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'Impromptu performance space' to open along Dequindre Cut

The Dequindre Cut, that two mile-long stretch of paved greenway connecting Eastern Market with the Detroit riverfront, was designed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. And while movement motivates much of its usage, it's a stationary feature that will soon be celebrated.

The Campbell Memorial Terrace, an outdoor performance space, will officially be unveiled this Thursday, October 13. A children's concert, its first scheduled programming, will occur during the Harvestfest Detroit celebration on Saturday, October 22.

Located at the base of the Lafayette Street ramp between Orleans and St. Aubin streets, the Terrace includes a covered stage for performances and tiered seating walls for spectators.

The Terrace was designed with the community in mind. While there will be the occasional scheduled performance, its real function will be determined by those who use it. The space has a come-what-may policyno permits or reservations required. Whether it's working musicians wanting to put on an impromptu performance, local poets wanting to give readings, or neighborhood children coming up with their own fun and games, if the stage is open, the community is encouraged to use it.

Spontaneity is the name of the game here.

"We wanted to leave it flexible and see what the community comes up with," says Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "We set the table and let the community bring the programming instead of us bringing the programming from the top down."

The Campbell Memorial Terrace is named after C. David Campbell, former president of the McGregor Fund and a founding member of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. A long-standing member of the Detroit non-profit community, Campbell passed away in 2014. The McGregor Fund presented the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy with a $1 million gift to honor Campbell. According to those responsible, the terrace, which incorporates all the things Campbell lovedthe outdoors, music, art, and, most of all, the communitydoes just that.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Motor City Match completes first year of programming, 11 more businesses awarded grants

Detroit continues to grow its base of entrepreneurs through its Motor City Match program, awarding 11 more grants ranging from $15,000 to $75,000 to area businesses. The awards, announced July 20, complete the fourth round of Motor City Match, marking one full year for the quarterly program.

That pipeline of entrepreneurs, as Detroit Economic Growth Corporation CEO Rodrick Miller calls it, consists largely of Detroiters. According to figures released by Motor City Match, 64 percent of MCM winning businesses are owned by Detroiters, 72 percent are minority-owned, and 68 percent are woman-owned.

In the program's first year, Motor City Match has awarded $2 million in grants to 40 small businesses, leveraging over $13 million in total investment in the city.

This round of grant winners include:
  • Twisted Roots, a beauty supply retailer in Eastern Market
  • Block Party, a building on Livernois that will house two restaurants and the Live6 Alliance
  • Detroit Vegan Soul, a West Village restaurant opening a second location on Grand River
  • Norma G's, a Caribbean cuisine food truck opening a brick-and-mortar location on East Jefferson
  • Live Cycle Delight, a cycling studio opening in West Village
  • Amaze-Enjoyment, an early childhood center at 20067 John R Street
  • Guadalajara #2, a butcher shop expanding into a full-service facility in Southwest
  • Lil Brilliant Mindz, an east side daycare and Head Start facility
  • Beau Bien Fine Foods, an artisanal jam, fruit preserve, chutney, and mustard maker expanding in Eastern Market
  • Meta Physical Wellness Center, an affordable holistic spa opening in Corktown
  • Third Wave Music, a music instrument retailer opening in the Forest Arms building in Midtown
"These are the kinds of businesses that help to create complete neighborhoods where people want to live," says Mayor Mike Duggan. "Motor City Match is helping dozens of Detroit entrepreneurs live their dream owning their own business while being a real part of our city’s neighborhood comeback."

In addition to the 11 businesses awarded grants, seven others will receive free design and architectural services, 26 have been connected with landlords, and 50 more will receive free business planning support.

The next round of the Motor City Match application process begins Sep. 1 and closes Oct. 1.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Belle Isle beautification efforts focus on fundraising events for fountain, community programming

The popular fundraising event Detroit SOUP is coming to Belle Isle. The micro grant-awarding program, typically reserved for the city's neighborhoods, is making a one-time appearance on the island park. While the dinner doesn't take place until August 31, organizers are currently seeking grant proposals, which are due August 14.

A typical SOUP event will include a five dollar fee for a dinner that's open to the public. The five dollars pays for soup, salad, bread, and a vote in the micro-grant contest. Four proposals are heard and the dinner crowd votes on which proposal they feel best benefits the community where the dinner is being held. The winner of that vote receives the money collected at the beginning of the night. Many types of proposals are heard, from business plans to community events.

