trees along the street and rain garden vegetation, which were part of the 2018 design plans, had been planted during construction and are now growing and thriving, like to the Avenue itself. It was very satisfying to see the work that NTH had completed, as it truly helped to make this area of Livernois Avenue what it is today. As the tour ended, they encouraged us to #shoplocal and continue to support these businesses.
For more information, see the Avenue of Fashion Business Association’s website: https://www.avenueoffashion.com/