For our third challenge of the 2022-2023 program year, we partnered with E. Warren Development Corp (EWDC), a nonprofit with a mission to support and enhance the E. Warren commercial corridor and adjacent neighborhoods through collaboration, community engagement, and equitable development. Five teams of Fellows worked alongside the EWDC staff and neighborhood stakeholders to create deliverables for this project – learn more from the perspective of each team!

On this most recent project kickoff day, our cohort of Challenge Detroit Fellows got to learn about the dynamic history of the E. Warren corridor. Twenty years ago, abundant businesses thrived from local foot traffic and lots of money spent along the busy street. But when the economy went into a recession, many businesses moved out and residents were forced to travel further for goods and services. This was the status quo until a few years ago when the E. Warren Development Corp was established and started organizing the Economic Redevelopment of the corridor. 

EWDC has reactivated new business growth on the E. Warren corridor, bringing in redevelopment and upcoming commercial projects to the area. While these projects will create major changes to the corridor, the economic benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the community impact of new developments. 

Our team was fortunate to interview multiple business owners moving to the Corridor. To our surprise, none of them spoke about the income they hoped to make, but rather of the value that their business brings to the community. 

Jasmine Haskins, owner of Gajiza Dumplins, said “I wanted to create something that keeps my neighbors in the area to work good jobs here.” We discussed how, similar to taking their money elsewhere, a lot of people in the neighborhood commute far distances to go to work rather than working jobs that are nearby. Jasmine and other new businesses intend to change that. She also spoke very thoughtfully about the area, “Gajiza is not just a restaurant, it is a home with a family and that’s why it fits so perfectly in the neighborhood.”

Sarah and Jay Williams, owners of Next Chapter Books, also spoke about the necessity of having “third spaces” on the corridor, which are places that people can gather and simply be without having to pay a price. Places like the Alger Theater and former restaurants offered this meeting space, but they have been in limited supply in more recent years. The restoration of the Alger Theater, upcoming Morningside Cafe and new home of Next Chapter Books all represent these third spaces that EWDC is helping to cultivate on the corridor. 

We enjoyed hearing about how intentional new business owners and developers are about the growth of the E. Warren Commercial Corridor, and how willing they are to be transparent about incoming development and further engage the residents of the three neighborhoods.


Blog by Fellow Team: Diamonique Thomas, Desirée Quinn, Donald Stuckey, Kellie Wasikowski, Jenny Pangero