Washington Square in Edison is now fully occupied with resident-owned and diverse businesses after seven years of Land Bank and Edison Neighborhood Association work to activate and revitalize the commercial node. In addition to Washington Square’s already established businesses, which include Tremolo Instruments, Community Promise Credit Union and Kzoo Nutrition, the Square now welcomes several new businesses. Black Wall Street is the new owner of 1311 Portage, home to the recently-opened Twine the Urban Winery, which represents Southwest Michigan’s first black female-owned winery. Washington Square also welcomes Ty’s Joint, a restaurant featuring southern cooking at 1301 Portage Street, Layla’s Cool Pops, 1336 Portage, and soon-to open KPEP’s W & P Diner at 3100 Portage.
“It’s amazing what’s going on in Washington Square right now,” said Tammy Taylor, Director of the Edison Neighborhood Association. “It was a long time coming from having it be the adult business district to making it a truly vibrant, family-friendly retail shopping area. As a neighborhood, we are strong on diversity. To have Black Wall Street there is awesome. Just awesomeness.”
With the goal of a sustainable, vibrant, community-oriented commercial district, the Land Bank worked closely with El Concilio and ENA to partner on block-wide events to provide a welcoming and inclusive space for residents to enjoy. With desires from residents in hand, the Land Bank raised dollars to improve the spaces and launched a tenant incubation program whose goal was to attract small businesses that were reflective of the neighborhoods’ diversity and were committed to actively participating in the efforts of the block to achieve sustainable occupancy. As a result, women-owned, resident-owned and Latinx-owned tenants joined the program over the years and were able to occupy spaces, growing their business and supporting the neighborhood goals.
“When the Land Bank acquired the Washington Square property, they reached out to us to be involved in efforts to recruit tenants. They also started the important work of raising funds to renovate the spaces and investing to make sure they could be used for different community businesses,” said Adrian Vazquez, Director of El Concilio. “In the last five years, there has been more activity. The area is welcoming to walk and is a source of pride for the neighborhood.”