There’s probably no higher compliment for a Detroit Movie Palace than someone saying that it improves the quality of life in the area where it is located.
Patrons of downtown Ann Arbor can always count on the Michigan Theater to increase their options for a night on the town, as its classic restored marquee lights up the nighttime streetscape. Visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts for years have treasured the Detroit Film Theatre as another exhibit space for creative artworks, and the foot traffic generated by the DFT has helped make the John R corridor more than just the rear entrance to the DIA.
And the Redford Theatre’s contributions to a revitalized neighborhood in northwest Detroit were recently documented in a March 22, 2011 article by Detroit Free Press Staff Writer Naomi R. Patton—”Redford’s turnaround could be blueprint for Detroit Works Project.”
“The last Saturday night in February, the Old Redford block on Lahser at Grand River in Detroit was jumping,” wrote Patton. “The Old Redford Theatre, open since 1927, was showing ‘The Harvey Girls,’ starring Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury. As always, the 8 p.m. movie was preceded by the 7:30 p.m. organ concert performed by a member of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society.”
The article noted other businesses near the Redford, including Sweet Potato Sensations!, Motor City Java House, and the Motor City Blight Busters, along with a barbershop, pharmacy, shoe repair shop, bakeries, art gallery, and hair salon.
The last few years, I’ve heard many positive comments by Redford staff and visitors about the coffee shop and sweet potato bakery. These and other businesses have added a more friendly liveliness to the immediate area around the front of the Redford, similar to the street energy around the entrance of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
A few years ago, the Redford constructed fences around its parking lots, which I’m sure have been appreciated by more than just people coming to see a movie. The theater’s presence has helped neighborhood businesses survive, like Paul’s Barbershop two doors down from the Redford.
Paul Bologna’s customers in more than 50 years in one location have included many visitors to the Redford, and in turn, Paul helps out the Redford by taking mail deliveries for it when no one is at the theater.
As I write this, I’m listening to classical/jazz radio station WRCJ, another Detroit cultural institution that has re-invented itself through volunteer efforts and public support. Let WRCJ, the Redford, and other enterprising organizations always be good examples of what it takes to maintain the good things about Detroit.
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.