Since the pandemic hit, a number of cities and towns across the state identified specific areas to provide additional outdoor dining space for their restaurants. Some utilized the sidewalk in front of each eatery, while others did full street closures either for the entire period, or at designated times and days each week. Now, with COVID-numbers rising again, while temperatures continue to drop, communities are scrambling to find new ways to support their local eateries. Downtown Northville, a northwestern suburb of Detroit has come up with a unique plan.

The Northville Downtown Development Authority (DDA), working with local business owners, has announced its intent to embrace the chillier temperatures with what it is calling a “Heat in the Street” experience.

The concept was born out of discussions between local business owner, Manfred Schon of Up2Go, and the Northville DDA.  Schon, a native of Germany, shared some of his winter outdoor dining experiences with the DDA, and they teamed up to develop the Heat in the Street experience.  Outdoor igloos have become a common trend at many restaurants over the past few years, but there is a concern now that they do not provide enough ventilation during the pandemic. That is one reason why Northville’s plan calls for two types of modular structures, stands and pods, to be installed to assist local businesses in serving guests.

Artist rendering of dining pods to be installed in Downtown Northville for winter.

The DDA will provide the covered/heated dining and socializing spaces to allow visitors to stay warm while they visit downtown this fall and winter. Local restaurants will occupy the vendor stands and serve seasonal dishes and beverages to keep guests warm while strolling through town. Seasonal dishes can be ordered and picked up by guests directly at the restaurants, or at one of the downtown vendor stands. The heated dining pods can be used by visitors to stay warm while eating their food. Each pod will have high-top tables with room for 4-6 people.  Heat in the Street dining pods will be open Noon-10pm Monday through Sunday and the vendor stands will be open Noon-10pm Friday through Sunday.  

Street closures, which have already been in effect for several months, will continue on East Main Street from Center to Hutton, and on North Center Street between Main & Dunlap. The closures are slated to go through March 1, to support outdoor dining and a pedestrian-friendly environment.  Over the summer, the community launched a new Social District, which allows guests to carry beverages purchased from participating restaurants out to the commons area, streets, sidewalks and plaza, which are within the already delineated seating areas. Live music and other activities will be also be scheduled to create a festive atmosphere for late fall and winter.

“The DDA remains committed to supporting our businesses and the community. We are excited to build upon the success of our Social District, launched over the summer. This new experience will provide an opportunity for all of the downtown businesses to continue welcoming guests safely and with the maximum capacity allowed under State COVID-19 guidelines,” said Lori Ward, Director of the Northville Downtown Development Authority. “We are so thankful to be collaborating with Up2Go and numerous community sponsors on bringing “Heat in the Street” to Downtown Northville,” added Ward.

Downtown retail shops will continue to display merchandise out in front of their storefronts to provide an open-air shopping experience for the holidays and beyond. Some retailers are also offering online shopping and curbside pickup for customers who feel more comfortable shopping remotely.

Visitors to Downtown Northville can find ample free parking in surface lots and decks located throughout the area. For more information on Downtown Northville businesses, visit

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.