Not to jinx current trends in coronavirus case rates, but things are looking up in Michigan — fingers crossed they keep getting better.
As the state enters the post-surge phase for what is hopefully the last time, businesses and offices are preparing to resume in-person operations. So for those of you sending your wrinkled work clothes to the dry cleaners and looking for your long-forgotten lunchboxes, we’ve compiled some changes that have taken place over the past couple of years to help soften the blow of… a return to “normal”. “
Once the initial shock of being surrounded by humans beyond your inner circle wears off, you’ll notice other changes that have taken place downtown and surrounding neighborhoods – even if it seems that time has stood still, a lot of things have changed.
So, for those who’ve been living under a rock (read: home office), here’s a crash course in the latest and greatest:
1. Getting downtown, parking
As part of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan reconstruction program, several freeways are being built, affecting commuters with detours and closures. The project targets the state’s busiest highways and bridges that carry the most traffic, including Interstate 69, Interstate 75 and Interstate 94.
Current work of note for commuters includes construction on Interstate 275 in Wayne County, covering 24 miles between Will Carlton Road and Six Mile Road, and closures as part of the Revive 75 project, which includes parts of Hines Drive and Michigan Avenue this month.
Other notable projects:
- Interstate 75 to Interstate 696 at 13 Mile
- M-3 (Gratiot Avenue) between Common and 14 Mile
- US-24 (Telegraph Road) between Interstate 94 and Michigan Avenue
- M-59 between Elizabeth and Interstate 94
- Interstate 96 Flex Route between Kent Lake and Interstate 275 starting next week
Before heading downtown, you’ll need to download the new Park Detroit app. It’s a bit different from the original app and will take some getting used to, some say it’s more user friendly but I found it to be unnecessarily complicated.
Parking, from what we’ve noticed so far, seems to be back to its pre-pandemic state: it depends on the time and day – and your luck.
And, if you’re feeling brave and want to venture into Midtown, the Qline is back in business and offering free rides through April 1. However, service on the downtown People Mover is still suspended but is expected to resume in April.
2. Closure of businesses
It’s no secret that the pandemic has been and continues to be devastating to businesses across all industries. It’s no surprise, then, that a number of businesses have closed in the downtown area, which for a long time looked like a ghost town.
Notable closures on Woodward Avenue include the Underarmour store and Detroit is the New Black. Further down the avenue, the popular Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company is still closed due to an ongoing strike by baristas demanding higher wages and safer working conditions.
Continued:Union standoff with small Detroit coffeehouse chain could have bigger implications for unions
Also on Woodward Avenue, a John Varvatos store closed in 2020 and was replaced last year by Greyson Clothiers. Other national retailers, like Nike, Moosejaw, Lululemon and H&M, have persevered on Woodward and remain open.
3. Grocery stores and catering outlets
Where some have withered, others have flourished. Meijer’s long-awaited Rivertown Market on East Jefferson opened in October – though small and limited in offerings, it’s a grocery store and we’ll take it.
Another (small) grocery store opened earlier this year, Statler Market, by Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, offering prepared meals and specialties. The market is next to the Statler French-American Bistro on the first floor of the City Club Apartment building at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Park Avenue.
Restaurant news has by no means slowed down during the pandemic. Good news, at the start of the pandemic, Corktown mainstay, the Detroit Institute of Bagels, closed but was replaced by another bagel-cafe spot James Oliver Coffee Co.
Notable Events in the Detroit Restaurant Scene:
4. Restaurants that bite the dust
Detroit’s food scene has suffered significant losses during the pandemic, to say the least.
A Greektown landmark has closed for good, much to the chagrin of deep-dish pizza lovers. PizzaPapalis permanently closed its location in Greektown in February, but its other five locations will remain open.
Drought juice, known for its cold-pressed raw juices, closed all of its outlets, deciding instead to consolidate into its Berkley headquarters on West 11 Mile. This move includes its downtown storefront, further reducing downtown juice joints.
Other restaurant closures:
- Parks and Recreational Dining
- Fort Street Food
- Dilla’s Delights
- lady of the house
6. Recurring Events
Beyond food and shopping, events essential to Detroit’s culture are back.
Crowds have already descended on the city for a few events so far. Corktown was a wash of green during the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday and Autorama was a sight to behold.
Continued:Corktown’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities kick off with the painting of shamrocks
Just in time for rising temperatures, the Marche du Nain Rouge is back at the Cass Corridor, resuming its annual madness march on Second Street on Sunday. Also this coming weekend, the Detroit Spring Home and Garden Show returns to Detroit for the first time since 2003 and will feature special HGTV guest Nicole Curtis of “Rehab Addict.”
7. More to come
If that wasn’t enough to make you want to head back downtown, there’s more in store.
Here are a few things to expect:
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of what is happening or has happened downtown, it is a reminder of what you can expect when you return . Something to whet the appetite.
So, maybe you’ll be happy to give your sweatpants a break.
Free Press writers Susan Selasky, JC Reindl, Dana Afana, Chanel Stitt, Darcie Moran, Brendel Hightower and Khalil AlHajal contributed to this report.