Many Detroiters noticed a recently erected sign on a plot of vacant land at Michigan Avenue and 18th Street that read: “Old Western Market. Resurrected From Its Ashes. Soon Will Be Re-Born.”
We just had to find out more. Here’s what we learned after talking to the couple responsible for the sign.
Less than a block away, Cathy Schneider bought an old department store building in 1999. She and her former husband, both artists, turned it into a loft, art gallery, and studio space. Now that her kids are off to college, she and her current partner, Dr. Richard Noto, are looking to redevelop the building.
As part of that development, Schneider bought the nearby 0.55-acre plot at 18th Street thinking it could be used as parking for the development. But then the couple did some research and found that it was the last remaining land from the old Western Market, and knew they had to bring it back in some form.
At one time, Western Market was as large as Eastern Market, but was demolished in the mid-1960s to make way for the Fisher Freeway. Archival photos show a similar brick shed design to Eastern Market.
Schneider and Noto’s plans for the new Western Market are still in the very early stages. They’re looking to get a permit from the city, which will allow them to erect a 10,000-square-foot tent and host up 60 vendors starting in May 2020.
They estimate this pilot phase of the market will cost around $150,000 and last around a year. They’re currently seeking loans and grants.
Eventually, they hope to build a permanent space for “20 to 30” small businesses selling a variety of goods from produce to coffee to antiques. They also say their goal is to keep everything as affordable as possible, in both the food that will be sold and rent for the vendors.
“There’s a lot of families here,” Schneider says. “What’s being built in Corktown is really cool, but many people can’t afford it.”
One challenge will be the couple’s lack of development experience. Schneider, in addition to being an artist, works for a trend forecasting company based in metro Detroit. Noto is a pediatric endocrinologist with an office in New York.
In the shadow of Michigan Central Station, these two properties have become incredibly valuable. Schneider says she’s gotten several, multi-million dollar proposals to buy her property. But she’s not interested.
“I can’t do that,” she says. “It’s too important here. I care about the history too much.”
There’s a lot of work to be done before Western Market is truly resurrected. But Schneider and Noto are passionate about making it happen.