Established in 1957, the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) fosters innovation, drive, and commitment. We work with investors, entrepreneurs, customers, and neighbors to capitalize on Southwest Detroit’s competitive advantage. We support our community’s vision for a healthy, vibrant neighborhood.

The Association is a coalition of businesses and community interests committed to facilitating the continuation and enhancement of a stable, economically healthy Southwest Detroit. We accomplish this by employing strategies that support existing business and industrial enterprises, enhance the climate for public and private investment and economic growth, and act as a vehicle for cooperative ventures that support economic development in Southwest Detroit.


While our original focus was on business improvement, in recent years we have spearheaded a range of holistic community efforts, expanding our scope to include cultural, recreational, educational, environmental and physical enhancements. Today, our goals are to:

  • Leverage significant private investment from business and property owners, corporations, foundations, and individuals to bring revitalization to the community and broaden the base of stewardship
  • Secure and strengthen Southwest Detroit’s economic assets, including our historic building stock, green spaces, pedestrian-friendly shopping districts, growing residential base, and investment opportunities
  • Keep dollars generated by Southwest Detroit in Southwest Detroit by providing quality goods and services for our economically and ethnically diverse community

We achieve these goals by recognizing economic development as a multi-faceted, comprehensive strategy to stimulate broad-based investment and to grow community wealth and implement real estate development, technical assistance, community planning and organizing, and healthy environment strategies. In short, we roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to make things happen.


Where Our Efforts Take Hold:
Businesses – They are the centerpiece of the SDBA’s work, and we assist by connecting them to a wide range of technical and financial resources, and by fostering a healthy climate for quality business growth.

Building – Southwest Detroit is one of the most vibrant and active areas in the city. We help promote its historic commercial buildings, create opportunities for regional shopping development in targeted locations, and assist local businesses to invest in their property through commercial renovation incentives.

Community – We lead efforts to identify, research, and analyze critical land use, market, transportation, and public policy issues affecting economic investment in Southwest Detroit. From here, we implement community improvement activities by coordinating programming to improve the quality of life for area residents, business owners, and customers.

Businesses are the centerpiece of the SDBA’s work, and we assist by connecting them to a wide range of technical and financial resources, and by fostering a healthy climate for quality business growth.


We lead efforts to identify, research, and analyze critical land use, market, transportation, and public policy issues affecting economic investment in Southwest Detroit.


SDBA is truly commitment to the arts. Over the last decade, the SDBA has expanded the scope of its community development efforts to encompass the flourishing arts and culture community in SW Detroit.



Robert Dewaelsche
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Theresa Zajac
Vice President
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Myrna Segura
Director of Business Development
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Olga Rodriguez
Business Manager
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Greg Mangan
Real Estate Advocate
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Keith Rodgerson
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Jenny Garnica
Executive Assistant
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Norma Preciado
Assistant Director of COMPAS


We believe any community organization must ultimately be measured by what’s been accomplished. We’re proud of the range of success stories we’ve been involved with in Southwest Detroit.

They began in 1957 when the “West Vernor Businessman’s Association” was established to combat the loss of businesses to the suburban malls. Some 20 years later, with a number of programs and business successes in place, our name officially became known as “Southwest Detroit Business Association” and our scope expanded as we began working with the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce

Shortly thereafter, in 1981, we were first to receive a LISC grant in the City of Detroit for commercial revitalization. We were also the first business group in Michigan to receive non-profit status, thanks to a number of community development projects that had been successfully implemented. A year later, another first took place when the first facade improvement on West Vernor was completed at Rebert’s Bakery with a $1,000 investment.

In 1985, the initial “Do it in Detroit” event took place, in conjunction with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. The campaign incorporated a series of events throughout the city to encourage shopping along main streets. The next year, the program’s name became known as “Shop Your Block.”

SDBA efforts expanded further – in 1989, we founded the Mexicantown Community Development Corporation in partnership with Hubbard Richard Community Council. Then, two years later, the Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV) was created in partnership with the East Michigan Environmental Council.

Next, formal recognition for our efforts – in 1993, we were selected as just one of three  organizations nationwide as a Community Initiated Development National Main Street model. Specifically, Southwest Detroit’s Hubbard Farms was designated as a Local Historic District and placed on the National Register of Historic places.

In 1994 we created an initiative that still in place and effective today – our Community Policing program, which also contributed to our Jumpstart the Motor City Empowerment Zone Application and, in turn, allowed us to be eligible for Federal incentives. As a direct result, the Rebert Building was purchased and became a major redevelopment project, eventually serving as headquarters for the Southwest Detroit Service Center and main office for the SDBA.

For the rest of the 90s, our efforts took shape in many innovative and varied ways. We were first in Detroit to secure and utilize a Geographical Information System (GIS) to aid in planning and mapping, we created the Southwest Detroit Graffiti-Free Collaborative, and, by 1997, were helping shape the Detroit’s Reinvestment Strategy for Cluster 5, better known as Southwest Detroit. Finally, in 1999, redevelopment efforts culminated with a new 25,000 square foot Supermercado in the Heart of West Vernor, built by E&L and representing a $4 million investment.

