For too many years, 8 Mile Road businesses and residents and even passers-through have accepted run-down storefronts and dilapidated structures as the norm.
In recent years, the 8 Mile Boulevard Association, or 8MBA
, has worked to change that, matching facade updates dollar for dollar, convincing cities to clean up roads and add landscaping, and through other projects.
Now the nonprofit committed to improving 8 Mile has a big corporation on its side in CITGO
, which is pumping $30,000 - $35,000 into each of four gas stations along the wide stretch of road that cuts through city and burbs.
"The appearances of the gas stations on 8 Mile are very different from the ones in the suburbs," says Alan Weber, associate director of 8MBA. "It just seems ridiculous that there is a dual standard. We contacted all of the headquarters for companies that have gas stations on 8 Mile. CITGO was the only one that contacted us. They took the ball and just ran with it. It was just amazing, considering the other stations won't even call back."
The new and improved gas stations and stores are located between I-94 and I-275 in Detroit, Ferndale and Warren. The improvements will be completed within three weeks. Upgrades include new pumps, better lighting, added landscaping, repaved parking lots, technologically advanced signage, new canopy and building designs with CITGO's new logo. The convenience stores and restrooms will also be upgraded.
Weber expects the upgrades to bleed into other parts of the neighborhood along the famous - or infamous - road that's known both for its history and for being the dividing line - some say not only physically but racially - between Detroit and its suburbs.
"We get phone calls all the time about our facades: 'Wow, we didn't even know that business existed.' And it's very interesting to see when one business improves the next business will say, I need to improve too," Weber says.
"We know what a central role gas stations and convenience stores play in a community and the impact these upgrades can have. We hope these changes will inspire other businesses to make positive changes as well and keep up the momentum to improve this area," Gustavo Velásquez, vice president supply and marketing with Houston-based CITGO Petroleum Corporation, says in a statement. "CITGO and our local business partners see a tremendous amount of potential in the Eight Mile corridor. We are proud to partner with business and community leaders at 8MBA in this effort."
Overall, the improvements are expected to create cleaner, safer and more environmentally-friendly service stations that spark local pride and more investment in the community.
"Despite the hardships that local residents have faced in recent years, we are confident that the tide is turning and prosperity is on its way back," Tami Salisbury, executive director of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association, says in a statement. "Through public and private partnerships and the dedication of local businesses, like the local CITGO marketers and retailers, we are encouraging growth, improving lives and bringing back the strength to Detroit and surrounding suburbs. The backing of CITGO is a testament to the deep commitment to growth in our area. We look forward to expanding our partnership and making an even greater positive impact in years to come."Source: Alan Weber, associate director, Eight Mile Boulevard Association
Writer: Kim North Shine