Detroit’s Outer Neighborhoods Hope to Benefit from NFL Draft

By Sean Copeland, Contributing Writer

From the moment the 2024 NFL Draft first announced Detroit as its host location, joy and excitement began to build in the city. A decorative sculpture stood tall downtown at Campus Martius Park, displaying a countdown to a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime event. The last time the NFL visited the city for an event of this scale was for Super Bowl XL in 2006. Over the last 18 years, the city has experienced a major renaissance, so a new visit is long overdue.

The city is ready for a splendid event and to be in the national spotlight once again. For a city like Detroit that’s been routinely in the national media for negative reasons, it feels especially sweet to see the positive attention that is being placed here. To add fuel to the fire of excitement, the Lions finished the regular season with a record of 12-5 and almost going to the Super Bowl in February.

But during the NFL playoffs, Detroit showed out as only it could with city buildings illuminated in Honolulu blue and silver and a watch party at Ford Field, among many events. Ford Field even hosted two playoff games, a huge and celebratory win for the city. Sports bars and clubs were packed with fans celebrating raucously as they cheered the Lions on throughout the season.

Luckily for the city, the NFL is coming back to Motown. The 2024 NFL Draft is in town from April 25-27 and is expected to bring a huge boost to the local economy. The league’s second-largest event of the year is projected to bring over 400,000 visitors over the three-day event. While most of the action will undoubtedly happen downtown and spread into Midtown, the upper neighborhoods of the city are hoping to get a little love shown their way as well.

As we know, the renaissance of Detroit has been heavily concentrated Downtown and Midtown but many neighborhoods across the city are making changes as well. As for the NFL Draft, business owners and local dignitaries are hopeful that visitors will explore the city beyond the immediate area of the draft.

District 7 is Ready for the Exposure Leading up to the Draft

Residents are naturally looking forward to the national exposure that the city will get. One of the people who is excited is District 7 City Councilman Fred Durhal III. In an exclusive interview to Michigan Chronicle, Durhal III elaborated on the NFL Draft, how it will impact the city, and the importance of supporting the outer neighborhoods during this time.

“Supporting businesses in Detroit’s outer neighborhoods is essential for various reasons. It helps stimulate local economies, increases revenue for local businesses that typically hire residents, and preserves the unique cultural identity of the area. Small businesses are the backbone of the community and when tourists shop locally, they directly contribute to the well-being of the neighborhood and its residents,” he says.

Durhal III shared the city’s efforts to encourage tourism and gave an overall positive viewpoint of the city when it is being shown on the national stage. “To encourage visitors to come to District 7 during the NFL Draft weekend, we would highlight the district’s unique appeal, including its community spirit, local cuisine, and entertainment venues. Hosting special events, offering promotions tied to the draft, and collaborating with local businesses to create a welcoming atmosphere can draw visitors to the area.”

There are a plethora of nightclubs, bars, and pubs to watch the draft inside. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Food options abound, and there are also options for outdoor fun. Visitors are encouraged to visit the many parks, greenways, and outdoor gathering spots to immerse themselves in the magic of Motown. As Councilman of District 7, Durhal III has a wealth of suggestions as to how visitors can explore the area and venture outside downtown and Midtown.

“I’d recommend experiencing some of our fantastic local eateries, such as those found in the West Warren Corridor, Dexter Avenue, Grand River, and Joy Road, like In Harmony Cafe, Starters, and Everything Turkey. Visitors can enjoy a variety of cuisines, including coney dogs, Detroit-style pizza, soul food, Middle Eastern food, and Motown biscuits & gravy. For those interested in outdoor leisure, District 7 is dotted with scenic parks; including the Joe Louis Greenway, Mohammed Ali Park, and visit one of the largest parks in metro Detroit, Rouge Park, where they can enjoy our great golf courses all of which are ideal for a leisurely walk or a family picnic,” he adds.

Avenue of Fashion Is Making a Comeback

Additionally, one of the neighborhoods that has been making a visible comeback in recent years is the Avenue of Fashion. While the neighborhood never left, it is undoubtedly surging in popularity once again. The area experienced a makeover in 2019, further updating its signature style. Historically, the area is home to almost exclusively Black-owned businesses and is one of the largest districts of Black-owned businesses in the U.S.

