I took a bicycle ride down Detroit’s Cass Avenue the other day, as I have many times in the past. But, this time I focused in on what the street is all about by taking a closer look at the buildings, business and diversity there.
Cass Avenue is a street that runs about three and a half miles from the city’s New Center Area at West Grand Boulevard, south to Congress Street where it ends. The New Center section is home to the historic Fisher Building and numerous office buildings designed by famed architect Albert Kahn in the 1920s for General Motors Corporation.
Just south of the Boulevard is an area called Tech Town. It is home to many biotech and other innovative start-up tech companies. There are plenty of new buildings going up or being rehabbed in that section of Cass.
Below Tech Town, Cass crosses over I-94 into the sprawling Wayne State University campus. WSU is a major research institution and is home to many buildings designed by Yamasaki and Associates, best known for their design of the world trade center. The main branch of the Detroit Public Library also sits along a one block stretch of Cass, right across from the university.
A little further south (just below West Warren Avenue) Cass Avenue is lined with restored apartment buildings, lofts, taverns, restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, small specialty retail boutiques and plenty of art galleries. That part of the neighborhood was once known as the Cass Corridor, a poverty-stricken area of the city. Over the past few years it has slowly become gentrified and renamed Midtown Detroit. There are still social service organizations helping those living in poverty on the surrounding streets and neighborhoods.
Close to downtown on Cass Ave. sits the Rosa Parks Transit Center with its soaring white canvas coverings that remind me of an outdoor music theater. Also in that section of lower Cass are beautiful old office towers built-in the 1930s, as well as newer ones. This makes for a pleasant mix of architectural styles from different eras.
There are even a few Victorian era homes still standing near downtown as a reminder of what old Detroit must have been like over 100-years ago. Bicycling along Cass Avenue is a visual treat. It offers a nice mixture of old businesses housed in vintage buildings to brand new, recently built places with restaurants, clothing stores, etc. Take a look if you are ever in that part of the city.