Despite city’s woes, downtown Detroit still seen as thriving dest - The Packer

Despite city’s woes, downtown Detroit still seen as thriving dest

11/15/2012 04:49:00 PM
Jim Offner

Downtown Detroit has seen a renaissance in recent years, with companies such as Compuware, Quicken Loans and medical software developer GalaxE.Solutions relocating to the district.

All of the city’s major league sports team play downtown. The stadiums of the 2012 American League champion Detroit Tigers and the National Football League’s Detroit Lions are centers of activity. Three casinos have sprung up in recent years as well, bringing more traffic to the downtown district.

As a result, produce distributors in the area say they’ve seen sales opportunities flourish downtown.

There’s a perceptible buzz going on in downtown Detroit, said Dominic Russo, a buyer, salesman and manager for Detroit-based wholesale distributor Rocky’s Produce.

“(More than) 50 pubs and restaurants have opened in downtown in the last year and a half,” he said. “A lot of young professionals are moving down to the area.”

There are hurdles, as recent headlines indicate. Detroit made the news during a Tigers playoff game, when local police posted a sign warning fans that the constabulary could not guarantee the safety of everyone who entered the ballpark.

When asked about how such publicity affects public perception of Detroit’s downtown, Russo and other produce distributors who do business in the district scoffed.

Detroit, like every city, has its rough areas, but the Motor City’s downtown area is safe, as its growth testifies, Russo said.

“If you want to hang out in the rough parts of town, that’s your prerogative, but there’s plenty of good areas to go to,” he said.

Restaurants are achieving success in downtown Detroit, helping turn the business district into one of the city’s most popular destinations, said Michael Badalament, a salesman with R.A.M. Produce Distributors in Detroit.

“With Detroit’s location near Canada and a diverse population surrounding the area, I’ve seen restaurants come in and do very well,” he said.

There is work to do, though, Badalament said.

“I think it could do a lot better, but it will take the city of Detroit to start getting their focus a little bit better and let people do what they can do, which is tremendous,” he said. “We have a great location here.”

Detroit has had its share of negative headlines, but the downtown area has continued to find ways to endure, said Jeff Abrash, owner of Detroit-based produce wholesaler Andrews Bros. Inc.

“We’ve got a hub of activity downtown, between the stadiums and some establishments, restaurants, theaters, clubs,” he said.

Detroit’s downtown began a renaissance period decades ago, and that continues, Abrash said.

“In the middle of the stadium area, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle and a lot of commercial revitalization,” he said.

The city does need to rebuild some of its downtrodden areas, and that will take some time, Abrash said.

“The city limits are vast and spread out, and there’s a lot of blighted neighborhoods, no question. That’s where it’s difficult to get your arms around rebirthing, if you will,” he said.

There are still some people, particularly in exurbs and suburbs, who won’t come downtown to eat, said Brandon Serra, salesman with Detroit-based Serra Produce.

“The area has so much potential,” he said.



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