Eastern Market’s Latest “MKT” Zoning Update Seeks to Grow Local Businesses Market

Rezoning map of Eastern Market includes 1 million-square-foot expansion project to attract and retain growth of local small businesses. Aerial view of Eastern Market. Photo courtesy of Dan Carmody.      Detroit’s popular food industry hub of Eastern Market is in the process of discussions with the city on zoning amendments to adapt a more conducive … Continued

Eastern Market’s Latest “MKT” Zoning Update Seeks to Grow Local Businesses Market

Rezoning map of Eastern Market includes 1 million-square-foot expansion project to attract and retain growth of local small businesses. Aerial view of Eastern Market. Photo courtesy of Dan Carmody.   

 

Detroit’s popular food industry hub of Eastern Market is in the process of discussions with the city on zoning amendments to adapt a more conducive environment for the district’s food industrial businesses to grow beyond current land use limitations.    

 Approved on May 6 by the City Planning Commission, MKT is the latest zoning code update in Eastern Market’s developments. MKT will designate the largest area of the district for market and distribution in food production and removes heavy industrial uses. 

Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation (EMC), said the district has witnessed a recent trend of growing food companies relocating outside of Detroit for more room to expand. Developments are in line with EMC’s Eastern Market 2025 Strategy. 

“In the last few years, companies like Wolverine Packing Company were on the site just north of the Pepsi plant,” said Carmody. “[They] were then faced with needing more land and going downriver where they found it was ready to go. We are losing companies due to lack of space.” 

Presently, the over 100-year-old local wholesale company, E.W. Grobbel’s Sons, Inc, is also interested in expansion, but is committed to staying in Eastern Market in large part to the district’s zoning changes. The corned beef wholesale company is investing $33 million in a major redevelopment project in the works to create 300 new jobs. The new facility will be 140,000 square feet and be located east of Dequindre and just north of Mack Avenue. 

“We are trying to do incentives, like a possible hike bonus, to keep good businesses in the area,” said Carmody. “We need to keep the authenticity of our market and there are three core roles. First, it’s all about food. We’re kind of the last one in our country. Most of these places are overrun with mixed use buildings and condos, making it a high price you pay to eat and live. Second, we are dedicated to independent small business and developing affordable commercial space at market rate or lower.” 

How Eastern Market is Meeting Supply and Demand Needs for Local Businesses 

The Eastern Market district is a staple food hub for Detroiters and suburbanites alike that frequently shop from a selection of 170 businesses. Visitors can peruse fresh groceries at the weekly farmers market or enjoying an array of independent restaurants, cafes or retail and butcher shops.   

In response to the 2011 Food and Safety Modernization Act, city planners and Eastern Market leadership have steadily devised a plan to implement developments while adhering to the policy’s stricter security and safety regulations on how food is grown, harvested and processed.  

The ongoing zoning developments are part of the city’s comprehensive framework to simplify and better attract and retain Detroit’s small to midsized businesses and infrastructure projects.   

The framework planning began in 2018-19 and included extensive community engagement with residents and stakeholders to create jobs for Detroiters, improve the quality of life and keep the authenticity and function of the market. 

The city of Detroit, in conjunction with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, is working with leadership from the EMC to implement the plan. 

“The community and businesses in the area collectively came up with a vision for the Eastern Market area, or what we’ve been calling the Core Market,” Gregory Moots, lead planner in design and development at the Planning and Development Department for the city of Detroit told the Michigan Chronicle.  

The Eastern Market framework encompasses an estimated area of 1.1 square miles that includes Eastern Market and the surrounding Greater Eastern Market residential neighborhoods. The focus areas for improvements include expansion within the boundaries of Gratiot Ave to East Warren Ave and I-75 to Joseph Campau Street.  

Proposed zoning will add one million square feet of new food processing and distribution that would allow food to continue to be a meaningful use in the Market District. The revamped area will include GEM, Core Market and Gratiot Corridor along the area bounded by Forest Avenue, Joseph Campau Street, Gratiot Avenue and Orleans Streets.  

Core market will replace “B6” general services zoning with the MKT zone for commercial areas of business, transportation and manufacturing, as well as a designated area for mixed use development along Dequindre Cut. GEM will include updates to residential parcels to MKT zone and create space for live/work and workforce housing development. Gratiot Corridor will update the designated area for mixed use development.  

“The developments are looking at about a third for processing and distribution, a third for retail and food retail and a third other offices,” said Carmody.  

In response to community concerns about displacement due to gentrification, Kimani Jeffrey of the City Planning Commission, said recent zoning developments seek to expand and safeguard opportunities for small and mid-sized businesses to flourish while retaining the unique character of Eastern Market. 

“That goes along with keeping out the big box types of retail outlets,” said John Sivills II, lead urban designer in the Central Planning Region of the Detroit Planning and Development Department. 

“This isn’t about Amazon or Target necessarily coming into Eastern Market. This is about the concerns with smaller business, which historically come in the market and get their start and grow there, like EW Grobbel in their location. They’ve been there for about 100 years and they’re expanding capacity while staying in the market within the new planning area.”  

Other infrastructure projects are on the horizon, including land use geared toward a green economy and affordable housing.  

“We are also excited that the plan provides for significant buffering with greenways and also mixed use,” said Carmody, “Mostly residential developments so that this isn’t a sterile industrial park but actually improves quality of life for people living nearby as well as increased opportunity for employment.” 

The framework includes land provisions around Eastern Market for mixed use residential spaces to allow for “live-work maker space,” including 110 units at 1923 Division Street that will be available for rent at 30 percent to 80 percent average median income (AMI).  

The City Planning Commission said the project is expected to generate approximately 1,500 jobs with new business that can be created over a couple decades.  

“What we’ve called a framework is a 20 year build out, so this isn’t something that we expect to happen tomorrow or the next five years but certainly over time along with infrastructure improvements to go along to support this, that is what we are expecting.” 

Next steps for the city’s Eastern Market comprehensive framework development are a hearing on the zoning and a discussion about the master plan this Fall, then a hearing before City Council to vote on both for official approval.  

For updates, follow the Planning and Development Department at detroitmi.gov.