In the 70’s, 80’s and well into the 1990s, urban planners in Detroit and statewide felt that in order to attract development downtown, it was necessary to plop the equivalent of a suburban mall into the heart of our urban cores. Needless to say, that never happened. At the time, major mall anchor tenants had no desire to open locations downtown – including in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Lansing. Fortunately, the concept of developing a suburban mall downtown never materialized.
Truth be told, people didn’t and still don’t want a replicated suburban experience in urban areas that are experiencing revitalization. What has happened, organically, is that small restaurateurs, bars and coffee houses have claimed new territory in core urban areas and the restaurant scene is now progressing at an unprecedented pace. From sushi bars to restaurants featuring wine verticals, chic coffee houses and fried chicken and burger joints, it’s happening. Funny thing is that not only are locals frequenting these new establishments, but people from far flung suburban communities are also flocking to enjoy these new urban dining venues.
When people ask “What came first? The chicken or the egg?,” my premise is instead: “What came first? The restaurant or residential and/or commercial development?” I firmly believe the influx of restaurants create an environment where people want to live, work, play and learn.
Being able to walk to the local coffeehouse, bar or casual or fine dining restaurant is a pleasure that was lost to the automobile, expressways and suburbia and is now being rediscovered by Millennials and their Boomer parents. With the excitement of new dining opportunities will come new housing options, office space and recreational venues.
What came first? The chicken or the egg? I say first came the restaurant.