Michigan's Cool Cities: ROYAL OAK


Royal Oak has transformed itself over the past decade into a cool downtown that attracts young people to live, work and play. Now, the city is poised to morph again, this time into a hub of urban living, with major condo and loft projects going up throughout the downtown area. LGBT people are moving in and moving up into the Skylofts, the 18-story The Fifth complex, Eight 55 and other new projects that are changing the landscape and the people around downtown.

LGBT people led the way in the first transformation. Pronto! started out as a gay-owned take out deli, grew into restaurant, added a bar and then their newest addition, the Pronto! Corner Store. The owners are civic and business leaders. Chosen Books was one of the city's first "alternative" stores and led the way for other merchants to reach the funky, hip market that has come to define Royal Oak. LGBT people are on the leading edge of the newest trends in Royal Oak, with all the major loft projects seeing high numbers of LGBT move-ins.

Royal Oak is the sixth gayest city in the state, according to the U.S. Census 2000, with more than 1,300 same-sex couples reporting. It sits in the heart of the 12th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D), which was the second gayest district in the state. Levin is highly regarded by the LGBT community, and enjoys an 88 percent positive rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

Royal Oak hosts the annual AIDS Walk Detroit each September, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for AIDS service agencies in southeast Michigan. Affirmations LGBT Community Center holds their Come Out and Laugh event at the Mark Ridley Comedy Club annually.

Entertainment venues include the Main Art Theater, the site of the Triangle Foundations' annual Film Festival, and the Royal Oak Music Theater has live shows every weekend. Stagecrafters is one of the area's best community theater groups.

Royal Oak's eclectic shopping district has everything from exquisite glass artwork at Ariana Gallery to crafts and organic vegetables at Royal Oak Farmer's Market. There are stylish clothing stores like Dolce Moda and Chrome, along with thrift and vintage shops, which target LGBT consumers. Whatever your taste, Royal Oak probably has a store for you.

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