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Creative writing center 826michigan to open Eastern Market storefront

While the educational non-profit 826michigan has been working in Detroit for three years now, the writing and tutoring lab is planting its flag in the ground with a storefront location in the city's Eastern Market. Dubbed the Detroit Robot Factory, 826michigan will open their second permanent Michigan location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony October 5.

From then until November 10, the non-profit, which offers writing and tutoring programming for school-age children, will celebrate its Detroit location with 826 hours of events. In addition to the grand opening party, featuring an appearance from best-selling author and 826 National co-founder Dave Eggers, 826michigan celebrations include open houses for students, parents, and neighbors, a youth workshop at ComiqueCon, a release party for the organization's best of anthology, the Eat Your Words gala, and the opening of Dave Eggers' sculpture show at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

(Check out Model D's interview with Eggers from 2014)

Detroit Robot Factory officially opens November 1.

"We cannot wait to unveil the Detroit Robot Factory this October," says 826michigan Executive Director Amanda Uhle. "826michigan programs make space for young people to explore new ideas, to be their authentic selves, to receive one-on-one attention from incredible adult volunteers, and to have their voices and their ideas amplified in the community. With the Detroit Robot Factory fully up and running, we can offer the same field trip and tutoring programming to Detroit students that has been available to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti students for years. We are thrilled to be open the doors on this space, which will provide even more opportunities for Detroiters to volunteer with local youth and for school-aged students to take part in our free programs."

The 826michigan ribbon-cutting ceremony for Detroit Robot Factory occurs Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Detroit Robot Factory is located at 1351 Winder St.

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

August development news round-up: Residential, residential, and more residential

Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past five weeks.

The Detroit Tigers matchup with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last Saturday, August 27 was as notable for an umpire's ejection of two Tigers players and two Tigers coaches as it was for another event at the game: Olympia Development of Michigan in partnership with the Detroit Tigersboth organizations being owned by the Ilitch familyto promote its District Detroit development. 10,000 fans received District Detroit-branded Tigers caps as they entered the game. They were were also treated to numerous video displays and a red carpet promotion as Olympia touted its more than $1.2 billion hockey arena, residential, and commercial development being built north of Comerica Park.

Capitol Park, a public park in the city's downtown, is experiencing its own impressive wave of development as nearly every building surrounding that park is being renovated and redeveloped into apartments and retail space. One of those buildings, the Farwell, has announced a projected fall 2017 opening. DBusiness is also reporting the construction of two brand new buildings. The eleven- and eight-story buildings will contain residential, office, and retail space, replacing a vacant low-rise building and a surface parking lot, respectively.

Another new build, the Russell Flats, will bring 82 new residential units to Eastern Market. The five-story building will also have ground floor retail space. This is part of a major 10-year plan being put into place for the market. 

A crowdfunding campaign is being held to raise funds for the historic log cabin in Palmer Park. If successful, the building and its neglected stained glass windows would be restored and the cabin would be utilized as a community space. Organizers hope to raise $25,000 by October 28 and, in doing so, would receive a $25,000 matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority and their Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

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

Christian organization seeks funds to complete renovations of community center

The Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation is $50,000 away from receiving $100,000. That's because the 21-year-old neighborhood organization is involved in the latest round of Public Spaces Community Places, the state's grant-matching program for placemaking projects across Michigan. The CDC's goal is to redevelop an old, vacant church into an active community center.

If Central Detroit Christian is able to raise $50,000 through a fundraising campaign via Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority will contribute an additional $50,000 grant toward their mission. Central Detroit Christian has until September 23 to raise the funds.

The old Tried Stone Baptist Church, located at 1550 Taylor St., is between the Lodge Freeway and Rosa Parks Boulevard, south of Clairmount Avenue. Central Detroit Christian purchased the building, which had been vacant for five years, and has performed a number of renovations, including new windows, doors, and a roof. Organizers say that the potential $100,000 raised as a result of the Public Space Community Places program would close a funding gap and allow them to complete renovations of the building.

Once construction is complete, the building will provide space for youth and family programming, a community meeting space, gymnasium, medical clinic, day care services, and office space for the CDC. According to Central Detroit Christian, 70 percent of the families the organization services live below the poverty line.

"The surrounding neighborhood would benefit greatly from the proposed redevelopment of 1550 Taylor," says MSHDA executive director Kevin Elsenheimer. "This space has the potential to inspire meaningful community-led collaboration by bringing together the diversity of the area to boost local access to important programs and services."

