Blog: Norm Silk

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." –Anais Nin.

Take it from Norm Silk, owner of Blossoms florist, who discusses the growth
and challenges (the Iceland volcano) of the floral industry. Then follow his rehab of Detroit's only Frank Lloyd Wright property, and progress report on the Woodward Avenue Action Association's work on 6 to 8 Mile's commercial strip.

Post 3: A Vision for a Sustainable, Livable Corridor

The 6-8 Mile/ Park District Revitalization Effort

•    Inspiring Change, Building Capacity, Creating Physical Improvements, Enhancing Economic Development, Promoting Transportation, Encouraging Efficient Land Use, Creating a Safe, Healthy and Walkable Community, Adopting Green Initiatives, Promoting Diversity, and Defining a Sense of Place…

The area between Six and Eight Mile Roads along Woodward is an eclectic blend of stability and blight. Led in Part by the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3), a collective revitalization plan among residents, businesses, elected officials and stakeholders is emerging and re-energizing this underserved, but asset-rich "gateway" to the City of Detroit.

Changing city
Look out!  Detroit is getting ready to boom again.  The energy is contagious, creative ideas are flowing like our sparkling river.  Glorious old buildings are finding new purpose and our land will become productive again. Change is coming to Woodward Avenue between 6 and 8 Mile Road. Woodward Avenue Action Association recognizes that it's time to move forward and be part of the change we want to see.


Imagine Woodward Avenue 70 years ago in its heyday.  The commercial strip south of the State Fairgrounds boasted at least three fine florists, a gourmet market that delivered orders to the surrounding neighborhoods, one of Detroit's finest candy makers, professional services, popular restaurants and much more.  As the suburbs grew, the neighborhood lost businesses.  The florists were replaced with a lawn mower repair shop, an adult video store, and the last was torn down. The candy shop closed; the gourmet market became a liquor store. 

You get the picture.  Residents of the surrounding lovely historic neighborhoods were forced to shop in the suburbs.  They came to accept the idea that most of the shops and services left.  Detroiters started to accept neglect as part of living in Detroit.  Vacant and run down buildings unoccupied for years became invisible to residents as they went about their daily lives.  Lack of code enforcement allowed landlords to hold derelict property with little consequence.  It was time for a change.

Call to action
In 2008, Woodward Avenue Action Association, a long-established champion for the entire 27 miles of Woodward Avenue, was approached by a small group of businesses in the 6-8 mile commercial district seeking assistance and support for the district.  Although there were many established businesses, the lack of an organized association, crime, and poor city services were genuine concerns.  WA3 was asked to work with them to facilitate change.

ACTION is part of our name:  Woodward Avenue Action Association accepted the challenge.  Forming a committee of interested board members, our team consists of an outstanding architect and others with an eye to design and style supported by hardworking staff with backgrounds in urban planning.  We engaged stakeholders in the area and held regular monthly meetings attended by both business owners and interested residents.  We engaged city departments and law enforcement officials to resolve problems. Click here for our mission statement.

After more than one year visioning and problem solving, we applied for and received a grant from the ONCR Refresh District to create a plan for the area.  Working with the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at U of D Mercy Architecture School, and more than 20 stakeholders and visionaries, priorities were identified for the neighborhood now branded as "THE PARK DISTRICT" which is dominated by the large urban park – opposite Palmer Park. The entire vision will be unveiled by early summer and at least two new facades will be executed in the district this spring.

As the PARK DISTRICT plan unfolded, we gained valuable support.  The city of Detroit has indicated it will adopt and plan into its master plan.  Property owners in Palmer Park have given their support.  Palmer Woods' neighborhood association has granted funds to plant flowers in the area this summer. There is talk of sunflower gardens as well!

Woodward Avenue Action Association will continue working with businesses and residents in the area.  Vacant building owners will be offered the opportunity to join the effort, take advantage of refresh grants, or perhaps find new owners.  Building codes will be enforced to protect property values.

Other partners
Since the start of the Woodward Avenue initiative, other groups have emerged.  An exciting plan for a new urban neighborhood called GROWTOWN has been proposed east of Woodward Avenue in the same district. The GROWTOWN plan would attract  gardeners and artists to a community of creative new homes with community gardens, parks, markets, and new services. Another urban garden project known as Fireweed Universe City is just one of the groups working in the area gaining support and expanding urban garden projects south of 7 Mile.

Good things are happening in Detroit. It's time for our residents to speak up to media and others who talk down the city. We LOVE Detroit and aren't afraid to say it.

Join us, and be part of the change. Make Detroit the city you want to live in.