A Chance Trip to Detroit Convinces Travel Industry Consultant to Move Here
Young people cite numerous reasons to explain why they move to Detroit: work, excitement, friends, affordability, ethnic culture, family or the opportunity to be part of the city’s comeback. Yet among them all Rachel Perschetz’s story stands out.
“I had a free plane ticket on Southwest Airlines that was about to expire, and looked over all the places Southwest flew for somewhere I would never otherwise go,” recalls Perschetz, 30, a well-seasoned traveler who was working in the recreation and entertainment division of a Washington, D.C. consulting firm.
“I just loved Detroit,” she says about that first trip. “I didn’t know a single person there but everyone was so nice. I met people in restaurants who showed me around.” Highlights of her first trip included visits to Corktown, Campus Martius, Greektown, the Henry Ford exhibits and the Motown Museum.
“Right away I knew I wanted to be part of it. I recognized how much the city has to offer to young and creative professional people; I was inspired by the enormous potential.”
She packed up for Detroit in January 2011 with her employer’s consent to work away from the office—and with long-term plans to start a bar and restaurant. A graduate of Cornell University’s renowned Hotel Administration program, Perschetz says that launching a restaurant is something she’s always wanted to do, and “in Detroit where the cost-of-living is extremely attractive, it seems possible.”
Plans are on hold for now because last summer Perschetz was named a Detroit Revitalization Fellow, a Wayne State University project (funded by the Kresge Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, the Skillman Foundation and Wayne State) that matches rising professionals with organizations working at the forefront of Detroit revitalization efforts.
A native of Baltimore city, her first job after college was running day-to-day operations at private club, a ballroom and a 3,000-square foot gallery and exhibition space in New York City. Perschetz then joined the AECOM consulting firm, where she prepared development strategies for museums, resorts, arenas, hotels, state parks, fairgrounds and water parks.
She is now applying her extensive background in the hospitality and travel industry to Southwest Housing Solutions, a nonprofit developer working on ambitious projects in Southwest Detroit, including the 20-block Vista commercial and arts development near the Ambassador Bridge. “Southwest Detroit is already a popular destination for visitors from Canada and Detroit suburbs, specifically for the Mexican restaurants” she explains. Vista aims to capitalize on these assets by making the area more of a destination by creating vibrant public spaces, cultural offerings, new retail, public events, and more.
“Rachel’s skill set is just perfect,” says Dan Loacano, program manager at Southwest Housing Solutions. “She’s got great people skills, especially good for the work selling the housing and commercial we are rehabbing and building.”
Perschetz notes that newcomers to Detroit are often drawn by the buzz about nearby Midtown and Corktown, but when it comes time to buy a house many in her age group are settling in Southwest. Indeed, she recently moved here from Midtown. “The historic homes, great grocery stores, beautiful parks, and walkable shopping areas make it a wonderful place to live. I love that my work offers the chance to show others all the things happening in Southwest Detroit.”