As we moved into the 21st Century, several milestones of note took place. The year 2002 marked 20 years in print for the region’s Community News publication, which celebrated the occasion by becoming bilingual. Up the street, some 89 buildings on West Vernor received official recognition by the National Park service, US Department of the Interior, and National Historic Preservation of Historic Places. Perhaps, then, it was only natural that two years later, in 2004, we were awarded with a Cool Cities Grant and the DTE Power of Excellence award.

Most recently, in 2007, with the support of the SDBA Business owners, work to formalize the first BID in the State of Michigan was initiated. And the first phase of the subsequent Greenways project was completed. Then, in ’08, we launched the

“Savor Southwest Detroit” campaign to increase awareness of our area’s culinary strengths. Then, 2009 saw BID services expand to cover a greater area and we began to work in the Mexicantown area on Detroit’s ReStore district.

Looking ahead, there’s no telling where our efforts might be directed. But you can bet we’ll be in the center of the Southwest, looking to help a community that is solidly committed to growth, changes, and people.


The Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) undertook $1.3 million renovation of the Rebert Building in 1995. Purchased from Norm Rebert, the property had no central heating or air conditioning and required a complete renovation with all new wiring, new plumbing, new walls, ceilings, lighting, bathrooms and kitchens. Financing included $103,000 in historic tax credits and a CDBG grant of $400,000.

The Odd Fellows building, completed in 2006 stood derelict on the western-most end of the business district for over 10 years. Built in 1918 and listed in the national Register of Historic Places, the Odd Fellows Hall is a 20,000 square foot, brick building.

Looking beyond its current physical condition, the SDBA saw an opportunity to provide the district with an anchor development project, and began its renovation. Using Historic, New Market, and Brownfield tax credits, the $4.9 million renovation was completed, including a geothermal heating and cooling system and other green amenities. This renovation sparked new life on the western end of Southwest Detroit.



There are many people, businesses and groups that make up any vibrant community. In Southwest Detroit, we are blessed with many such individuals and organizations. At the SDBA, we’d like to recognize those listed here for their exceptional role in making our community a unique and special place.


Michael Odom – Board Chair
Marx Layne & Company

Tonia Patino

Steve Weiner – Board Treasurer
Edw. C. Levy

Michael F. Droze
Castle Cove Consulting

Sandra X. Gutierrez
Chase Bank

Bishop Donald Hanchon
Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit
Archidiocese of Detroit


John Serda
Detroit Police Department

Melton Brandenberg
Jorgensen Ford

Marifer Calleja
DTE Energy

Paula Carethers
Ford Motor Company

Joe Gappy
Prince Valley Market

Richard Robell
Marathon Petroleum Company, LP-Detroit

Michael Lynch
DTE Energy

Jacci Woods
Motor City Casino

Sylvia Gucken
The Ideal Group

Robert Dewaelsche 
President, SDBA


Our biggest reward comes every day when we walk through Southwest Detroit and experience a thriving, diverse, growing community.

We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t list some of the other accolades that have come our way:

Cool Cities Grant Awarded – 2004
DTE Power of Excellence Award – 2004
The Preservation Wayne Community Development Award- 1998
The City of Detroit Distinguished Service Award- 2006
Keep Michigan Beautiful Award- 1998
Salute to 50 Years- Detroit City Council- 2007
State of Michigan Certificate of Tribute- 2004
Renaissance Youth Center Award- 1991
Special Tribute from the State of Michigan House of Representatives – 2008
SWIDA Award of Appreciation-2001
Bank One Neighborhood Impact Award-2002

In addition, SDBA president, Kathy Wendler, has been recognized with several reputable awards:

Michigan Historic Preservation Lifetime Achievement Award-2008
Spirit of Detroit Award
Certificate of Appreciation- Catherine Fergusen Academy- 2001
SDEV Environmental Vision Award- 2007


Residents, Business Owners, and Tourists

SW Detroit

Martina G.

Two thumbs up for SDBA!

Vernor Chiropractic Clinic, Chiropractic Assistant

Jennifer A.

Everyone at Vernor Chiropractic Clinic loves Southwest Detroit Business Association! They are the best!

Amy's Shoes and Accessories, Owner

Ricardo R.

Amazing! They've helped us so much with our business growth. Thank you SDBA!

Detroit Resident

Larry M.

SDBA goes above and beyond to help residents, businesses, and the community at large. Keep up the great work!

Detroit Resident

Kit L.

This a 5-star Business Association!


La Posada Market

Thank You for all the support! You staff is the best! Please continue helping small business and persons to resolve their situations. Very Thankful!

Board of Commissioners, Wayne County

Jesse G.

Thank you for all the great work that SDBA has done please don't stop 🙂

Native Detroiter

Annie O.

SDBA is GREAT! Openly celebrating immigrant culture, visioning well lighted, pedestrian friendly streetscapes, bike lanes and racks are all priceless.