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Inclusive Recovery

Live6 Alliance promotes revitalization efforts in northwest Detroit commercial corridor

By Melissa Anders

Page 18

Lauren Hood has experienced firsthand the success of Midtown Detroit’s revitalization as a resident of the hip, cultural neighborhood. Now she’s looking to replicate that achievement in the area where she grew up: the Livernois Avenue and McNichols Road corridor in northwest Detroit.

Hood serves as director of the Live6 Alliance, an organization launched in September 2015 to bring together key government, university, business and neighborhood stakeholders to ensure redevelopment of the Livernois and McNichols (6 Mile Road) area progresses in a unique, rich way.
“I don’t want it to be a generic Anytown U.S.A.,” Hood said. “It has to have a particular flavor and culture that people get excited about.”

The Live6 Alliance is the culmination of a few years of discussions among leaders at the University of Detroit Mercy, The Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Kresge provided $500,000 in funding and UDM committed $200,000 toward the effort.

“We felt that it was really important to get the business leaders together in addition to the various leaders of the respective neighborhoods,” said UDM President Antoine Garibaldi.

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, said the Live6 Alliance will be an outgrowth of the community’s character and institutions just as Midtown is to its surrounding neighborhoods.

“Live6 promises to take the lessons of Midtown to build something as fine-tuned for and with this community to serve it as Midtown has done with its community,” Rapson said in remarks at the organization’s kick off.

While some parallels are drawn between Midtown and Live6 – both are home to universities committed to their redevelopment, have support from Kresge and rely on involvement from consulting group U3 Advisors – the neighborhoods are unique and should be treated as such. Midtown, Hood said, caters to younger, more transient renters, while the Live6 area has more long-term residents and homeowners.

“There’s just a different approach that you have to take than Midtown in selecting the kinds of businesses that you want to have in your corridors,” she said. “But a lot of the way that they develop their pipeline and get funding, all those things will be replicated. But whereas Midtown Inc. owns property and is the developer at times, Live6 is just going to be in a convening role.”

The short stretch of McNichols Road between UDM and Marygrove College is about 75 percent vacant, with existing businesses consisting of liquor stores and other tenants that doesn’t necessarily attract new residents, Hood said. The surrounding residential neighborhoods vary from the stable University District to the more distressed Fitzgerald Neighborhood.

Live6 is focused on placemaking, safety, business attraction and retention, neighborhood stabilization and commercial real estate development. While these five goals came out of a series of meetings with stakeholders, Hood said she’s reaching out to local residents to hear what they think should be the group’s focus areas.

“I think there are a lot more people that need to be engaged in order to do work that’s really sustainable and long-lasting, so I try to reach outside of the usual suspects,” she said.

For example, she spoke with a man who’s lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years. He talked about Larco’s Inn, a now-closed Italian restaurant that was an institution in the area where many local youths worked as a rite of passage.

Because of that five-minute conversation, Hood said she wants to attract locally owned businesses and restaurants instead of national chains, at least for the first few rounds of commercial development.

“I decided I wanted to create more institutions than just have Jimmy Johns,” she said. “They don’t care who they hire, if they’re from right there or if they’re from Ferndale or if they’re from downtown. It’s not important to them. But if it’s a mom-and-pop operation, they’re a little more committed to the space that they’re in, especially if they live in the neighborhood also.”

On the safety side, Garibaldi is pushing for legislation that would allow private universities like UDM to have their police force patrol outside of their campus boundaries. UDM has about 40 officers on staff and it wouldn’t require much additional resources to do more patrolling beyond the campus, he said.

“Just having the appearance of more officers on duty or on patrol beyond the boundaries of the campus provides a great deterrent to anyone even thinking about committing a crime,” he said.

About Lauren Hood

Lauren Hood grew up in the very neighborhood she’s now working to revitalize.

Hood, 43, was raised in Detroit’s Bagley neighborhood, part of the focus area of the Live6 Alliance where she serves as director.

Prior to joining Live6 in September 2015, Hood worked in community and economic development for the city of Highland Park and community engagement for Loveland Technologies, among other endeavors. She also worked in event marketing in the entertainment industry.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in business and master’s degree in community development from the University of Detroit Mercy.