Bill Marsh, early Midtown pioneer

“August 1969 I bought my first property,” says Bill Marsh, one of the early developers of the area surrounding the El Moore, known then as the Cass Corridor. When asked why he chose to plant his flag in an area regarded at the time by many as somewhat dangerous and seedy (although some longtime Cass Corridor residents dispute this portrayal strongly), his response was simple: “I thought it was the best location in Southeast Michigan. It was the best price.”

Marsh was also a supporter of the area because it was where he lived, and as a resident he has no doubt that one of the best things to happen in the Cass Corridor that eventually paved the way for the mini-boomtown it has become was the early emphasis placed on neighborhood safety.

“I think if there’s one single factor that unified the neighborhood it’s Wayne State Police Department. Chief Anthony Holt. Absolutely that was the game changer; when they expanded their patrols into the residential area it made all the difference in the world.”

Marsh said that Holt, who has been a police officer in the area since the 1960s, made the conscious effort to make Midtown a safer environment for the residents who lived and worked in the area. Consequently  that determination helped to lay the foundation for  the emergence of Midtown. Marsh’s strong belief in the importance of community policing and safety was evident when he co-founded the Midtown Alliance with Ken Davies.

“One of the things we tried to do was to keep everybody focused on crime and cleanliness,” he said.

But as valuable as Holt’s contributions were, he was accompanied by a chorus of committed community members who envisioned a better neighborhood for themselves.

“There were a lot of people that have been involved” in the restoration of Midtown, “and a lot of them are still involved.”

When it comes to memories of the El Moore, Marsh had a closer personal association with the building than some of the other early Midtown pioneers. Although he can’t remember the exact time period, he does remember managing the building for awhile during the 1970s for a Father Kolbert who owned the building. He also remembers a woman named Marie  “who really gets the credit for keeping things together there. She hand-picked the tenants. She did a really good job of that.”

 

 

 

About Keith Owens

Keith Owens is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger and musician whose most recent work has been featured in Model D Detroit, BLAC Detroit, and the national political affairs blog PoliticusUSA. He has also published three novels through Detroit Ink Publishing (www.detroitinkpublishing.com), the eBook publishing company he co-founded with his wife, Pamela Hilliard Owens. Keith and Pam live in a 100-year-old home in the Historic Boston-Edison District a few miles north of the El Moore.

El Moore