Dennis Archer Jr. PHOTOS: Keith A. Owens

Latest neighborhood development announcement promises local jobs, local shopping

What began some months ago as an occasional announcement of new development outside of downtown Detroit is now evolving into a swiftly moving stream of one  project after another. At this rate it’s almost scary to consider what could happen if Amazon somehow lands in town – Mothership-style.

And before you start laughing and shaking your head, some fairly reliable insiders with more than a passing acquaintance with the goings-on are already quietly hinting that Detroit’s chances at landing The Big One aren’t nearly as far-fetched or ridiculous as some might be led to believe. Stay tuned…

But this isn’t about Amazon. Whether or not that goes down is another story for another date and time. On Thursday morning, Dennis Archer Jr., President and CEO of Ignition Media, was able to deliver a major announcement of his own, namely that of a 42,000 square-foot mixed-use Meijer’s owned-and-operated development to be constructed on the city’s east side on East Jefferson Avenue almost directly in front of the 1300 Lafayette building facing the river. Once completed, the facility will have, in addition to a Meijer’s, 213 apartment units located above the store, 20% of which will be designated as subsidized affordable housing. Parking for both residents (200 spaces) and shoppers (120 spaces) will be located in an underground garage.

“This is the first ground up mixed use developments on this East Jefferson corridor in decades,” said Archer. “I was born not far from here and grew up right off of St. Aubin until the age of six around the corner from my grandparents. So for me personally this is a coming home, so to speak.”

In addition to the 70 full-time jobs that will become available at the Meijers, approximately 100 fulltime construction jobs will be provided, not to mention an estimated 250-400 indirect jobs related to the manufacture of materials, said Archer.

“It was very important to both the mayor and Councilwoman (Mary) Sheffield that we pay particular attention to hiring from the immediate community, and it was very important to the county executive that we be inclusive of all residents and all contractors from Wayne County as relates to developing and hiring in this development.”

Mayor Mike Duggan

Mayor Mike Duggan was one among many top-level officials on hand to voice their support for the project and to vocalize what they believe this kind of development means for the city.

“It’s just another great day in Detroit. You’re talking about a $60 million investment,” he said.

“For a lot of people on the lower east side, they’re doing their shopping in the suburbs. We’re not capturing that retail in the City of Detroit. You’re going to see a lot more folks, I believe, shopping in the city. Which means we’ve got 70 permanent jobs here which will be filled largely by Detroiters.

“We’re going to enhance the recreational amenities in the area. A block away from here we’re already renovating the tennis courts, we’re building a new basketball court, we’re building new playscapes. We’re actually making the recreation area for the people who are already here and those new residents who will come here a much better place.”

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, who has strongly advocated for the availability of affordable housing in the ‘new’ Detroit to make sure that current residents aren’t left out of the boom, was on hand to endorse the project that will be located inside her district.

“One thing that I do notice when I go around District 5 and I hear from the residents and the neighbors within District 5 is there is a central desire to want to have a chain grocery store here in Detroit. Everywhere I go, that is the question that has been asked of me; when are we gonna get a Meijer’s or some type of chain grocery store? And so today it’s great news. And from an economic standpoint, this will help dollars recirculate in our community vs it being spent in other municipalities. … The development serves as a selling point to keep and retain residents and to repopulate the City of Detroit in this area,” she said.

“Let the shopping begin in District 5.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans suggested that the new Meijer’s was just one example of what a healthy level of inter-governmental regional cooperation has managed to yield.

 “[This is} one of the reasons why I think we’re being more successful on the feast side of the famine …The beginning of the feast has an awful lot to do with the different units of government that help make things work. We’ve all seen opportunities where investors come in and it almost looks like you place high hurdles in front of them. You want them to invest, but you make it extremely difficult for them to get into the game. I think that the cooperation regionally now is such that investors have seen not only the opportunity here, but the fact that we’re very serious about being open for business. This whole region benefits when we have the sort of collaboration and cooperation that we have now.”

Pastor Barry Randolph and Assistant Pastor Wallace Gilbert from the Church of the Messiah, located in the neighborhood where the new Meijer’s will soon be built, were both enthusiastic about what this meant for their community.

 This is a great day for Detroit, because I just kept thinking about all of the barriers that have been in this city that have stopped development from happening has fallen, and now we can move forward. This is something great that’s going to happen for the community,” said Randolph.

“I live on the east side. I am one of those people who had to cross Alter, or had to cross 8 Mile, I had to go to places like that to eat healthier foods, and even get foods that were at a reasonable rate,” added Gilbert. “So this type of development taking place, it allows me to spend my money where I live, and to make sure my tax dollars turn over right here in the City of Detroit. Without the tax dollar, without the turnovers we cannot continue this development.”

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