Upon seeing my name on the Mid-America Blog schedule, I thought back to the last time I had actually written anything for public consumption. I realized that aside from some inter-office emails, informing everyone of a Tenant requirement or a great space that was available, I hadn’t written anything that anyone would read since I graduated from Law School, in 2000. Needless to say, I’m a little rusty. In order to ensure I would deliver an impactful blog entry to colleagues and clients, I did what anyone would do; I researched how to write a blog on Dummies.com. It wasn’t very helpful. After a few minutes of brainstorming with a trusted advisor, I decided to go with something I knew about. Something I’ve experienced both as a youth and an adult. Something I’ve contemplated both personally and professionally. I decided to share a little about Woodward Avenue, Metro Detroit’s “Main Street.”
Almost every city in America has a “Main Street.” Some are three blocks long with a single stop light and some are considerably more substantial. Woodward Avenue is the latter. It’s a 27 mile road stretching from the Detroit River in Downtown Detroit through the northern suburbs of:
- Detroit – An amazing resurgence is underway.See Cynthia Kratchman’s Blog post of 10/27/14
- Highland Park – The birth place of the Henry Ford’s assembly line.Model T production began in 1910.Also the birthplace of Chrysler.
- Ferndale – A young/hip community full of bars, restaurants and a thriving LGBT community
- Huntington Woods – Home to Yuppies and now their successful children who are fiercely loyal to the neighborhood they grew up in
- Pleasant Ridge – Very small (.57 square miles).Beautiful mid 1900’s brownstones.First liquor license issued in 2009 (Cork Wine Bar & Restaurant).
- Royal Oak – A thriving downtown and my hometown.
- Berkley – Birthplace of the Woodward Dream Cruise (More on that later)
- Birmingham – Upscale community with a thriving downtown and some of the best schools in the State of Michigan
- Bloomfield Hills – One of the top 5 wealthiest communities in the US with a population under 10,000 people.
- Bloomfield Township – Often referred to as “Bloomfield” by its residents and completely surrounds the city of Bloomfield Hills
- Pontiac – The largest and poorest city in Oakland County.Birthplace of Pontiac and GMC Truck and Coach in 1929
Long before Detroit was incorporated as a city in 1815, Woodward Avenue was established as a primary transportation path by Native Americans. It was known as the Saginaw Trail and later became a wood planked “corduroy road” for wagon travel. In the 1820s, Woodward included toll booths, and a road composed of gravel, mud and cedar blocks. In 1909, the first mile of concrete highway in the world was built between Six and Seven Mile Roads by Wayne County. In 1916, the 27-mile length to Pontiac was paved, and in 1919 the nation’s first three-color traffic light appeared on the thoroughfare.
The auto industry literally grew up along Woodward Avenue. Henry Ford built his first car at his home, just four blocks west of Woodward. He conceived the Model T and the automated assembly line at the Piquette Plant two blocks east of Woodward, and began to build the Model T in 1910 in his new plant on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park. Mass production of the Model T began in the plant began 1914. General Motors opened its new headquarters on Grand Boulevard, one block west of Woodward in 1921. Chrysler Corporation was founded three blocks east of Woodward in 1925 at Colorado and Oakland Streets in Highland Park. Oakland Motor Division of GM introduced its new Pontiac line and GMC Truck and Coach in 1926 along Woodward Avenue extensions in the city of Pontiac.
Woodward Dream Cruise
Hailed as the world’s largest single day automotive event, The Woodward Dream Cruise, held along the entire 27 mile span of Woodward Avenue, attracts more than 1.5 million people from around the world. More than 40,000 classic cars line Woodward to celebrate the nostalgia and relive the magic of a bygone era. The idea for Dream Cruise was originated by a plumber in the City of Ferndale in 1994 to help raise money for a soccer field in his community. Organizers expected 30,000 people to come but 250,000 actually showed up. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a car guy. For years, while most of my friends have headed out of town to avoid gridlock, I stay home for the circus. There’s just something about candy paint and the smell of racing fuel that gets me going. These days, I take my 3 year old Noah with me and he just can’t get enough. He’s a “car guy” in the making.
Prosperity and population
With the auto industry came prosperity. Prospective auto workers flocked from all over the world to work in Detroit’s production facilities. They bought private homes and owned automobiles. New housing developments ballooned along Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac. Magnificent homes, churches, and businesses lined Woodward. By 1927, it was reported that “43 percent of Detroit’s wealth lies along Woodward Avenue.” The Fox Theatre, the second largest theater in the world at the time it was built, opened on Woodward in 1928. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Wayne State University, and numerous hospital facilities sprung up along, and within blocks of Woodward.
It’s important to note that the Fox, DIA, WSU and the DMC are all flourishing today. The CBD and Midtown are hot. The demand for multi-family by young professional is so strong, they simply can’t keep up. National Retailers in every category are actively looking for sites on Woodward Avenue and many have designated Detroit as a key target market. When we tour the city with our tenants, most of them are amazed at what’s happening. All of us are optimistic (See Cynthia Kratchman’s Blog post of 10/27/14).
Once you cross over 8 Mile and into the suburbs there’s a distinctly different feel to Woodward. For starters, it turns into a tree lined boulevard. For the next 7 miles, both sides of the street are lined with retail. The bulk of it consists of two or three tenant buildings, located within inches of each other, giving the appearance of a single building. A good deal of that retail is older and most of it needs to be updated aesthetically.
Within each mile of retail however there are some beautiful new infill developments. These new developments have typically been driven by retailers wanting to be on the corridor. Some of them are free-standing, single user buildings, some of them multi-tenant centers. There are also several high profile properties that everyone is watching. A few are already in a state of transition and the others are quietly gathering momentum. Over the next 24 months, redevelopment of these signature properties will fortify the continued growth and transformation of Woodward.
Woodward Avenue continues to be a significant retail corridor in our market. The success of its retailers is driving Tenant demand and Landord investment with no signs of slowing down. We travel Woodward every day to live, work and play. It truly is our “Main Street.”
Adam Goodman | Vice President
Mid-America Real Estate - Michigan Inc.
38500 Woodward Avenue, Suite 100 | Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
Phone: 248.855.6800 | Fax: 248.406.0560
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.midamericagrp.com