Organizers say that the Belle Isle SOUP will operate in the same fashionthe one caveat being that the proposal must take place on Belle Isle. In addition to the money raised, the Belle Isle Conservancy will offer staff support to help make the winning proposal happen.

Applicants can submit SOUP proposals online or at a physical drop-off location that includes the offices of the Belle Isle Conservancy, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, Live6 Detroit, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Eastside Community Network, SER Metro Detroit, and the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation.

In other Belle Isle news, the Conservancy is hosting a fundraising event to help restore the historic Pewabic tile mosaic at the basin of the James Scott Memorial Fountain. The Conservancy has currently raised nearly $75,000 of a $300,000 goal to restore the mosaic.

On Wednesday, August 17, the Sunset at the Scott fundraiser will include food from El Guapo Fresh Mexican Grill and Cool Jacks Handcrafted Ice Cream + Cookies, an open beer and wine bar, and music from local band ONEFREQ.

Advance tickets range from $50 to $250 and are available until August 1. After the first of the month, tickets will cost $65 at the door.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Work continues on the restoration of the Detroit Yacht Club

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation (DYCF) is kicking off another year of major repairs to its clubhouse with its spring fundraiser, "Restoring the Grandeur: City Lights Gala." The nonprofit dedicated to the restoration of the country's largest yacht club clubhouse expects another full-capacity crowd for the event, which is open to the public and takes place May 20 at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle.

The gala is an opportunity for both club members and the general public to celebrate the preservation progress already made as well as what's in store for the historic clubhouse, says DYCF president Mark Lifter. Formed in 2011, the foundation has guided a lot of crucial restoration to the building, yet much remains. Lifter estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the exterior work has been completed. At 93,000 sq. ft., it's the biggest yacht club clubhouse in the country.

He calls the current phase of repairs "sealing the envelope" -- big tasks that must be completed before focus can shift to the building's interior. This summer, as in summers past, the foundation will be repairing the roof, stucco, masonry, and windows, protecting the treasures inside from the weather outside. Lifter says that the remaining roof leaks will be finished this summer. "If you don't fix things, they're going to get worse," he says.

It's a big building with a lot of history, making it a sizable undertaking for a relatively small non-profit. Opening in 1923, it was the fourth clubhouse for the Detroit Yacht Club, which was established in 1868. It was designed in a classic Mediterranean style by George Mason, the architect famous for a stable of postcard-worthy buildings that include Detroit's Masonic Temple and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Tickets for the fundraiser gala are available online and via phone. Live and silent auctions, a cash bar, and a strolling dinner are included in the ticket price, which ranges from $125 to $400 -- a significant portion of which is tax deductible. The DYCF also offers monthly tours of the facilities to members and non-members alike.

The Detroit Yacht Club is located at One Riverbank Rd. on Belle Isle. Call them at (313) 757-5240.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Luxury apartments development hopes to draw residents to riverfront

Competition and cost for apartments in downtown Detroit have risen so sharply in recent years, even the luxury apartment market has become cost prohibitive for some. 

Triton Properties, the Denver-based developer which entered the Detroit market in 2009, is betting that their Waters Edge at Harbortown luxury apartment development will absorb some of that overflow.

It's a new kind of project for Triton, which has focused on redeveloping older buildings rather than developing new ones. They also say that their five-story, 134-unit Waters Edge is the first development of its kind on the Detroit riverfront in over 25 years.

"We had this great piece of land in the well-established community of Harbortown and we decided to take the risk and see how it's received," says April Sedillos, executive vice president at Triton. "There's a strong need for housing in the surrounding areas of downtown."

Waters Edge is part of Harbortown, a gated community on the Detroit riverfront. Residents have full access to the exclusive marina, tennis courts, and man-made lakes on its 35-acre grounds. There's also a private entrance to the RiverWalk. The luxury apartments start at $1,328 per month and include one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans.

Pre-leasing for the units began in the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first residents moved in January 2016. 40 percent of the units are currently occupied, says Sedillos, and the company is ramping up leasing and expects to reach full occupancy by the end of the summer. A community building with a fitness center, lounge area, and outdoor pool is currently under construction.

Sedillos says that 90 percent of the units have a view of the Detroit River, and every unit in the building has its own private balcony in addition to modern appliances and amenities.

Besides its Denver properties, Triton is responsible for seven residential buildings in Detroit, including Alden Towers, Spinnaker Tower, and the Kean Residences, totaling nearly 1,000 residential units locally.

