May 12, 2023 - News

Detroit's G7 area waiting for overhaul of dangerous Gratiot

The Gratiot-7 Mile area identified for redevelopment under the Strategic Neighborhood Fund is bisected by Gratiot Avenue. Map: Courtesy of the city of Detroit

A long-needed overhaul could be on the horizon for Gratiot Avenue's 9-mile stretch in Detroit.

Why it matters: The wide and dangerous thoroughfare is a big hurdle to redevelopment around Gratiot-7 Mile, where its two miles make up a major commercial corridor. Residents there subject to disinvestment for years are calling for slowing down traffic and addressing blight along the road.

Context: The road is managed by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which recently started an 18-month study to identify how it should be reimagined, MDOT transportation planner Matthew Galbraith tells Axios.

  • Public listening sessions start later this summer.
  • But work isn't promised anytime soon — MDOT would still need to finance construction. The city sees the study as a "method to attract major federal funding" like a similar one done on Michigan Avenue, Sam Krassenstein, Detroit's chief of infrastructure, tells Axios.
A vacant building along Gratiot is shown with a "no trespassing" sign.
A building at 14711 Gratiot Ave. in G7 is among those being marketed for redevelopment, per private city funding partner Invest Detroit. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

Yes, but: While Gratiot's redesign will take longer than similar overhauls done by the city on East Warren and Livernois, leaders have ideas for making the G7 corridor more attractive and safer in the meantime.

  • The state plans to use paint to delineate parking lanes, narrow lanes to slow traffic and improve crosswalks through 2024, per MDOT and the city.

What they're saying: "If the city would just take care of the commercial structures they own on Gratiot, beautify them, even if it's just a coat of paint … We did that on a 1-mile stretch on Whittier (Avenue), and now that corridor looks gorgeous," Sandra Turner-Handy, head of the Denby Neighborhood Alliance, tells Axios.

  • "They talk about amenities on Gratiot, we don't necessarily need a Starbucks … but it doesn't have to look abandoned."

Between the lines: The city is using part of a $24.8 million safe-streets grant around Gratiot to help improve the roads it manages — East Seven Mile, Chalmers and Hayes — Khalil Ligon, the city's lead urban planner for the east region, tells Axios.

  • The SNF revitalization framework team is also making improvements at vacant properties along Gratiot, including installing murals this summer, designating three business "micro-districts" and marketing five buildings for redevelopment.

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