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1253 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Jeanette Pierce

By Amy Kuras
January 17, 2014

Sure, you probably love Detroit – maybe you’ve bought an old house you’re fixing up, get in constant Twitter fights defending the city’s reputation, sport a bumper sticker on your car, or rock a "Say Nice Things about Detroit" T-shirt unironically.
But you don’t love Detroit the way Jeanette Pierce loves Detroit. Most people who have lived here for awhile build up a certain protective callus of cynicism, but Pierce never seems to have developed one, although she was raised in the Morningside neighborhood on the east side and has never really left Detroit for any length of time.
That’s why she started the tour company Inside Detroit: to tell the city’s story from her perspective as someone who really, really loves this town. And it’s why D:hive essentially told her to create her own title when Inside Detroit merged with them in 2012. Her job is essentially to connect people and resources to make Detroit a better place to be.
Pierce launched Inside Detroit Tours in 2007, when she was living downtown and walking everywhere. She realized her own experiences discovering all kinds of amazing things as she explored the Motor City in a non-motorized way did not jibe with the badmouthing the city endured from outsiders, and wanted to change the narrative.
She started with bar tours, versus other tours that focused on culinary, historical, or architectural themes. The idea was to show people what the day-to-day experience of living in Detroit was like, and to break down some of the myths about the city.
She brought that expertise with her when she joined D:hive. Last year they took 11,000 people on tours. Some of those are corporate groups or custom tours for people visiting the city, while others were people just wanting to find out more about Detroit or experience the city in a different way.
Pierce’s enthusiasm made her a natural fit to join forces with D:hive in 2012. D:hive’s goal is to become a major access point for information, contacts, and connections about things happening the city, as well as attracting more businesses and people.
They are in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time, given the wave of development happening around the downtown area and the widespread enthusiasm for the city's recovery, which now seems to be the country's favorite underdog story. Pierce says that’s a welcome change from the atmosphere when she started Inside Detroit in 2006. "I definitely felt like a little voice in the wilderness – 'Hey, there is stuff going on here, and it actually is great to live here!'" she says. A lot of people appear to have heard the message. According to a D:hive study, downtown residential occupancy is at 99.4 percent right now and shows no sign of slowing down.
Another part of D:hive’s work is helping small businesses get launched through their BUILD entrepreneurship training and other programs, including a rotating pop-up retail space called Pilot near their offices. Detroit’s economic decline has led to people wanting to create their own jobs and spawned a serious small business culture. And, Pierce says, the people doing it aren’t trying to become the next local kajillionaire – they’re doing it to make their communities better and create the kinds of things they want to see in their city. "The silver lining to people ignoring us for so long is that we have mom and pop stores, and you can start a business and have a positive impact," says Pierce.
As she likes to say, "Detroit is big enough to matter in the world, but small enough that you can matter in it." And there’s no doubt Pierce, with her boundless energy and enthusiasm for Detroit, won’t rest until everyone experiences the city for themselves and sees it for the wonderful, complex, thoroughly unique place it is. "If you bring people here and show them the amazing community we have here in the city, once they see that, they think about it in a different way. When you love something, you take better care of it."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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  • Jeff Aronoff
    Jeff Aronoff is the Executive Director of D:hive, a nonproft that has served as a sort of all-encompassing welcome point for anyone looking to live, work, learn about or do business in Detroit.
  • April Boyle
    April Boyle is the Director of Small Business Initiatives at D:hive, where small-time entrepreneurs can find the resources they need to get started.

Related Projects

  • D:hive BUILD
    D:hive is a physical store front in Detroit’s central business district that connects people with the tools and resources they need to live, work or engage in the city.

Related Resources

  • Hudson-Webber Foundation
    The basic purpose of the Hudson-Webber Foundation is to improve the vitality and quality of life of the metropolitan Detroit community. The Foundation concentrates its giving primarily within the City of Detroit and has a particular interest in the revitalization of the urban core because this area is a focus for community activity and pride and is of critical importance to the vitality of the entire metropolitan community.