Formed in 1994 as the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA), the organization was created out a desire of residents to bring a modern retail development to the Jefferson-Chalmers business district. The organization quickly moved from a grassroots start-up to a more sophisticated, professionally managed entity. With additional staff members focused on encouraging entrepreneurship, the goal was driving business growth to fill vacant store fronts. Quickly recognizing the unique urban form of the Jefferson-Chalmers business district, (one of the few largely intact neighborhood commercial districts within the city), leadership began to utilize innovative interventions to bolster the area. JEBA pioneered a matching façade grant program to improve and stabilize more than 40 historic storefronts, and implemented the first traditional Main Street zoning overlay and a local historic district to support a pedestrian oriented environment. JEBA created Jazzin’ on Jefferson (JOJ), a unique arts and music festival which ran for fourteen years. JOJ was designed to raise the profile of the business district and surrounding neighborhoods.
Formation of East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative (EJCC)
Driven by the belief that east Jefferson starts in downtown Detroit and ends at Alter road, Jefferson East shifted its axis of focus to encompass all five neighborhoods along East Jefferson Avenue. In 2009, with major philanthropic support from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Jefferson East and the Downtown Detroit Partnership formed the East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative (EJCC). This group brought together major stakeholders from the western end of the corridor to identify strategies that could transform east Jefferson Avenue into a pedestrian friendly, multi-modal street. The result of these efforts culminated in an award-winning plan that laid out a wide-ranging transformative streetscape.
Formation of JEI
In 2013, JEBA and the EJCC (which functioned as an independent program committee of JEBA) had successfully integrated safety and streetscape planning work for the corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods. Realizing the duplication of board structures, both entities began a comprehensive governance consolidation process that knit together both ends of the corridor via a collaborative planning process. This led to the relaunch of the organization as Jefferson East, Inc. (JEI) with an expanded board of directors and mission to serve the entire east Jefferson corridor and its adjoining neighborhoods.