The City of Detroit is scrambling to rectify a challenging situation along Livernois Avenue. Businesses are struggling to cope with decreased traffic during an extended road work along the corridor. On Wednesday, the Detroit Department of Transportation began piloting a free shuttle program with pickup points along the main thoroughfare between Seven Mile and Eight Mile to help channel customers back to the popular district.
The Livernois strip known as the Avenue of Fashion is considered a jewel in Northwest Detroit with dozens of black-owned businesses including some of the city’s most celebrated and iconic restaurants, bars, and bakeries. Over the past few years, the corridor has seen increased investment and new projects to the area. With that in mind, the city embarked on an effort to improve the roads in the district in May — part of an $80 million city-wide streetscaping project. On Livernois, that meant removing a median, widening sidewalks, and adding bike lanes between Eight Mile Road and Margareta Street.
The business community at first welcomed the changes, but the prolonged construction has consequently driven away many of the people who patronized those shops. Pastry chef April Anderson of Good Cakes and Bakes told Detour Detroit that her business is down by a third and barely scraping by with online orders and catering, while Jonathan Merritt of Narrow Way Cafe & Shop told Crain’s he’s on the verge of closing as sales have dropped by roughly 45 percent. Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles was a major draw for the Avenue of Fashion and patrons would often visit other shops while waiting for a table. However, the restaurant decided to move up its planned renovation and temporarily closed in July due to the steep decline in customers. The situation was made worse by construction delays due to heavy rains.
Earlier this month, the city began instituting free shuttles to help drive customers back to the area during the district’s first Friday “cash mob” and Jazz on the Ave event. Crain’s also reported this week that the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. is working with the city on a small business grant and loan program to provide assistance during the streetscaping project.
The new pilot program will extend that shuttle service tentatively to three weekend nights. The pilot concludes today with pickups running between noon and 6 p.m. from Livernois and Cambridge, Livernois and Eight Mile, and Livernois and Pembroke. There are also free parking lots where riders can leave their vehicles to pick up the shuttle. Hours will be adjusted going forward with more details available on the city’s website.
• Avenue of Fashion Favorite Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles Closes for Renovations [ED]
• Livernois Streetscape Project [City of Detroit]
• ‘Avenue of Fashion’ Businesses Struggle to Stay Afloat Amidst Road Construction [CDET]