Awake, East Warren! Dreaming Mixed-Use in Detroit’s Farthest-Flung Corridor

At the end of August, I got a tour of the East Warren corridor from east side booster and native Detroiter Joe Rashid. When we say “east,” we mean “as far as you can go before you hit the suburbs.” (You know how Mack and Warren Avenues are parallel? Well, eventually they converge. Yeah, that far east– at the horizon). Anyway, I sat in for a bit of a presentation this afternoon about a cool new development project being proposed by Flux City Development, a real estate development company that is the brainchild of banker and developer Edward Carrington.

Detroit’s Far East: The Warren Corridor is Headed For A Makeover

The Project

The project, dubbed The Ribbon, envisions a three-story mixed-use building with frontage on East Warren. It will replace a disused bank building at the corner of Kensington Avenue. The building would feature 17 rental units and first floor retail. It is also in what is called a Traditional Main Street Overlay district (TMOS). While TMOS preceded the city’s zoning code rewrite by at least a decade, it’s a useful component to facilitate the process. The city is gradually moving from a use-based zoning code to a more form-based one. This means that rather than proscriptively regulating uses (saying “no”), the new code will act as more of a guideline for form rather than function.

The Context

This is unique for the corridor as very few of Detroit’s farther-flung neighborhoods have seen development like this. While the city has seen its fair share of strip malls and suburban-style sprawl developed in recent years, very little has been developed outside of the 7.2 as far as mid-density, zero-lot-line projects. In my native Southwest, the La Joya Gardens project is in the same vein, although about three times larger. In spite of valid critiques of the “affordability” criterion here– which, based on 80% AMI for the region, rather than the city, isn’t really actually that affordable- more housing will be a valuable addition to a severely constrained market that has seen very little in new mid-density rental development.

Edward Carrington, the “Mayor” and founder of Flux City. (LinkedIn)
The Developer

I only attended part of the meeting, but Carrington covered a lot of ground. In addition to real estate development, Carrington, the “Mayor” of Flux City Development, has a background in banking and technology, including blockchain. He wrote to us that the name ‘Flux’ is meant to embrace the notion of change. This, he says, “brings the characteristics of adaptability, resilience, and flexibility into sharper focus as we aim to deliver on outstanding projects of superior value that energize communities throughout Detroit.” Honestly, I’m thinking less of flux as instability, but more as the solder used in copper piping– the metallic “glue” that holds everything together.

One attendee asked “what about the parking,” which I call the “what about her e-mails” of community development. It’s a common refrain, and a red herring that points to a non-problem. Detroit has waived some parking minimums to promote density, but they remain de jure. In other news, water is wet. Anyway, onward and upward– it’s high time for this sort of investment in a corridor that desperately needs it. Updates will be posted as they come.

Check out the post from September on the tour, which featured a few local businesses that you should support.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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