I like riding my bicycle along Junction Street in Southwest Detroit, especially the one-mile stretch between Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway. This little section of the Detroit street is somewhat of a microcosm of what I’ve seen in many neighborhoods while riding across the city over the past few years.
Junction Street is packed with a variety of vintage buildings that include large, older historic churches with steeples that reach high into the blue sky. There are automotive related industries still kicking out car parts. Overhead railroad tracks cross over the street and graffiti covered trains roll noisily along them. Lining the street are a few restaurants that cater to the Mexican population that live in that part of the city and non-residents seeking authentic ethnic fare.
Most of the commercial buildings and homes on Junction appear to be built in the early 1900’s through the 1930s. They look to be well cared for, and in many cases still have small, viable businesses. The older homes found there are packed together with nothing more than a walkway between them, and are mostly well maintained. It’s not unusual to see smiling, happy kids out playing and running around in the small fenced in front yards of the old homes.
As I mentioned, Junction Street runs through a mature neighborhood and has plenty of older buildings representing a variety of architectural styles. There is a former service station in the art deco period that is still in use as a repair center. On a corner sits an intriguing three-story Victorian era building with unusual roof lines that houses a florist on the first floor. Another fascinating building, probably built in the 1920s, features extraordinary brick and tile work.
There are two commercial buildings constructed with no gap between that caught my eye. They may have been neighborhood bars at one time. They now look secure, but not in use. One features red porcelain panels right out of the 1930s, and the other is now painted a couple of shades of gray. Done right, both could make interesting, residential lofts spaces.
Like many of the city’s commercial streets that I’ve ridden, that one mile stretch of Junction features the usual mix of liquor stores, hair salons, barber shops, and other small business supported by the surrounding community. Like other parts of the city, it’s refreshing to see so many viable businesses and well-maintained homes.