DETROIT-A Detroit firm has put together a plan to create a cultural destination for African-Americans. AfricanTown would be located near I-75, I-94, Woodward Avenue and East Grand Boulevard, next to the Cultural District and New Center area.

It would feature about 650,000 sf of shopping, offices, entertainment, dining andmultifamily housing.

“It will be the first of its kind in the country,” says Dorian Harvey, general manager of AfricanTown in Detroit. “It will be much like Greektown in Detroit, or Chinatown in San Francisco.”

More than 82% of Detroit’s population is African-American.

Harvey says his firm is looking to buy the two pieces of property in the city for more than $5 million. The plans include more than 300,000 sf of retail, restaurants and entertainment, approximately 100,000 sf of class-A office space, more than 200,000 sf of living space and a multitude of specialty shops, boutiques, galleries and cafés.

The site would also include a multi-purpose theater, 1,800 lighted and secured parking spaces, memorial fountains and statues and conference rooms and banquet facilities.

“This plan is America’s first of three African-centered retail communities proposed for development in Detroit,” Harvey says. “The campus is designed to revitalize inner-city communities and aesthetically acknowledge and embrace the African culture around the world.”

He says AfricanTown’s purpose is to recirculate money, skills and economic opportunities into disadvantaged communities around the globe. This development will allow a multitude of consumers to shop, dine and be entertained in an “Afro-centric” atmosphere that promotes pride and educates all people.

The management team consists of AfricanTown World Wide and Central City Alliance Inc., a Michigan community economic development corporation. Within the next five years, Harvey expects more than 100 businesses to lease or purchase space within the campus and the surrounding area. Each business tenant will average approximately five to 15 employees, giving a projected total of approximately 500 to 1,500 new jobs created by small businesses.

“Our largest tenants, a movie theater and a virtual family fun center will employ over 300 employees alone,” Harvey says.

The proposed site is in one of six Federal Empowerment Zone Designations, which guarantees $100 million over 10 years to fund community-driven plans to improve economic and social conditions in the 18.5-square-mile area.

The effort is supported by an additional $1.9 billion in commitments from banking institutions.

By May 2002, Harvey says he hopes to secure financing and create a master plan, select architectural renderings, present plan to City of Detroit, complete environmental and structural inspections, collect letters of intent from prospective tenants and select builder and contractors. He hopes to break ground in early 2003. Harvey says he could not say how much the project would cost.

Future plans include the construction of two additional sites within North America, Harvey says.

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