Since it began in the 1800s, Eastern Market has gradually become a cornerstone, nourishing visitors by providing fresh and nutritious food throughout Southeastern Michigan. In more recent years, Eastern Market Corporation has built an infrastructure around the market to support its unwavering mission to enrich Detroit—nutritionally, culturally and economically. Over the past 125 years, food systems have changed radically, as has the city the market serves. Consumers are driving fundamental shifts towards local, healthier, and more distinctive food products. Iconic, mass-marketed brand sales are diminishing and behemoth food enterprises are scrambling to reinvent themselves as smaller producers of specialty food products flourish.
According to the Institute for the Competitiveness of Inner Cities, food businesses employ the widest range of skills among all economic clusters. Especially important for Detroit is the high number of entry-level, living-wage jobs that food businesses generate. Those jobs are desperately needed to solve chronic structural unemployment in the city’s neighborhoods. Economic democracy defines Eastern Market’s authenticity. The team has identified ways to ensure that the market continues to be a place where all are welcome regardless of their age, income, or race. As the food economy shifts towards greater variety and scale, it is time for Eastern Market to capitalize on its unmatched diversity of people and range of food businesses to continue the legacy of nourishing Detroit. A growing Eastern Market will provide Detroit with a launching pad for economic growth capable of creating thousands of new jobs. Eastern Market’s ability to foster economic democracy and conviviality can be leveraged as food processing and distribution businesses relocate to adjacent sites. Space needed to marshal trucks can be given over to denser mixed use development. With new retail and residential space, Eastern Market can become a more compelling destination on days other than Saturday.
Expanding the District also accelerates the transformation of the current market district into a more robust mixed-use district with more retail, housing, and people. Eastern Market, like much of Detroit, was built for more people, more work, and more activity than it has today. Eastern Market aspires to support the next generation of food businesses as well as complementary development of a lively mixed-use commercial district to greatly increase the number of jobs in the District. The increased density of food businesses and other development will provide a fundamental building block for Detroit’s future. Eastern Market has a rich history as a working food district. The District’s economic force now has the opportunity to grow because of two distinct advantages present in the area. Immediate freeway access, close reach to export markets, and other logistical advantages already in place make expansion easier here than in other areas with no existing industry. Additionally, former residential neighborhood areas adjacent to the District with high vacancy rates are a prime area for expansion. This is the place where Detroit works for everyone.
The DTE Energy Foundation supported Eastern Market’s annual Harvest Gala, which celebrates the richness and vibrancy of Eastern Market, with an exceptional locally sourced and grown dinner provided for more than 300 community leaders. Image source: Eastern Market Corporation