To view the status of Central Detroit's Christian's crowdfunding campaign, visit Patronicity.

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

2,000 affordable housing and community development professionals to convene in Detroit

Approximately 2,000 affordable housing and community development professionals are convening in Detroit this week for the NeighborWorks Training Institute. According to the national non-profit NeighborWorks America, an affordable housing advocacy and training group, the symposium is expected to generate an estimated $3.3 million in local investment.

The symposium is the third of four this year, running from August 8 through 12. A number of local and national officials will be present, including Mayor Mike Duggan, chief administration officer for the Detroit Medical Center Conrad L. Mallett Jr., national correspondent for The Atlantic James Fallows, and president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation Tonya Allen, among others.

"This is our second Training Institute in the Detroit area and it couldn't come at a more pivotal time," says Paul Weech, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks America. "Government, business and the nonprofit sector all are working on solutions to improve neighborhoods and jump-start economic activity in the city and in similar places across the United States. NeighborWorks America is excited to be in Detroit to help share what works."

Among the highlights is "Creating Places of Opportunity: Investing in Neighborhoods," a symposium on the benefits of strategic investment in communities throughout the country that result in inclusive development and growth. Examples will focus on job growth, placemaking, and affordable housing.

Mobile tours will also usher attendees around the city, displaying local examples of strategic investment and growth.

While Detroit is a NeighborWorks target, the nonpartisan, congressionally chartered nonprofit operates throughout the state. According to the organization, NeighborWorks generated nearly $45 million in investment in the state of Michigan in 2015. In that same year, 3,117 families were assisted with affordable housing, 1,616 residents received counseling and education services, and 330 jobs were created and maintained.

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

NSO bike tour to raise money, awareness in fight against homelessness

Several Detroit neighborhoods will be on display this weekend as cyclists take part in Handlebars for the Homeless, a guided and informative tour on Sunday, August 7. Neighborhood Service Organization is leading the bike ride, showing off the city while also informing participants on how the organization is working to end homelessness in Detroit.

The ride meets and ends at the Bell Building, a 225,500 sq. ft. art deco building once recognizable for its Yellow Pages neon sign visible from the Lodge freeway and now notable for the NSO's multi-million dollar renovation. NSO converted the former office building at 882 Oakman Blvd. in Detroit into apartments, providing housing for 155 formerly homeless adults.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 7, where there will be light breakfast refreshments. Online registration is available, as well. Participants will receive a high-performance t-shirt, spoke card, and entry into a Detroit Bikes raffle. Detroit Bikes has donated an A-Type bike for the drawing, a $699.99 value. Registration costs $40 and proceeds will benefit NSO programs and services.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., cyclists will be guided on a tour that takes them through the Live6 Alliance area, the Sherwood Forest, Palmer Park, and Boston Edison neighborhoods, and the University of Detroit-Mercy and Marygrove College campuses.

"The tour showcases both the thriving and bustling streets of Detroit while educating the community about the challenges that face the more than 15,000 homeless individuals living on the streets every day," says David Rudolph, founder of Handlebars for the Homeless and NSO board member. "NSO works to move and keep people off the city streets and out of poverty by providing opportunities that give individuals a chance to thrive."

Neighborhood Service Organization has been working toward eliminating homelessness in metro Detroit since 1955.

The NSO Bell Building is located at 882 Oakman Blvd. in Detroit.

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.

70 units in 30 days: Forest Arms redevelopment fills up fast in Midtown

Having met Scott Lowell on the grounds of the Forest Arms redevelopment, he has the look of a person nearing the end of a long journey. He's tired, relieved, and grateful. After the better part of a decade, Lowell and his wife Carolyn Howard's rehabilitation of the Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown is going to accept its first tenants since 2008. They opened the building up to the market and, in just 30 days, it reached full capacity. 70 units. No vacancy. Residents begin to move in May 28.

The apartment building, built in 1905, experienced a devastating fire in 2008. One person died and the rest were displaced, many with their belongings destroyed. The roof caved in, leaving the building open to the elements. It was a disaster, one that some in the neighborhood believed would surely result in the razing of the historic building. Lowell and Howard, experienced developers with both residences and restaurants to their credit, decided to take on the project, their biggest to date. After six years of the stop-start nature of nailing down the financing and two years of construction, the Forest Arms is open for business.

Lowell uses words like "intense" and "tiring" to characterize the experience of redeveloping the Forest Arms. He's tired, sure, but definitely happy.

