Detroiters Contemplate Creating LGBT Business District

Jason A. Michael
By | 2013-06-06T09:00:00-05:00 June 6th, 2013|Michigan, News|

DETROIT – Chicago has Boystown, San Francisco has the Castro and Washington, D.C. has Dupont Circle. So what’s Detroit got? Well, nothing at the moment, but maybe someday soon it will if Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh has his way. His office is spearheading a community effort to create a LGBTs business district in the Motor City.
Step one was distributing a survey to interested community members to nail down some basics. Three potential neighborhoods for the district were selected out of seven. They include downtown, the East Riverfront district and the Milwaukee Junction, which is near the intersection of Woodward Avenue and West Grand Boulevard in the New Center area.
“This is a community-driven process, so we want to get more input and decide the best course for how the area should be selected,” said Pugh, making it clear that nothing has been decided yet. “This will be a long process that will take time to evolve.”
But at least the ball is rolling, thanks largely to Pugh.
“The idea has been floating around for years, and Detroit really needs (an LGBT business district),” he said. “Right now, there seems to be the right kind of synergy in place to make it happen with the movement of Motor City Pride back to the city and greater cooperation between Motor City Pride and Hotter than July. So, instead of continuing to talk about it, I along with LGBT members of my staff decided to start the process. We facilitated a conversation among a few key leaders in the LGBT economic development and business communities to talk about how we could get this going.”
In true Detroit fashion, Pugh and crew decided to go their own way.
“In our research, we’ve found that other cities who have LGBT business districts started out with a group of businesses or investors who bought properties and opened businesses, a ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach,” said Pugh. “The way we’re going about it is more community driven, which is unique and may have its own set of challenges. We have not yet scratched the surface of what all the hurdles may be.”
So what would a successful LGBT business district in the city of Detroit look like?
“I think that we as a team working on this initiative would like to see a diverse neighborhood that serves the business needs, retail needs, recreational needs, and residential needs of LGBT people and allies,” Pugh said. “This is a very exciting initiative that could evolve into a competitive and fun area of the city.”
Though he has announced he will not run for reelection, Pugh plans to see that the business district idea does not die with the end of his term.
“The intent is that this is a community initiative, not necessarily an initiative of my office,” he said. “We brought people to the table, facilitated initial conversations, but this is a community-driven process and I’m excited to see how it evolves.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.