Businesses raise millions to keep lights on in Mexicantown

Southwest Detroit Business Association behind plan to put 171 streetlights in along West Vernor Highway

DETROIT - Business owners in Detroit's Mexicantown are taking back their streets by helping light the way.

Residents in the stretch of West Vernor said they were disappointed to learn their neighborhood wasn't part of Detroit's five-year repair plan. The infrastructure of their street lights is crumbling, literally leaving them in the dark.

"Residents don't feel like they have a stake in their own city," said Tolu Olorunda.

Other say safety is the concern.

"Criminals are comfortable in the dark, they like to be hidden. They can work better and function better in the dark," said area business owner Jamahl Makled. "We are constantly paranoid. How are we going to get in and out of the store every day? It's a constant fear we have."

The Southwest Detroit Business Association spent more than $40,000 last year to clean up graffiti in the neighborhoods. Now, they're taking aim at keeping the lights on.

The association has raised $6.4 million through grants and partnerships over the last four years to power street lights along West Vernor between Woodmere and Clark.

Teresa Zajac, the association's programs director, said the money isn't just going to light bulbs but to restore the wiring and aesthetics of the streetlights.

The 2.3 mile stretch will get 171 new lights.

Construction is slated to start in November and be completed in a year.

The association is still looking to raise $400,000 by the time the project kicks off.

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