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Beyond holiday cheer, Live6 market for small business is a measure of progress in NW Detroit


With DJs, food trucks, a photo booth and Santa visits in addition to more than a dozen small business retailers and vendors, HomeBase for the Holidays is taking over weekends at the storefront facility that serves as a community gathering space and the headquarters for Live6 Alliance in northwest Detroit.

But more than an exercise in commerce, community and cheer, HomeBase for the Holidays is yet another sign of the continued momentum of Live6 Alliance, which was announced a little more than seven years ago as an economic development organization, the first major effort to  generate the energies of renewal in the city’s downtown and Midtown and bring them to the neighborhoods.

And while HomeBase for the Holidays — which launched in 2019 — connects residents and other seasonal shoppers to emerging neighborhood entrepreneurs, a more durable support for them is taking place next door in a long-vacant building renovated by Invest Detroit and programmed by the Live6 Alliance. Comparable in size to HomeBase’s 4,000 square-feet, the still-unnamed building will feature two new concepts at 7434 W. McNichols.

Half of the building will be used as an overflow community gathering place and temporary private event rental, but the half nearest HomeBase is envisioned as a small business retail shopping center, a next-step for early-stage entrepreneurs like those who utilize the holiday market and accommodating as many as 50 emerging entrepreneurs and equipping them with low-rent and technical support and assistance.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to incubate some businesses for a couple years and support their growth,” says Caitlin Murphy, who has recently been named interim director of Live6 Alliance, succeeding well-known community and nonprofit  leader Dr. Geneva Williams. “Ideally we would build a pipeline and connect our participating businesses into  the additional and forthcoming retail spaces that we know are being developed on McNichols.”

The building is expected to open during summer 2023 with appropriate fanfare to boost interest in attention also to the developing West McNichols businesses strip around HomeBase, which includes the much-heralded Detroit Pizza Bar that opened in April, and other anchor businesses such as Detroit Sip and the Metro Detroit Barber College. In Murphy’s words, the goal is to establish this emerging district as “a destination in and of itself, its own unique dining and shopping experience” that will be collaborative with the more-established Avenue of Fashion, along Livernois to the north, around Seven Mile, which is also within Live6 Alliance’s geographic footprint and service area.

And the recent Live6 2022 Impact Report details the progress, not only along McNichols but across the areas served by Live6, which includes the neighborhoods of Martin Park, Fitzgerald, Bagley and University District. Among the report highlights:

  • McNichols (Livernois to Wyoming) was “reborn” with a new streetscape, including new streetlights, sidewalks, bus stops and bike lanes, along with vacant lot improvements to create “safe, walkable ‘Mainstreet’ destination.”
  • The Livernois Avenue of Fashion (Margareta to Eight Mile) saw new lighting, broadened sidewalks, with final designs determined through community engagement.
  • Working in concert with the Rocket Community Fund and the Hudson-Webber Foundation to support Avenue of Fashion businesses during the pandemic with sidewalk amenities — outdoor furniture, planters and greenery, etc. — to encourage outdoor dining. Live6 also distributed “safe reopening” kits for businesses.
  • Vacant spaces have been animated by a collaboration between Live6 and Philadelphia Mural Arts which that has created several large murals with greater connection and enhanced infrasturcuture in progress.
  • The One Degree-Live6 digital resource hub and database racked up nearly 10,000 website hits in 10 months, helping hundreds of area residents find help that they needed.

The intersection of Livernois and West McNichols (the latter also known as Six Mile) gives the name for the organization founded by then University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi and The Kresge Foundation in 2015, and which now boasts a roster of partners including the Ballmer Group, the Hudson-Webber Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, United Way of SE Michigan and others.

Significantly, in 2017, the Fitzgerald neighborhood within the Live6 footprint was among the first adopted by Mayor Mike Duggan’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund, concentrating and coordinating public-private investments with the respective communities. (There are now 10 SNF neighborhoods across the city.)

Live6 also recently marked a leadership transition, with Murphy, who has worked with or for Live6 in a variety of capacities since 2017 — originally coordinating work with Reimagining the Civic Commons that led to the creation of Ella Fitzgerald Park — becoming interim director and former Director Williams continuing on as strategic advisor.

“Dr. Williams not only joined Live6 at our invitation and at a pivotal time in Live6’s growth, but she also provided strategic leadership when the Covid-19 pandemic was  beginning,” said Detroit Mercy President Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor Garibaldi, who is also founding chair of Live6 Alliance’s Board of Directors. “Dr. Williams’ innovative strategies during the pandemic helped many neighborhood businesses to open their doors and her fundraising acumen has made Live6 a financially stronger organization with a recognizable identity in the community and metropolitan area.”