St. Paul Blvd.

The newly remodeled St. Paul on the Blvd. development located on the corner of E. Grand Blvd. and St. Paul.

The Eastside community continues to thrive with new businesses, ideas, and people transforming the neighborhood.

October 4, 2019 | Robert D. Tompkins (Mr. Robert) | One Detroit Community Blogger

As communities all over Detroit are experiencing transformation in one form or another, it’s important to highlight pockets of change that are bettering communities in exciting, new ways.

The community of Islandview, which rests between E. Jefferson, Mt. Elliott, Mack Ave. and Seyburn Street, offers residents a suburban feel and with a liberal flair. With Belle Isle in close proximity and the hustle and bustle of Downtown less than 10 minutes away, this community is on the move.  

The Commons

The Commons – a unique neighborhood gathering place in the Islandview community

Almost a year ago, The Commons, a coffee shop and laundry facility located at 7900 Mack Ave., didn’t have the money to fix the washers that were out of commission due to a power surge. DTE, the electric company, couldn’t determine the cause of the surge, thus assumed no responsibility for the damage.

The future of the innovative space seemed bleak. However, after much needed conversation back and forth, resolutions and finances were secured to repair the machines and provide the community with much needed laundry services as well as a meeting space and good coffee.

All sorts of community groups have taken advantage of this space including the Detroit Charter Revision Commission for one of its committee meetings.

“As a young, small business there are things you can control,” Ezekiel Harris, who runs the combination shop said, “but the move to save this new space from an ill fate speaks to the growing spirit in the community of Islandview to band together for the greater good.

Neighbors, friends, families and visitors have proved to be the saving grace in keeping Islandview a few steps ahead of the rest of the city with regard to communities building and rebuilding themselves.

Just a few blocks away, Joe Ventimiglia has completed renovations on one of four conjoined properties on E. Grand Blvd in what some have called “reverse gentrification.” The property is named “Saint Paul on the Blvd.” and is quite heavenly.

St. Paul on the Blvd.

Inside the living room of the first available unit of the St. Paul on the Blvd. development.

Real estate developers rehabbing housing in Detroit are nothing new but Ventimiglia’s approach, with the guidance of the Church of the Messiah’s community benefits agreement, created job opportunities for residents and a development model that’s both replicable and sustainable.

“I’ll never build in the suburbs again. I’ll only build in Detroit. And once people see the work we’re doing on these properties, they’ll agree with my decision,” said Ventimiglia.  

With state-of-the-art finishes, an amazing view of the Detroit skyline complete with an unobstructed view of the Renaissance Center, an open floorplan and a few hidden treasures lurking on every floor, Ventimiglia has developed an inventive opportunity for those looking to buy a home in Detroit.

Not too far from the housing development, back on Mack Ave., you can find the Islandview Farmer’s Market, whose mission is to provide a variety of “good food” to the community.  

Run by GenesisHOPE, this venture is a youth-run initiative whereby the youth “grow the food, they price the food and they sell the food,” said Micah Wilson, who is running the marketplace.

In the vein of the Eastern Market, this marketplace wants to unite food, artisans and consumers in an environment that fosters social and community connections and supports entrepreneurial opportunities.

There’s even mention of a credit union coming to the area, which most in the community are hoping pans out.

“I’ve been asking around and praying hard that the conversations around the credit union commence. This area would benefit greatly from a financial establishment. I’m waiting to move my money some place within my own community,” said Monica Alexander, an Islandview hopeful looking at properties in the neighborhood for future ventures in partnership with the Church of the Messiah.

There are meetings and all kinds of visitors coming to the neighborhood to see the progress and find out how they can copy-and-paste these ideas in their communities, both locally and abroad.

In less than a year this community has added value hand over fist, and the expectation from the residents is that the progress is nowhere near an end.

Because of how the developers and business owners have included residents in the development, they’ve increased home values and given locals an incentive to stay, as opposed to be displaced.

With groups from Columbia to Harvard to Stanford University, respectively all eyeing the Islandview community model, one can see why there’s so much fuss over what’s on the horizon for this burgeoning community.

For more information on how you can participate or donate, contact Rev. Barry Randolph at the Church of the Messiah (231 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48207) by calling (313) 633-5331.