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The Wildemere activates a vacant storefront in Martin Park

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Photos by Robin Runyan

While the housing market has gradually improved in Detroit over the past few years, the commercial situation had lagged. After Corey Williams renovated a house in the University District a few years ago, he spotted a storefront for sale on the corner of McNichols and Wildemere. A long renovation has resulted in two leased apartments and finally, an open event space called the Wildemere.

We stopped by to chat about the process and the need for more commercial activation in the neighborhood.

Williams and his partner bought the 8,000-square-foot building for $175,000, and started renovating the two upstairs apartments. The apartments each have three bedrooms and span 1,200 and 1,100 square feet, plus a patio space. They updated with granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and washer and dryers. The building got an entire gut renovation, with new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.

They easily leased the units for $1,200 and $1,100. One tenant has lived in an apartment for 18 months, and the other has had a few tenants, but continuously leased. The basement also has storage/work spaces that are fully leased out.

Getting the storefront ready took longer, as financing was needed to finish. But since early May, the Wildemere has been open as an event space, hosting parties and pop-ups like Taco Tuesdays. They’ve seen a steady flow of visitors since opening. This summer, Williams hopes to add some outdoor seating.

The space before the renovation.
The event space now has a stage.
...Plus a counter and kitchen for carryout.

Just a few years ago, 3143 McNichols was a storage/rental space for bounce houses, and before that, neighbors say it was an after hours club.

The Wildemere sits right across from the University District. Across the street stands a deli/liquor store and down the block from the Wildemere is a day care. Other than that, many storefronts remain empty. Considering the location—near the Detroit Golf Club, the University of Detroit Mercy, and just a few block from Livernois, plus adjacency to strong neighborhoods like the University District and Martin Park—storefront activation seems like a no-brainer.

But most of the investment in that area has been going to the west of Livernois in Bagley and Fitzgerald, along with the Avenue of Fashion. Hopefully soon, it will make its way down McNichols.