Waters Edge at Harbortown is located at 3500 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Motor City Match seeks business and commercial property owners for third round of grants

Detroit entrepreneurs and commercial property owners are once again being encouraged to apply for the city's Motor City Match program. Applications are open for submission March 1-April 1. It's the third round of the program intended to stimulate Detroit's commercial corridors.

There are four major award categories for which business and property owners can apply for a share of $500,000 in grant funding. Each category is designed for business and property owners at different levels of building a business.

The first category is for business plans, which Motor City Match will help entrepreneurs develop. 

The second category seeks to match commercial property owners with business tenants. Buildings must be in good shape and entrepreneurs must have quality business plans or successful track records.

The third category will award architectural design assistance, construction documents, and priority permitting to business and building owners with recently signed leases.

The fourth and final category is for those with signed leases, quality business plans, and bids for building out the space, but who still have to bridge a financial gap. This category awards cash to such applicants.

Motor City Match was launched by Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation in 2015. Roderick Miller, CEO of the DEGC, says in a statement, "After two rounds of Motor City Match awardees, it's clear this program is making an impact in Detroit. From restaurants and retail establishments to service companies and even manufacturing, Motor City Match is growing neighborhood small businesses across the city."

According to officials, the Motor City Mach program has invested $1 million in 20 businesses to date, leveraging an additional $6 million in public and private investment. Motor City Match also points out that 70 percent of the 196 businesses and property owners that have received support are minority owned. Furthermore, two-thirds are from Detroit and half are minority woman-owned businesses.

Visit motorcitymatch.com for details on how to apply.

Disclosure: Model D receives support from Motor City Match to tell stories of small business development in the city's neighborhoods.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

2016 will be a year of big improvements to Detroit's cycling infrastructure

A new report released by the Detroit Greenways Coalition highlights five bike and trail projects that the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group is most looking forward to in 2016. According to the DGC, Detroit will see a number of improvements to its cycling infrastructure in 2016, including the official completion of the Dequindre Cut, upgraded biking conditions along Cass Avenue, and the introduction of the much-anticipated public bike share program. The report also hints at an indoor velodrome that could be in Detroit's future.

Detroit Greenways Coalition works with both public and private entities, including city and state governments, and an array of foundations, to improve the quality of non-motorized transportation and recreation in Detroit. Todd Scott is the group's executive director.

Highlights from the DGC report include the following:
 
  • The Link Detroit project will officially be completed in 2016. Link Detroit connects a number of communities, from Hamtramck to Midtown to Eastern Market to the Riverfront, through a series of bike lanes and the Dequindre Cut.
  • Biking from Midtown to downtown should prove easier in 2016 as improved biking conditions along Cass Avenue are completed this year. Upgrades are designed, in part, to discourage bikers from using Woodward Avenue and the accompanying safety concerns of the M-1 Rail.
  • Automated counters will be installed along the Dequindre Cut and Cass to provide the DGC with real-time data as they look to better understand and utilize bicycle and pedestrian trends throughout those corridors. 
  • 2016 could also be the year that a public bike share program is introduced in Detroit. Though nothing is definite, the DGC says the Detroit Downtown Partnership is hopeful that the first phase of the program will open this year.
  • Bike lanes along a four-mile stretch of Livernois Avenue are being installed by the city of Detroit and will run from Grand River Avenue to W. Vernor Highway. Pop-up bike lanes, intended for viability tests, will also be installed along Livernois from McNichols to 8 Mile Road.
More information on the Detroit Greenways Coalition and its top projects for 2016 can be found here.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

November development news round-up

It's been another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past four weeks.

Two of Detroit's most high profile real estate developments, Orleans Landing along the riverfront and DuCharme Place across from Lafayette Park, are beginning to take shape. Construction at Orleans Landing is revealing the bones of the mixed-use development, while DuCharme Place recently celebrated its ceremonial groundbreaking, though construction there had already begun weeks beforehand. Orleans Landing promises 278 residential units and DuCharme Place is kicking in another 185.

Add 230 more residential units to the combined 463 residential units of the aforementioned developments, so long as Peter Cummings gets his way in the city's New Center district. The Whole Foods developer says he has an agreement with Henry Ford Health System to purchase the parking lot at Third and W. Grand Boulevard and plans on building a brand new apartment building there. A redevelopment of the nearby Hotel St. Regis annex recently celebrated its own ceremonial ribbon cutting, announcing the December arrival of the Regis Houze and its 58 apartments.

