Reviving the Livernois Avenue Strip

im Tandy doesn't see her job as work. She sees it as a mission to make the area she lives a positive place for her children and others to grow and develop. She puts that passion into her multiple roles as president of the Sherwood Forest Association and program manager for the nonprofit University Commons Organization, where she works diligently to help revive and revitalize the northwest Detroit neighborhoods bordered by Eight Mile Road, Woodward and Fenkell avenues and Wyoming Street-with a special focus on a $1.6 million redevelopment of the Livernois Avenue strip from Fenkell Avenue to Eight Mile Road.

And her work doesn't stop there. For the past 18 years, she has been president of the West Side Cubs, a little league team focused on building character while developing young athletes.

Tandy, 49, an architect whose credits include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and her own high school's renovation-Cass Tech-is married to William Tandy, director of Upward Bound at Wayne State University. They have two children.

What are your goals for the Livernois strip?

To fill up every single solitary vacant property with something that would be useful for the community and profitable to business owners so it's sustainable. To improve the beautification of the street, and to make it pedestrian friendly and a community gathering place.

Are there any examples?

(The) 1917 American Bistro. It's more than a great restaurant. It really has become a gathering place for people who live around Livernois. The facade work at Savon, one of the neighborhood grocery stores. Mike's Market has been an amazingly supportive neighbor. We have several new businesses, including Teasers, a woman's clothing boutique; Simply Casual, a men and women's clothing store; Times Square, a men's clothing store; Flagship, a new T-shirt store; Style, another boutique–and businesses that have been with us a long time that are improving, like Terry's Enchanted Garden, which offers a wonderful floral experience, Noni's Family Restaurant, which used to be a Coney Island is now a very nice sit-down family restaurant. We've also had a number of events that people walk to and enjoy. We just had the fifth Jazz on the Ave. We must have had 2,000-3,000 people.


What's on tap for Livernois?

A new coffee shop, Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles, a make-your-own pottery place, an ice-cream shop, better signage so people know what's here, as well as murals and sculptures and more.

And it's not just about new businesses. All our shops are local, and local people know the importance of hiring local people. So you get not just new places to shop, but jobs. And the new shops improve property values and the quality of life in this community.

You have a big project-the Detroit Design Festival-coming up. When and what is that?

It's a festival of visual and performance art that will be up and down the Livernois corridor on Sept. 20. It's also a celebration of all the pop-ups, at least seven of them, that will be opening.

How's it feel seeing your efforts begin to bear fruit?

I'm very excited. It feels good to see we've come from just doing some façade work to really, really getting neighborhoods involved and to actually open up stores and businesses–and cleaning up the area and bringing back the enthusiasm that the Avenue of Fashion had many years ago. It's brought back a lot of neighborhood pride.

How has the city's pending bankruptcy impacted you?

In the midst of some departments trying to collect every penny, some of our businesses have been hurt. I hope the city understands it needs to grow the positive and not make it difficult for businesses to grow.

Why are you so passionate?

I grew up in Detroit. I love this city. I grew up on Outer Drive, not far from here. This was a very cohesive, family-oriented community. My father (renowned architect Harold Varner) designed and built his house and another house on the golf course near here. When I graduated (with a master's degree in architecture from Georgia Institute of Technology), I couldn't wait to come back. Now, I want my children to have the same experiences I had growing up in Detroit.

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