By Nicole Hennessy
The newly redesigned Detroit Avenue in Lakewood received $8 million in private investment alone, turning the aging strip of shops and housing into a destination, especially in the downtown area, in which the investment is the most noticeable.
But a street over, residents and business owners were left wondering, “What about Madison?”
After a delayed resurfacing plan and the currently-in-progress overhaul of Madison Park, on the east end of the street, the city is now moving forward with plans to upgrade some of the aging infrastructure along the three-mile stretch that spans from the Metroparks to the 117th Street RTA station.
At a public forum Dec. 4, city employees, business owners, stakeholders and residents gathered in the new Harrison Middle School in the city’s Birdtown neighborhood to discuss the “Madison Moving Forward” initiative.
Aside from private investment, Lakewood plans to invest $6 million, a good portion of which will come from county, state and federal funds, to not only resurface the street, but add bike lanes and sharrows, or shared-lane markings, as well as update traffic lights.
During the year it will take to complete these projects, the city is also offering grants to business owners who are interested in renovating their storefronts.
Branded as Lakewood’s small-business district, 90 percent of Madison’s 300 currently operating shops and restaurants are locally owned.
In addition, over the past few years several groups, like the Madison Avenue Arts District and the Uptown Lakewood Business Alliance, have popped up to create “pockets” along the street. Entrepreneurs like Robert Wright, owner of the Buckeye Beer Engine, mentioned Wednesday the idea behind measurable growth is to with start small groups like these and to brand distinct locations within the larger stretch of Madison Avenue.
“Detroit will always be the place to go,” he said, “but I think we can build the same thing.”
As details continue to be worked out, Dru Siley, the city’s economic development director, said more information would be available after the first of the year, and that the purpose of this meeting was to alert business owners and announce the plan.
Various Madison Avenue business owners continued to explain their stakes in the area.
Colin McEwen, who owns Mahall’s 20 Lanes with a group of family members, repeated the question asked to each of the panelists, “Why Madison?” continuing to explain his decision to purchase a business on the street.
“Madison Avenue is very affordable right now (and) I think we’re going to see an entirely different Madison Avenue in five years,” he said. “I think we see opportunity there … where other people see some older buildings that maybe need some attention.”
Taking just an hour to present these plans and thoughts on the opportunities presented by an underdeveloped but accessible and historic street, Siley ended the forum, inviting those interested in getting involved or learning more to contact him.
He also encouraged those in attendance to consider the question, “Where do we go from here?”