In redevelopment news even more surprising than the decision to name an apartment building the Regis Houze is the news that someone is planning to redevelop the old Lee Plaza Hotel. Developer Craig Sasser announced plans for a $200 million redevelopment of the 17-story building. Sasser says he'll be bringing 200 luxury, market-rate apartments to the abandoned and derelict building, stripped to its bones after years of being open to the elements. One infamous incident, at least locally, was the discovery that 50 of the building's original terra cotta lions heads had been stolen, six of them found adorning a new condo development in Chicago. Even the FBI got involved. A rundown of the events can be found on Historic Detroit.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Efforts to speed up development along the Detroit River take off with new RFQ

In an effort to stimulate development along the city's east riverfront, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and the city of Detroit Planning Department have issued a request for qualifications for a development plan. Firms have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 4 to submit a bid for the site bounded by St. Antoine Street to the west, E. Grand Boulevard to the east, Larned Street to the north, and the Detroit River to the south.

Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, says that a pretty aggressive schedule has been set and that a firm will be picked by the end of February. Once a firm has been selected, a series of community engagement meetings will be held to identify the needs and concerns of those with ties to the river -- be they financial, residential, emotional, or otherwise.

"A lot of people have strong attachments to the riverfront and we don't want to enter the planning phase with any preconceived notions," says Wallace. "It's important that this framework isn't prescriptive but instead be a vision."

The conservancy is looking for a comprehensive vision which takes into account possibilities for retail, residences, greenways, parking, and transit.

In requesting a plan, the conservancy and the city look to maximize the development potential of the area. They're hoping to speed along an economic resurgence already evidenced by the recent groundbreaking of the Orleans Landing townhomes and the almost-completed Water's Edge residential development, both happening along the RiverWalk. Private property owners, too, may be inspired to re-activate vacant buildings that have been dormant for years.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is the group responsible for transforming 3.5 miles of the Detroit riverfront from a largely industrial and often inaccessible stretch into the celebrated and popular RiverWalk that exists today.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Retail Bootcamp complete, Detroit startups work to establish permanent locations

Five Detroit start-ups are receiving a financial push from their alma mater, TechTown's 2015 Retail Boot Camp program. Nearly $40,000 will be split among the five graduates of the entrepreneur training program in an effort to help them make the transition to brick-and-mortar locations.

The businesses include a music store, ice cream shop, handmade Indian crafts store, creamery, and resale/vintage clothing boutique. According to TechTown, each business is "on-the-verge." Each received a kickstart package that includes up to $7,500 in subsidies that can be used toward a permanent location, pop-up location, inventory, and/or a point-of-sale system.

Alana Rodriguez hopes to use the money to open Mama Coo's Boutique in her Southwest Detroit neighborhood. She has previously sold vintage/resale clothing as well as personally handmade jewelry and crafts at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Eastern Market.

Either West Village, East Jefferson, or West Rivertown will land an outdoor goods store as Sarah White looks to open her MOR & Co. on the city's east side. In a previous interview with Model D, White said that a lot of thought goes into selecting her inventory. "When I look at the design of something, it's not just what does it looks like, but how does it work? Where did it come from? Who made it and what's their story? How am I going to sell it, and what does someone do with it after it's done being used? All of those are important components," she says.

Third Wave Music, a 2014 Hatch finalist, is the recipient of one of the 2015 Kickstart Awards, which will be used toward opening the musical instrument store in the soon-to-be renovated Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown. Look for Third Wave to make its debut in April 2016.

Chris Reilly's Reilly Craft Creamery will use the money toward a pop-up in a yet-to-be disclosed location somewhere in the city in the summer of 2016. The creamery gets its products from Michigan organic farms.

Another Eastern Market vendor, Ojas Alkolkar, hopes to open Tribalfare in either downtown, Midtown, or Corktown. In addition to selling one-of-a-kind, handcrafted goods from her native India, Alkolkar will also offer Bollywood dance lessons, yoga, and other community events at her eventual location.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Coming this September to the Dequindre Cut: Lazermaze, Pulsar Party, and more

Now in its fifth year, the Detroit Design Festival is turning its attention to the Dequindre Cut.

The festival, which celebrates the great design legacy of Detroit, is organized by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and will run from Sept. 22-26 at locations throughout the city.

