Revival of Detroit’s Cass Corridor crowds out criminals

In the rebranded Cass Corridor, police say hipsters are crowding out the criminals. But the drug dealers who have permeated the neighborhood for years aren’t going down without a fight.

The Corridor’s makeover from Detroit’s red-light district to trendy Midtown has led to charges of gentrification of the area, but police are dealing with a different type of demographic shift: The old-guard criminals are being squeezed out by the recent influx of residents who patronize newly built trendy bars, restaurants and upscale shops.

The established drug dealers also are being threatened by their younger counterparts who are trying to wrest control of the fast-shrinking turf, 3rd Precinct Capt. Darin Szilagy said.

“The revitalization of the Cass Corridor has left very little territory for drug dealers,” he said. “The little that’s left has become valuable territory, and that’s led to some violence.

“You have your OGs (original gangsters) who go back to the 1980s, and they’re fighting with the younger guys who are trying to move in. The older guys obviously don’t want to let that happen. This is where these dealers have operated for years, and they want to hold on to it.”

With the new Detroit Red Wings arena set to open next year on the Corridor’s southern fringe, and Wayne State University’s expansion to the north, more changes are coming to the neighborhood that has evolved drastically over the past decade.

Growing pains in the legitimate and underground economies are inevitable in once-poor communities that become trendy, said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies.

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