DETROIT—Thornetta Davis is not only queen of the blues in Detroit, she’s the siren for widespread plans to rejuvenate the Jefferson-Chalmers community. She leads the entertainment roster for Jazzin' on Jefferson this Friday and Saturday with her concert Friday night.
Outside, all along Jefferson at Chalmers, jazz lovers will hear the Groove Council, Stacie Sondoval, the Odu Afrobeat Orchestra and more. They can sit and take in the vibe, saunter through booths set up by a host of entrepreneurs, including Desiree Cooper’s Detroit Snob shirts, hats and goblets, then wander into pop-up stores for ice cream, clothes and fresh fruit.
“Jazzin' on Jefferson is more than a two-day concert,” said Rich Harrison, executive director of the Jefferson Avenue Business Association, concert sponsor for 10 years running. “We’re looking to spur revitalization, draw attention to our main street and showcase our neighborhood.”
New this year, JEBA worked with Najahyia Chincilla and the American Institute of Architects' Urban Priorities Committee to nurture five pop-up retail stores in historical buildings undergoing an $8.5 million renovation by Shelborne Development.
With the help of AIA, five vendors created usable, modern spaces that could greet concert goers and visitors from this weekend until July 6, and potentially stay and reap rewards from customers all year round. The stores include:
“From my side,” Harrison said, “economic development is really important. Detroit suffered over the years and we look to its future revival along historic thoroughfares like Jefferson. We hope to see cars, bikes, pedestrians all along the street. To connect with people from the Grosse Pointe villages to Rivertown.”
And he added, “When you can sit down grab a cup of coffee, eat a pastry and stroll into a gallery, magic happens.”
Even more magic happens when the saxophones and xylophones start playing. JEBA’s hard-working entertainment coordinator, Lisa Hardwick, drew a panel of entertainers, community people and past performers to determine the roster. JEBA received over 200 submissions via www.sonicbids.com, allowing musicians to upload their entire press kit, music videos and more. “People will be entertained,” she promised.
Plan to visit tents all over the festival site, said Eve Doster, owner of Norwegian Blue Public Relations, noting the festival will span Jefferson between Marlborough and Ashland, one block west of Alter, the dividing line between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit.
“Bring your kids to Catch Box City,” Doster said. “It is basically an urban planning game for kids. The people who moderate help children think about where they want to live and what they want to see. And what they might do to bring change about.”
Families will find face painting, alcohol, dancing, food and gifts for father, because this is Father’s Day weekend. It will feature a farmer’s market and gospel music.
“We’re bringing people to a neighborhood that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Harrison added. Per the JEBA website, the business district is one of the few early 20th Century commercial districts. The cultural fulcrum was the two big band era ballrooms, the Vanity and Monticello. Later the Vanity played a role in Eminem’s movie, “Eight Mile.”
Doster is not only the energetic publicity consultant for Jazzin' on Jefferson, she and her husband, David Knepp are proud owners of a nearby house on Lakewood. “We have a very affordable fixer upper, a 1925 two-story brick with Moorish details,” she said. The average list price for houses in Jefferson-Chalmers is $62,000, according to Zillow.com.
“We love the area for its proximity to the water. Statistically it is the safest neighborhood in Detroit. We can walk to A.B. Ford Park, this gigantic place with prairie grasses, playground, river walk and tiny shells to set up a barbecue,” Doster said. She’ll have plenty of company soon.
Kathy Makino-Leipsitz came to several Jazzin' on Jefferson concerts and decided to do something jazzy with forgotten buildings. Her company, Shelborne Development, which specializes in historic apartment renovations, launched an $8.5 million development, a mix of credits from brownfield, historic, low income housing agencies, embellishing its private equity dollars.
All told, her team of 100 workers renovated 18,000 square feet of retail and 49 apartments in five buildings. Time was not gentle on the properties. One building had to be torn to the studs, even the floors needed replacement. Makino-Leipsitz, whose firm has done historic rehab on buildings in Palmer Park and New Center area, installed new electrical wiring, roofs and plumbing on all the historic properties.,