Why will Live/Work residences continue to gain popularity in Detroit’s suburbs? As an entrepreneur, I think I am well-equipped to answer that. Entrepreneurs thrive on creativity and collaboration. A home office, studio, or workshop sets you apart from others. A live/work space puts you in close proximity with other like-minded individuals in a close-knit community where entrepreneurs are neighbors and stakeholders controlling the success of their retail environment.
My sister-in-law is a textile artist outside of Chicago in Oak Park, Illinois. Until recently, she ran her design studio from a street level live/work apartment on Harrison Street. Her shop was flanked by an upscale shoe store and a jewelry boutique. Up the block was the Buzz Café, several cooperative art galleries, a dance studio, and a luxury bath shop. Together, these businesses created the Oak Park Art District. All of the store owners met regularly to organize art promotions that would draw shoppers to their retail zone. They were all in it together. Even though my sister-in-law relocated her studio, she still calls her next-door-neighbor from Harrison her BFF.
Suburban Detroit could greatly benefit from this kind of cooperative community and business building. Sometimes we forget about all of the resources that are available to us. Choosing to work and live near like-minded neighbors could be the first step toward jump-starting our economy, while at the same time transforming our quasi-commercial, partially neglected suburban areas into vibrant art and shopping districts.