Behind the commercial district lies the upscale neighborhoods of University District, Sherwood Forest, and Green Acres, housing many of the city’s prominent Black residents. Supporting the area during the NFL Draft, as the city expects a huge boom in tourism is essential. And as expected, the area is ready for the influx of people to Detroit.

Businesses like Good Times on the Ave are having an NFL Draft Party from April 25-27, where football fans can gather and have a good time. For business owners in this illustrious area, many see the value of supporting the upper neighborhoods of the city during a busy time.

“It’s important for visitors to support small, locally owned businesses. We’re locally owned and smaller and we give back while also giving healthy options to the community. We hire from within the community and support local initiatives. We just partnered with the surrounding neighborhood residents directly behind us with a 20% off code to come in and dine with us. It’s important to support locally owned businesses. When you support these businesses, you can feel the connection to the community. The Black dollar doesn’t circulate within our community as much as it should. I buy from Black owned businesses in the community and try to support as much as I can,” says Jasmine Raiford, owner of Trap Vegan.

Trap Vegan is a fast casual restaurant, offering delicious burgers, fries, and other goodies that are perfect for football fans. The Soul Survivor and D Boy burgers are just a few of the popular items on the menu. While the items may sound intimidating to carnivores due to their vegan nature, these items are very tasty and satisfying to the soul. Smoothies and healthy iced teas are among the other options Trap Vegan offers customers.

Just down the street, The Office is a bar and lounge that has been in the area since 2020. Offering a wide range of items on its menu, The Office offers upscale American cuisine and has something for everyone, from lamb chops with zip sauce to turkey wings and fries. Appetizers like fried green tomatoes and sweet potato fries are also on the menu. Locals routinely gather at The Office for a good time. Owner Donald Pondexter hopes that the NFL Draft will draw regular visitors to his establishment beyond the three-day event.

“We’re welcoming to visitors and appreciate their support, but our goal is to focus on developing longer-term customers. Also, we all should venture out and support a piece of Detroit,” he says. The local economic impact of the NFL Draft is expected to be massive, with some reports of about $160 million in revenue, rivaling last year’s host city, Kansas City, Missouri.

Hopefully, the upper neighborhoods can benefit from the impact, and with the increase in positive media coverage, visitors will feel inspired to venture out to other areas of the city to experience what lies beneath the surface.

“It’s very important. Otherwise, the economic impact will stay downtown because of the NFL Draft and it takes away from us. It’s important for people to venture out and come to the neighborhoods,” says Jay Marion, general manager at Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles. The popular restaurant was started by former NFL player and Detroit native Ron Bartell and has become a favorite in the city.

Mouthwatering items like the famed chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and more decorate the Southern-style menu. Detroit has undoubtedly been promoting the NFL Draft with various efforts to spruce up the city with cleanup initiatives, events, tourism campaigns, and more. The newly installed “Detroit” sign on eastbound 1-94 has been one of the most visible efforts while also being one of the most controversial topics on social media, with many users voicing their displeasure at its design. Nonetheless, the city is ramping up its preparation to welcome the influx of hundreds of thousands of people who are ready to view the next future NFL stars.

While the immediate surrounding areas are sure to be packed with tourists, Avenue of Fashion hopes to get some of the love. As for Trap Vegan, Raiford says she isn’t sure if people will venture out into the neighborhoods, but she is hopeful that people will visit. Pondexter says he has had multiple groups reach out to him in hopes of having events at The Office. But he assures everyone that there are no cover charges or private parties.

“If you come in on a Saturday night, you can come in,” he says. Marion is also hopeful for the exposure. “We’ve had national notoriety from food critics and we’re actually a vendor at the draft. Hopefully that brings people into our restaurant for people who want the full experience,” he adds. As an extra incentive to visit the businesses above, during the NFL Draft from April 25-27, they will be offering specials to help you celebrate. Trap Vegan will be offering 25% off your total order. As for The Office, every Friday night, they feature a Black-owned liquor company. They will also include $5 cocktails and tastings. For complete coverage of the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit and an events guide, visit

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