Detroit has always been one of my favorite cities. When you look past the bad, there’s a history and eclecticness that its long-time residents and business owners are clinging to. Many of those business owners, who are black, are now fighting to keep their businesses alive because of gentrification.
In what is referred to as “New Detroit,” white owned businesses are taking over and Mike Duggan the city’s first white mayor in 40 years couldn’t be happier.
In a harrowing report on NBCNews, Black business owners expressed their issues with all of the redevelopment that has taken place. Many can’t afford their leases that have now skyrocketed, only to see new businesses popping up.
Larry and Dianne Mongo, a couple who ran restaurants, hair salons and retail businesses on Woodward Avenue for 31 years, were evicted with more than two years on their lease just before opening two new restaurants.
The Mo’ Better Blues Jazzy Bistro closed after a legal battle over the lease. Owners Marilyn Hall and son, Gerald Watson, said they spent more than $250,000 on a build out and operated only about a year.
That same month, Darnell Small, owner of the Tangerine Room, a bar and restaurant, also lost his lease. After a long legal battle with owners, Rivertown Holdings, he finally closed the business in May.
In June, Zana Smith, owner of Spectacles, a small downtown retail shop known for selling the hottest sunglasses, trendy T-shirts and novelty items for 31 years, was given a 30-day notice to leave because the building was sold.
Small, who has owned entertainment spots downtown for two decades, said he doesn’t know what to do now. Earlier this month, he received a settlement for more than $100,000 in damages, but it doesn’t ease his pain or the losses he sustained.
“It seems like we can spend our money, but we don’t have a right to be there,” he said. “Blacks do not have a level playing field anymore. Certain opportunities are not there for us. I never felt like we were being moved out before. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.”
This issue isn’t just something happening in Detroit. Look at Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, N.Y. as examples. Not only can black people not afford to live in these cities, they also can’t afford to keep their businesses opened.
Even with gentrification occurring in Detroit, it still remains one of the cities with the most black entrepreneurs. According to Ken Harris, president and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc., there are 32,000 black owned businesses in the area. And it’s these business owners who will more than likely remain in Detroit after the ‘thrill’ has left the gentrifiers.