Set for the Dequindre Cut is the "Under the Cut" event, the result of an international contest that solicited designers from near and far to submit proposals for interactive art installations that focus on the theme of 'play.' Organizers chose five winners from a total of 50 submissions. Each winner will receive a $2,500 grant to aid in the construction and installation of their piece.

Three of the installations planned for "Under the Cut" come from Detroiters. Anya Sirota's "Pulsar Party" utilizes lightweight metallic geometric flares to create a cosmic-like environment, both experiential and whimsical. Bridget Quinn, also of Detroit, will construct the "Office of Natural Feelings," a collection of poetry written by Detroiters that will lead pedestrians on trips throughout the city. Detroit-based architectural design studio LAAVU has been selected to create an installation entitled "Swing Dequindre." LAAVU will install a series of swings and a large sail to be used by people exploring the Cut.

The fourth installation comes from Ann Arbor, where U. Sean Vance developed "Drop Kick Push Pull," an interactive game of object manipulation that encourages physical movement. The lone international entry selected was from London, England-based George King Architects. Theirs is called "Lazermaze," a maze that mixes the past with future using UV ink-dyed wool that glows, which at night gives the effect of lazers, while drawing inspiration from ancient Greek labyrinths and medieval European hedge mazes.

"Cities of design are cities that are responsive to human needs, and we want Detroit Design Festival 2015 to challenge designers to explore how design can encourage residents to engage with their environment and improve the quality of life for all Detroiters," says Matthew Clayson, DC3 Executive Director.

In addition to the five winners, Detroit's Skidmore Studio will donate an installation called "Pinwheels," which will involve planting hundreds of pinwheels along the Cut. Also occurring at the nearby riverfront will be Missouri-born artist Nick Cave's "Heard•Detroit," where he'll parade nearly 30 life-size horse sculptures along the riverfront.

"Under the Cut" opens the last day of DDF, Sept. 26. It runs through Oct. 10.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

May development news round-up: Brush Park, power washing the DIA, and more

It's been another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past four weeks.

It took more than a year since an RFP was first issued at the beginning of 2014 but the city of Detroit has finally announced the winning development team tasked with revitalizing 8.4 acres in the historic Brush Park neighborhood. Brush Park Development Partners, LLC (including one Dan Gilbert) revealed their plans earlier this month, including 337 housing units. At least 20 percent of housing will be reserved as affordable housing. The development, mostly to be built from the ground up, includes the preservation and rehab of four historic mansions.

Speaking of historic rehabs, another Dan Gilbert property, downtown's Vinton Building, will soon see full press construction efforts as the Historic District Commission recently approved requests for a number of changes. The Albert Kahn-designed building is set to receive apartment conversions, repairs, a rooftop deck, and a pedestrian-friendly alley running behind it.

In city sports news, ideas for a new arena for professional soccer continue to be bandied about, including a possible Detroit riverfront location. Both Detroit City FC and the Michigan Bucks are looking to further establish their city presence. Further down the river, Canadian and American officials shook hands and agreed to name the new international border crossing planned for 2020 the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Tom Gores, owner of the Auburn Hills-based Detroit Pistons basketball club, and his company Platinum Equity made a $50,000 donation to outfit the Belle Isle Bridge with LED light bulbs. In other beautification news, the exterior of the Detroit Institute of Arts is receiving a $100,000 power-wash, removing decades of dirt and grime accumulated since its 1927 opening. The white marble walls should be completed by fall.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

It's only a matter of time before water taxis and trolley buses come to the riverfront

A multi-modal transit system along the Detroit River is one step closer to reality. Plans call for a water taxi and trolley bus system that would initially run from Belle Isle to the Ambassador Bridge. Depending on international developments, the transit system could expand to include ferry service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy commissioned Freshwater Transit Solutions to develop the system. The conservancy is now preparing presentations for community partners as they seek to secure funding for the project. Will Smith, CFO of the conservancy, characterizes the water taxi/trolley bus service as a must-have for connecting residents in city neighborhoods to the riverfront.

"It's something that we'll be implementing, we're just not sure when," says Smith. "We're not going to build something we can't take care of. We'll get our ducks in a row and it will happen at some point soon, even if it's in phases."

In its plans, Freshwater Transit evaluated the feasibility of the project, how to implement it, and how it will impact local residents and businesses. The basics of the plan have a 40- to 50-foot water taxi with a 75- to 100-person capacity travelling along the Detroit River. Trolley buses would both travel along the riverfront and make connections to nearby neighborhoods in places like Southwest Detroit and the East Jefferson Corridor.

