Detroit plans to resurrect heart of once-booming Paradise Valley

Demolition of Paradise Valley to make way for I-75. Photo via Wayne State University.
Paradise Valley was demolished to make way for I-75 and other urban renewal projects. Photo via Wayne State University.

Paradise Valley was a bustling entertainment and business district for black residents in Detroit from the 1920s to the 1950s until the area was paved over in the name of urban renewal.

Now the city of Detroit is hoping to resurrect some of the area that once attracted jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

The city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is seeking proposals “to restore and honor the rich cultural, economic and historical heritage of the former Paradise Valley within the area formerly known as Harmonie Park.”

The area is bounded by Adams, Brush, Alexandrine and I-75.

The DDA owns five buildings and two parking lots in the area and wants to find a new use for them.

Proposals are due by Nov. 11.

Black people were largely confined to Black Bottom and adjoining Paradise Valley until the city plowed through both for so-called urban renewal projects, displacing African Americans who came to Detroit in search of jobs.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.