The M Den, the University of Michigan’s official merchandise retailer, will be opening its first Detroit location on Columbia Street in 2019 in partnership with Olympia Development of Michigan.

The new location occupies a stretch of Columbia Street that’s part of the Ilitch family’s District Detroit, a new block-long development that will feature several shopping and dining attractions. Downtown Detroit will be the seventh brick-and-mortar store for The M Den, which has locations across Ann Arbor, Novi and Livonia.

The location’s collection will include regular M Den merchandise as well as Detroit-themed products. With two storefronts for both The M Den and the Victors Collection by The M Den –– a subsidiary that features higher-end apparel and accessories –– the store will incorporate 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the new Little Caesars world headquarters.

The Detroit location may also host autograph signing events with professional athletes, some of whom played for the University and currently live in the city.

Travis Arbogast, vice president of development at Olympia Development of Michigan, said The M Den opening will be a fresh addition to diversify the stores at the Columbia Street shopping center.

“As an athletics retailer, The M Den will be a fitting and welcome addition to The District Detroit, the only destination in the nation where four major sports teams play in the city’s urban core,” Arbogast said. “The apparel and merchandise shop is among many storefronts planned for Columbia Street that will continue to bring retail diversity to our steadily-growing district.”

Scott Hirth, co-owner and president of The M Den, had hopes of establishing a Detroit store since 2013, especially as the University became more involved in the city.

“It was very important to us that the next round of investment was in the city of Detroit,” Hirth said. “With the resurgence, we wanted The M Den and by extension, the University of Michigan, to put our stamp on Detroit.”

However, the opening of The M Den’s new location, along with several other retail flagship stores in Detroit, raises questions about businesses’ and entrepreneurs’ attempts to “revitalize” Detroit. Many Detroiters identify the economic development seems to be pushed in certain areas of Detroit while the rest of the city is left largely ignored.

LSA junior Alyson Grigsby comes from an area of Detroit near where the new M Den will be built. She said though opening a store like The M Den may help Detroit financially, it is important to question why only some parts of Detroit are included in city growth.

“On the one hand, sure, you can probably bring a little bit more revenue to Detroit,” Grigsby said. “But Detroit is only really being developed in certain areas like the Midtown and Downtown area, that’s the only thing that really irks me. Just them selling M Den stuff isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m just wondering how come groups that do so much in the Midtown and Downtown areas like Little Caesars Arena don’t do anything with other parts of Detroit.”

The new M Den location comes as the University has attempted to build its presence through conferences and years of partnership initiatives in Detroit, where the school was originally founded in 1817. Some of the University’s programs, such as Semester in Detroit, have also been problematic. Companies like General Motors and Quicken Loans have also made efforts to increase their presence in the city.

Grigsby asserts problems such as the city’s access to education are left largely unaddressed while business development like Columbia Street increases. She believes it is cause of concern for native Detroiters, who want to see their city grow and want to make sure Detroiters are not left behind.

“Along with the people living in Detroit, I don’t say there’s a revitalization because they’re only really developing some parts of the city,” Grigsby said. “In some parts of the city, people are having their water shut off because they can’t afford water, or they can’t afford to live where they are or they can’t afford to get the jobs or opportunities they need to succeed. There are things like that where they’re not trying to improve public services but instead trying to improve the parts of Detroit that they want to make look pretty. Midtown and Downtown are at least fine in that aspect, people are coming to games and promote the city. But you have to make sure the people who live there are taken care of first in my opinion.”

Grigsby suggested hiring workers from Detroit for the new stores in the development.

“You could try and get local people involved,” Grigsby said. “If they hire Detroiters, that could at least make a better impact on the city.”

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