"This isn't going to be just a little system like a Disney ride," says Tom Choske, President of Freshwater Transit. "We want something that has wider value and makes the riverfront more accessible to everyone."

Both Smith and Choske expect the system to roll out in phases, expanding its range as time goes by. One hope is that the system will put pressure on Canada to build a docking facility similar to the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority's, a building designed with international customs operations in mind. Once a Canadian equivalent is built in Windsor, the transit system could then expand to include international ferry service between the two cities, says Choske.

While there is no official beginning date for the transit system, Smith says the conservancy could run some demonstrations this summer to see how it works. But for now, it's about finding the funding.

It will be another busy summer for the conservancy as it prepares to celebrate the opening of the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, an extension of the Dequindre Cut, and adding more events to the RiverWalk, including the recently announced move of the Downtown Hoedown to the West RiverWalk expansion. Now that they've passed their plans to the conservancy, Freshwater Transit is focusing efforts on a crowdfunding campaign to promote the Regional Transit Authority.

Source: Will Smith, CFO of Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Tom Choske, President of Freshwater Transit Solutions
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

It's official: The Iron Belle Trail to take bikers and hikers from Detroit to Ironwood


Detroit's Belle Isle plays a major role in Gov. Rick Snyder's plan for a 'showcase trail' for the state. The island park will act as a starting -- or ending -- point for a 774-mile bicycle route from Detroit to Wisconsin. As state officials found out from a three-week-long contest, hundreds of entrants believe that the park should also play a major role in the naming of the ambitious system of trails and pathways. Michigan announced that the non-motorized route from Detroit to Wisconsin by way of Ironwood, Michigan will henceforth be known as the Iron Belle Trail.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, hundreds of the nearly 9,000 entries in the naming contest proposed a variation of the Iron Belle name. Three entries were randomly drawn as winners. They'll receive vacation packages at either the Henry Ford and Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, or the Kau Wudjoo Lodge at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon (also to be decided randomly).

Once complete, the Iron Belle Trail will consist of a series of on-road and off-road trails and pathways that will form one continuous trail from Detroit to Ironwood. Detroit's Conner Creek Greenway, over nine miles of pathways and bike lanes that connect the city's Maheras Gentry Park with the suburb of Warren, will be one part of that trail. According to the DNR, much of the Iron Belle Trail is already complete, it's just a matter of connecting the pieces.

Officials are pleased with the name. DNR Director Keith Creagh says in a statement, “This name effectively captures the beauty and strength of our state's exceptional natural and cultural resources.”

The Iron Belle Trail traces much of the Michigan portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail. That trail spans 4,600 miles, connecting Vermont to central North Dakota. The Michigan DNR says that many of the uncompleted portions of the Iron Belle Trail provide temporary pathways and that public and private funding is being secured to make them permanent.

Source: Michigan DNR press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Detroit leads pack with 25 finalists for Knight Cities Challenge awards

Finalists have been announced for the first ever Knight Cities Challenge. Of the 26 cities eligible to enter the contest, Detroit is by far the best represented. Knight selected 126 finalists and Detroit claims nearly a fifth of the total finalist pool with 25 proposed projects. 25 other cities, including Duluth, Miami, and Philadelphia, account for the remaining 101 finalists.

The Knight Cities Challenge is a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contest, one that will split $5 million in grants among winning projects that address how cities can attract and retain residents, how they can boost economic activity for everyone, and how to better connect and involve citizens in their collective future. Applications closed Nov. 14, 2014.

"The challenge has introduced us to a host of new ideas and people who want to take hold of the future of their cities," says Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. "Through these new connections we hope to grow a network of civic innovators to take on community challenges and build solutions together."

The 25 ideas from Detroit were submitted by individuals and organizations alike. Graig Donnelly's Border Talks proposes to create an actual physical space that encourages Detroiters and Grosse Pointe Parkers to engage with one another.

In a proposal submitted by Jan Shimshock on behalf of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Information Supergreenway would install continuous wifi Internet access along the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, and Eastern Market.

Bus Riders Need to Be Engaged Too, submitted by Jacob Rayford Jr., would place information agents on public transit to answer questions about the city and city transportation.

The winners of the contest will receive a portion of $5 million and will be announced in March 2015. Over 7,000 proposals were initially submitted to the Knight Cities Challenge.

A full list of finalists with project descriptions can be found here.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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