Traditional Main Street Overlay Areas
Celebrating attractive, pedestrian-friendly commercial corridors
What is a TMSO?
In 1999, Detroit City Council established the Commercial Strip Revitalization Task Force to examine ways to strengthen Detroit commercial corridors. Modeled after the national and state Main Streets programs, one of the recommendations of the task force was to designate certain corridors as “Main Streets” and to create distinctive design standards for those. These design standards are one of the tools used to create and reinforce identity to attract additional people to areas. The goal was that these designated “Main Streets” look distinct from other commercial strips in the area and be pedestrian-friendly.
The Detroit Zoning Ordinance was amended in 2005 to designate certain streets (shown as orange on the map below) as Traditional Main Street Overlay (TMSO) Areas, in partnership with the community and business groups for those areas. It was felt that these areas had, or had the potential to be, pedestrian-scale, walkable areas with a traditional urban feel. In 2020, four additional areas (shown as purple on the map) were designated.
Future development within these areas should be geared, as much as possible, toward mixed-use buildings with first-floor pedestrian-generating uses. The design of buildings should be people-oriented (as opposed to passing cars), being built with the front on the sidewalk with doors and lots of windows facing the street, and be made of quality materials.
What are the benefits of being in a TMSO?
- More uses are allowed in these areas than on other commercial streets, such as allowing mixed-use residential and outdoor seating for restaurants without hearings and small “maker” uses who sell what’s made there.
- The character of TMSO areas are maintained through the development and enforcement of Design Standards.
- The Design Standards improve the overall quality of development, which contribute to the attractiveness and desirability of the district.
- Desirable areas attract diverse businesses and services, and healthy businesses contribute to economic stability.
- Parking requirements are reduced to make it easier to reuse existing buildings and open new businesses.
Is my property in a Traditional Main Street Overlay area?
The following areas are designated as the original Traditional Main Street Overlay Areas in 2005, highlighted in orange on the map:
(1) West Seven Mile. All zoning lots abutting West Seven Mile Road between the zoning lots at the four corners of John R Avenue and the centerline of Woodward Avenue.
(2) Grand River. All zoning lots abutting Grand River Avenue between the centerline of Woodmont Avenue and the zoning lots at the four corners of Evergreen Road.
(3) Bagley/Vernor. All zoning lots abutting Bagley Avenue between the centerline of 16th Street and the centerline of 24th Street; and all zoning lots abutting West Vernor Highway between the centerline of Newark Avenue and the centerline of Clark Street.
(4) Livernois/West McNichols. All zoning lots abutting Livernois Avenue between the centerline of the John C. Lodge Freeway and the centerline of West Eight Mile Road; and all zoning lots abutting West McNichols Road between the centerline of Lawton Avenue and the zoning lots at the four corners of Wyoming Avenue.
(5) East Jefferson. All zoning lots abutting East Jefferson Avenue between the center lines of Dickerson Avenue/Gray Avenue and the city limits of Grosse Pointe Park.
(6) Woodward. All zoning lots abutting Woodward Avenue between the centerline of Temple Avenue/Alfred Street and the city limits of Highland Park.
(7) Grand Boulevard. All zoning lots abutting West Grand Boulevard/East Grand Boulevard between the John C. Lodge Freeway (M-10) and the eastern edge of Cameron Street (extended).
(8) Michigan Avenue. All zoning lots abutting Michigan Avenue between the John C. Lodge Freeway (M-10) and the zoning lots at the four corners of Vinewood Avenue.
(9) Vernor/Springwells. All zoning lots abutting West Vernor Highway between the centerline of Clark Street and the zoning lots at the four corners of Woodmere Avenue; and all zoning lots abutting Springwells Avenue between the four corners of West Vernor Highway and the four corners of the Fisher Freeway (I-75) service drives.
The following areas are designated as the new Traditional Main Street Overlay Areas in 2020, highlighted in Purple on the map:
What are the rules?
For the all TMSO areas (original and new) the summary of the standards is below:
- Building and parking location
- New buildings must be built on the front property line unless there is an outdoor seating area, in which case it can be set back up to 10 feet. New parking cannot be between the building and street. If it can’t be to the rear, then it can be on the side if it isn’t wider than half of the total development site.
- Transparency and entrances
- At least 50% (higher in original areas: see below) of the building between 2 and 8 feet that faces a street other than a “local” street has to be transparent doors or windows. At least one entrance door has to be on the street or at the corner.
- Driveways or vehicle stacking areas can not be located between the building and the Traditional Main Street. No more than one driveway/curb cut is allowed on the Traditional Main Street (more stringent in original areas: see below)
For the original designated areas, highlighted in orange, these additional design standards apply, in addition to those listed above. In summary, those are:
- Façade and Materials
- At least 60 % of the building between 2 and 8 feet that face a street other than a “local” street has to be transparent doors or windows.
- Within the Grand River, Livernois/West McNichols, East Jefferson, Woodward, Grand Boulevard, Michigan Avenue, and Vernor/Springwells Overlay Areas, a minimum of 80 percent of any building façade that faces a public street, excluding window and door openings, must consist of the following building materials: masonry (preferably brick), stone, or porcelain;
- Within the West Seven Mile and the Bagley/Vernor Overlay Areas, a minimum of 30 percent must consist of those materials
- Except where facing a local residential street, the following materials are prohibited: vinyl or plywood siding, corrugated fiberglass, non-corrugated and highly reflective sheet metal, painted or unfinished concrete block, rough-textured concrete block, and split face block.
- MATERIALS: Sign materials must consist of, but are not limited to, painted metal, glass, finished wood, or other architectural metal such as copper, bronze, stainless steel, or cast aluminum. Dimensional letters must be made of metal such as copper, bronze, stainless steel, cast aluminum, or durable non-glare acrylic.
- LIGHTING: Signs must be lit by external lighting, including halo lighting. Animated signs are not allowed. Internal illumination of signs is prohibited, with the following exceptions:
- One neon window sign is allowed per business, but can’t exceed the overall size allowed for window signs, needs a permit and can’t flash on and off, and can’t be used for the advertisement of products.
- LED lighting shall only be allowed for gas station pricing signs.
- Within the Grand River, Bagley/Vernor, and East Jefferson overlay areas, signs with internally illuminated channel letters are allowed.
- Within the Woodward Avenue overlay area, neon wall signs may be allowed.
- New pole signs are prohibited.
- Drive-up and drive-through facilities (including, but not limited to, restaurants and banks) are prohibited on zoning lots abutting a Traditional Main Street except where the Planning and Development Department determines that the proposed development complies with all of the other requirements of the TMSO standards and is allowed by the property’s zoning. New driveways or vehicle stacking areas shall not be located between the building and the Traditional Main Street. No more than one driveway/curb cut is allowed on the Traditional Main Street.
Please note, there are also standards for things such as security grills, blank walls, mechanical equipment screening, awnings, fencing, and other things. Please review the complete ordinance before beginning any work.