As first year teachers in Detroit, we witnessed the pervasive impact of inequity on the lives of our kids – inside and outside the classroom. We heard the narrative of downtown – its resurgence, urban planning initiatives, and corporate investment – which stood in stark contrast with the narrative our students told us about the rest of the city. We partnered with DXF to highlight the often overlooked, yet resilient, small businesses outside the city center.
There are so many incredible people and stories in this city that deserve to be told on a larger platform. We hope to give them that platform with this Summer Stories project.
We spotlighted three local themes that pervade the small business landscape in the city: arts, food and agriculture, and community development. We believe communities outside of downtown could see even more positive progress in the short and long term if residents, tourists, and corporations knew and invested in the businesses already there.
Detroit is made for community development. Vacant lots that previously housed residential and commercial property lie among dedicated communities. In many communities, there is a consumer market ready to spend money close to home. However, due to the lack of options and quality, they are forced to travel for retail, grocers, and other shopping needs.
Organizations like MACC Development, a 501(c)3 Christian community development corporation committed to the holistic revitalization of Detroit’s 48214 community, have cultivated and supported the development of their community to attract investment and resources from local entrepreneurs, businesses, and passersby.
“There were three areas that [MACC Development] wanted to address,” said Charles Johns, Director of Missions and Recruitment at MACC Development. “That was youth and education, housing and blight, and economic development.”
MACC Development currently houses four organizations to deal with the aforementioned areas of focus: (1) MACC Sports, a youth sports program for students from ages four to 14, (2) MACC Lit, a literacy program designed to support students’ reading and comprehension, (3) MACC Legal, a legal assistance program, and (4) MACC Housing, a housing program that supports residents with housing and rental issues.
Johns said the organization hopes to be a nucleus for the unification of the eastside community.
“We hope to be a place where people can gather and come together,” Johns said. “Mack Avenue is a commuter street. People come downtown from Grosse Pointe.”
MACC Development has put its money where its mouth is by creating the Commons. Before constructing the Commons, they sought out community members in order to uncover the most efficient use of the space. Using the feedback from the community, the Commons houses a delicious coffee shop, full-service laundry, and an upstairs space that can be used as a study or work space or can be rented out for events. People are able to unify in a shared space to perform a number of different tasks, thus fostering community.