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Feminist’s Guide to Detroit: Downtown Edition


Map of the Detroit People Mover route and stations downtown.

Welcome to Detroit. Visiting downtown? Grab 3 quarters, hop on the People Mover (it’s $0.75/ride), and you’ll be on your way to enjoy our Feminist’s Guide to Detroit: Downtown Edition.

Okay, so the People Mover doesn’t have a catchy name. And it’s reminiscent of a theme park monorail. Over the years, folks have complained that it’s mostly a way for suburbanites to get from cheap parking to an event or a casino. But you have a secret weapon to make your People Mover expedition more exciting: our guide!

Millender Center Station

We’re writing this blog post as the city prepares to host the Economic Justice Summit of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. So we suggest you begin your tour in the same spot where the summit is being held, the Millender Center.

Millender Center is named for one of the founding partners of the civil rights law firm Goodman, Eden, Millender & Bedrosian.GEMB alumni include the Honorable Victoria Roberts, federal judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. Judge Roberts has a distinguished career that includes serving as the first (and to date only) black woman to be president of the Michigan State Bar Association as well as years of pro bono work for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit mentoring nonprofit. You may recognize her name from recent headlines. In February 2017, Judge Roberts wrote an opinion that substantially impacted Metro Detroit’s Arab community. (Metro Detroit has the second largest Arab population outside the Middle East, second only to Paris.) She held that President Trump’s executive order, often referred to as the “Muslim ban,” was unconstitutional.

Financial District Station

If you’re in town for the Economic Justice Summit, then it just makes sense to make your tour’s first stop the Financial District, right? Did you know that female entrepreneurs typically ask for less financing than men when they are starting their small businesses? We’re taking you to two of our favorite, downtown women-owned retail spots, along with the best place for Detroit swag.


Bon Bon Bon Chocolate

Bon Bon Bon Chocolate, 719 Griswold St.  Artisan chocolates are made by an internationally-trained group of women chocolatiers at this female entrepreneur business in the Chrysler Building. Their delicacies are also featured in the decadent ice cream treats at Shake Shack near Campus Martius Park.


Drought Juice Bar

Drought, 719 Griswold St. Did you know that when it comes to woman-owned businesses, Metro Detroit ranks in the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation? This juice bar features raw organic fruits and vegetables in its healthy products.


Pure Detroit Shop

Pure Detroit, 500 Griswold St. It sure isn’t your mother’s souvenir shop. This Detroit-themed shop inside the stunning Guardian Building features a variety of hip products. Our favorite is the Eastern Market typewriter bracelet.

While you’re there, consider grabbing a coffee on the ground floor. Then you can enjoy it a few steps up on the mezzanine. Trust us, you won’t regret it.


Guardian Building Mezzanine

Guardian Building mezzanine, 500 Griswold St. This space has a huge, vaulted ceiling and an incredible mosaic mural created by local artist, Mary Chase Stratton. Ms. Stratton was also the original Detroit entrepreneur, founding Pewabic Pottery in 1903 (and it’s still in business today!).

Joe Louis Station

When you ride the People Mover from the Financial District to our next stop, you’ll get an amazing view of the Detroit River and Canada. How many public transit rides can offer you a view of a foreign country? Fun fact: you’re looking south! That’s right. Due to a bend in the Detroit River, Windsor, Ontario is actually south of the border.

The Joe Louis Arena is – until the end of the 2017 season – home to the Detroit Red Wings. If you’re not a sports fan, FYI it’s pronounced like “Joe Lewis.” Don’t call it “Joe Louie,” or you’ll be outed as a tourist for sure. Us locals just call it “The Joe.” The Joe and the adjoining Cobo Hall complex host many events other than hockey, from political rallies to music concerts. In 2016, feminist comedian Amy Schumer sold out the venue for a massive show, donated her profits to charity, and used the spotlight to speak out against gun violence against women. (She’s also the cousin of Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer)

In the ’90s, the Joe gained notoriety with the lead pipe whack heard round the world.Those of you old enough to remember may recall US Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding was later implicated in an assault on competitor Nancy Kerrigan here at this very ice rink.

Times Square Station


Rosa Parks Transit Center

Grand and modern, the beautiful Rosa Parks Transit Center, 1310 Cass Ave., rises like sails of a ship next to the Times Square People Mover Station. Did you know that feminist and civil rights leader Rosa Parks was also a Detroiter? After spending her final years in the City, Mrs. Parks’ funeral was a massive event for the community she loved. She is buried in the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood.

Grand Circus Park Station

You’re arriving at our next stop, Grand Circus Park Station. The station is attached to the historic and newly renovated David Whitney Building. You can exit directly down a staircase to the street. But don’t forget to checkout the jaw-dropping beauty of the building’s atrium.

aloft-detroit-at-the.jpgDavid Whitney Building, One Park Avenue.

No feminist tour of downtown would be complete without seeing Detroit’s most incredible glass ceiling.


Alger Fountain

Alger Fountain, Witherell St. and Woodward Ave. The fountain is located on the east half of Grand Circus Park, which straddles both sides of Woodward Avenue. This is the opposite side of Woodward from the Grand Circus Park Station and the historic Whitney Building.

Facing the Detroit Opera House, the fountain features a bronze statue called the Female Personification of Michigan. To us, she resembles Queen Boudicca, the Celtic heroine who led a rebellion against the Romans.


The Royce Detroit

The Royce Detroit, 76 W. Adams. If you’re passing through Grand Circus Park later in the day, consider a stop at another female partnership, The Royce. Located in the historic Kales Building on the north edge of the park, it’s the wine bar the neighborhood had been needing. Plus, it hosts Wine Wednesdays! Enough said. #WineMe

Broadway Station

Harmonie Park, the gorgeous downtown YMCA, and retail shopping along Woodward Avenue are all within a block of the Broadway Station.


Avalon International Breads

Avalon International Breads, 1049 Woodward Ave. (Coming soon) All right, it’s not open yet, but the construction has us so excited for this new edition to downtown! This woman-owned, organic bakery was established in the ’90s in Detroit’s Midtown, back when folks still called it Cass Corridor. In 2017, it will open an additional location downtown. Also philanthropic, the bakery has recently done fundraising for the Detroit nonprofit, Alternatives for Girls.


Wright-Kay Building

Wright-Kay Building, 1500 Woodward Ave. Any fans of a tough-talking journalist by the name of Lois Lane? You may already know that Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice was filmed in Detroit. If you saw the movie, you might also recognize the historic Wright-Kay Building as Lois Lane’s Gotham City apartment. Today, the building is home to a number of things we love, including Wright & Co. Look up. Is that a bird? Or a plane? No, it’s one of Detroit’s trendiest cocktail bars on the second floor.

Cadillac Center Station

Up next, it’s Cadillac Center. Cadillac is not only the namesake of a tiny offshoot from a little local brand some of you may know (General Motors). It’s also the name of Detroit’s founding family. Established in 1701 by Antoine Cadillac, Detroit (Détroit if you’re fancy) was originally part of New France.


Detroit Library: Skillman Branch

Detroit Public Library: Skillman Branch, 121 Gratiot Ave. Hey, Siri, the street’s pronounced “grah-sh*t” not “gra-tee-ott.” This oddly-shaped library is our favorite spot to peruse works by and about famous Detroit women. We suggest “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century” by Grace Lee Boggs, “The Queer Cultural Work of Lilly Tomlin and Jane Wagner” by J. Reed, “Octavia and Other Poems” by Naomi Long Madgett, and “The Moon is Always Female” by Marge Piercy.


Campus Martius Park

Campus Martius Park, 800 Woodward Ave. Weather-permitting, the ice rink is a stunning, family-friendly spot to skate in Hockeytown. Okay, maybe Detroit figure skating was synonymous for years with the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding rivalry that played out at the Joe. But nowadays, we love figure skating at Campus Martius  after dark.


Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument, Woodward Ave. The monument is located at the southern edge of Campus Martius Park. It features the Michigania statue at its top.

Take a close look at the details. Four female allegorical figures, resting on pedestals, are above the male statues and represent Victory, History, Emancipation, and Union. It is rumored that Sojourner Truth, the famous African-American abolitionist and Michigander, was the inspiration for the Emancipation statue.

Greektown Station

Yeah, it’s Greektown. We’re wrapping up our tour like a fine meal, with a sinfully sweet, guilty pleasure. For decades, this area has been a favorite spot for out-of-towners to visit. It’s become a little touristy, and may remind you of a mini-Vegas. In the summer, the City closes the main street and turns it into a pedestrian mall. The Greektown Station is attached to the casino of the same name. Detroit is home to a total of three casinos, including Motor City Casino, one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the state. It’s owner, Detroit matriarch Marian Ilitch, is a multi-billionaire.


Sports Mania, 400 Monroe. Don’t let us stop you from trying Greektown’s famous saganaki (flaming cheese, Opa!) or any number of other treats on the block. But we’re taking you shopping for Detroit gear. Sports Mania is one of many regional retailers that carries the  Made In Detroit brand (also available  online).

You’re taking your feminist tour group to a sportswear shop? Um, yeah. Ever heard of Title IX?

Our pick is the “We Can Do It” merch. Did you know that Rosie the Riveter was from Southeast Michigan? She worked in the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti.

Renaissance Center

Renaissance Center, The GM Renaissance Center, or simply the “Ren Cen” if you’re a local. We’ve reached our last stop. Don’t worry! The Ren Cen building is attached to your starting point, the Millender Center, by a skywalk. Yeah, we have no idea who decided there needed to be an additional People Mover Stop for each of these two, connected buildings. But, hey, try getting off here as your last station so that you can fit in one more destination.

The Ren Cen is made up of several, interconnected towers, including Detroit’s tallest building. The office complex is the headquarters to General Motors. GM’s Mary Bara is perhaps one of the most powerful female CEO’s in the world. In a February 2017 meeting with President Trump, she spoke out against proposed taxes and restrictions at the US-Mexican border. Also a philanthropist, Ms. Bara has partnered with the nonprofit group Girls Who Code, which empowers young women to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Consider exploring the cavernous Ren Cen. It’s home to a number of retail and food establishments, including a floating Starbucks lounge you need to see to understand. If it’s a warm day, we suggest checking out the Riverwalk along the Detroit Riverfront side of the building. But you don’t have to walk. You can also go for a jog or rent a bike! (Checkout Wheelhouse Detroit, 1340 Atwater St.)


This concludes our tour of downtown. Watch for more guide blog posts from MCEDSV on the rest of Detroit.

What are your favorite downtown spots?

Let us know!