"Is it worth it? Yeah, for me," says Lowell. "The building's still standing. It was destined to be torn down. I grew up in the city and watched the neighborhood I grew up in, the east end of the Davison, just implode and watched house after house get demolished and people move away. To be part of this, to save a building, to create something where people want to move to and see the demand, there's a certain kind of reward in that."

Walking through the courtyard and up to the building, Lowell points out the front doors being installed. The wooden doors are new and fashioned after the originals, those having been ruined by fire axes. Walking up the re-built stairs to the roof, workers buzzed through the hallways, putting the finishing touches on the interior, installing light fixtures and other last-minute details.

There are two ways to take in the views from the roof. A community deck, complete with a public kitchen, is open to all of the residents. There are also five penthouses, built atop the newly-built roof, each with their own private deck. Down below the workers are preparing the sprinkler system in time for new sod, originally torn out to install an expensive geothermal heating system. Rainwater is recycled for many uses throughout the grounds. On the north side of the building are two retail units, one reserved for music instrument store Third Wave Music and a second envisioned as a bar and restaurant, still searching for a tenant.

At one point, Lowell and Howard had a deal with Wayne State University to lease the building. The deal would have ensured a steady flow of tenants for the developers while easing that school's student housing shortage. The deal fell through, however, and they opened the building to the market. Unsure how much interest the building would draw, the dissolution of the deal with Wayne State proved to be a boon for the partners. The building filled up in the span of a month. Lowell says he still receives three to five inquiries a day.

"70 units in 30 days. It's been phenomenal," says Lowell. "I'm just amazed that demand's still here. It's pretty encouraging."

With demand outpacing supply in Midtown, Lowell should be comfortable in the two more buildings they're redeveloping in the area, one with 23 units and the other around 27 units. Those are in the early stages of redevelopment, awaiting the partners' full attention once the Forest Arms project is complete.

Lowell and Howard are also moving a family barn from western Michigan to Detroit, reassembling it as a restaurant and venue in the city that will host live music, weddings, and parties. It's clear Lowell is pretty excited about the project. Though he's not divulging too much information just yet, he did say they've acquired an acre and a half site in Corktown.

Lowell began purchasing properties in Hamtramck in the 1980s and Midtown in the 1990s. Times are different, he says. Back then, people made agreements on beverage napkins at neighborhood bars, handshake deals among neighbors and friends. Today, he regularly fields calls from investors outside of Detroit, promptly turning down offers on his buildings throughout the neighborhood.

With the restoration of the Forest Arms, those phone calls and emails aren't going to slow down any time soon.

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.

Small business contest seeks applicants for $50,000 award

It's that time of year again. The budding entrepreneurs of Detroit are being encouraged to enter for their chance to win the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. This year's winner will receive a $50,000 cash prize from Comerica Bank, $25,000 worth of branding and logo design from Team Detroit, plus accounting, legal, IT, and public relations consulting. Comerica has pledged an additional $75,000 to help fund other aspects of the contest, as well.

Now in its sixth year, the contest rewards entrepreneurs on the path to opening brick-and-mortar storefronts in either Detroit, Highland Park, or Hamtramck. Previous winners include men's lifestyle store Hugh, the tapas restaurant La Feria, beer-makers Batch Brewing Company, the bakery Sister Pie, and the cycle studio Live Cycle Delight.

Hatch Detroit has made it a point to help out and provide services for the businesses that haven't taken home top prize in the contest. Many of the runners-up have gone on or are going to open their own permanent or pop-up locations throughout the city. Such successful contest alums include Detroit Institute of Bagels, Detroit Vegan Soul, and Busted in Detroit.

"The Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest is a catalyst of business competitions," says Vittoria Katanski, executive director of Hatch Detroit. "Not only does it help the winning businesses establish storefronts, but it introduces us to the area's top entrepreneurs. All contest alumni are continuously encouraged and guided toward opening their doors. The 14 Hatch Alumni who have operating storefronts, and 16 more operating as pop-ups or opening soon, proves this contest is really revitalizing Detroit."

This year, Hatch has targeted four neighborhoods in their revitalization efforts and will host workshops for applicants in each. These include June 2 in Hamtramck, June 16 in Jefferson East, June 29 on the Avenue of Fashion, and July 7 in Grandmont Rosedale. Applications are accepted May 2 through July 15, 2016.

Visit HatchDetroit.com to enter.

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

April development news round-up: Retail, restaurants, and office space

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.

Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), which announced a move from Detroit to Hamtramck last year, opened a retail store, office, and community space at 2750 Yemans Street this month. To celebrate, DCFC is hosting an open house there from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. DCFC opens their first season at Keyworth Stadium on May 20, 2016.

Bedrock Detroit, Dan Gilbert's real estate arm, pulled in two more high-profile office tenants. Ally Financial will lease 13 floors in One Detroit Center at 500 Woodward Ave. and is consolidating more than 1,300 employees into the building. As a result of the move, Bedrock is renaming the building Ally Detroit Center. The Detroit-based consulting firm LoVasco, which specializes in insurance, employee benefits, and retirement services, is moving into the Bedrock-owned and -managed One Woodward Avenue building. 20 employees will make the move, too.

Six Detroit-based projects were announced as 2016 Knight Cities Challenge winners, receiving awards that total $638,084 of the $5 million awarded nationally. According to organizers, each of the ideas help "cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunities and create a culture of civic engagement." Winners include Pedal to Porch, a monthly bike tour that gives neighborhood residents the opportunity to tell their stories; Dequindre Cut Market, a pop-up retail district along the bike and pedestrian trail; Detroit’s Exciting Adventure into the Pink Zone, which will seek to transform how the city's commercial districts are developed and designed; Give a Park, Get a Park, a micro-park system throughout the city; Sensors in a Shoebox, an educational program that enables youth to better understand their neighborhoods through sensors and data; and the People First Project, which creates a network of tactical urbanists to affect change.

The Wayne State University School of Social Work celebrated the renovation of and their moving to a new building at 5447 Woodward Ave.

Earlier this month, the city's first Panera Bread opened in the GMRENCEN, the building formerly known as the Renaissance Center.

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

Two new placemaking projects launched on city's east and west sides

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is once again supporting Detroit placemaking projects through its matching grant program, this time pledging a total of $65,000 if two projects can meet their crowdfunding goals.

On the city's far east side, a group is planning on renovating Skinner Playfield. Located adjacent to Denby High School, the new Skinner Park will receive significant upgrades if organizers are able to raise $50,000 through a Patonicity crowdfunding campaign. If $50,000 is raised by May 10, MEDC will contribute an additional $50,000 to the project.

According to organizers, Skinner Playfield isn't much more than a playscape, walking track, and some scattered apple trees. Among the planned improvements include two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a pickleball court, a football-and-soccer field, urban gardens, and a performance pavilion complete with a water catchment system to irrigate said gardens.

The revitalized park is the vision of Detroit non-profit Life Remodeled and Denby High School students themselves. Says Life Remodeled CEO Chris Lambert, "I only wish I had a park this awesome in my neighborhood, but what excites me even more is the fact that Denby High School students designed it."

On the west side of the city, in Grandmont Rosedale, organizers are hoping to raise funds for a wayfinding path called NeighborWay. By successfully crowdfunding $15,000 by May 20, also through a Patronicity crowdfunding campaign, the MEDC will contribute an additional $15,000 to the project.

NeighborWay will connect points of interest, like parks, gardens, and public art installations, throughout the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhoods. Money will also be used to enhance three existing sites into community hubs.

"Connecting a community in an interactive way gives residents and visitors a renewed appreciation for the area," says MSHDA Executive Director Kevin Elsenheimer.

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

Detroit outpaces rest of southeastern Michigan for new residential unit permits

In prior decades, Detroit had very little new building construction. Not anymore, especially for residential units.

According to a report recently released by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), Detroit issued more permits for new residential units than any other city in southeastern Michigan last year.

There were 913 residential units permitted in Detroit in 2015, more than double the second-highest city on the list, Ann Arbor, at 405 units. Canton, the only other city in Wayne County to make the top ten, came in third with 397 residential units permitted.

Of the 913 residential units permitted in Detroit, 97 percent were apartment and loft units. Broke down further, there were 882 apartment units, 17 condominium units, and 14 single family homes permitted in 2015.

According to the report, "Gains continued in apartment construction due to pent-up demand for rental housing from young professionals and downsizing households, low vacancy rates, and a growing job market."

Still, it's not all rosy in Wayne County. According to this Detroit Free Press article from March 28, 2016, new census numbers revealed that the county lost 6,673 residents between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015, the second highest population decline in the country. Only Cook County, Illinois lost more during that period. Though second place is better than first, which is what Wane County occupied for the previous eight years.

Detroit also far exceeded any other city in demolitions, razing 4,667 residential units in 2015.

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.

Move over food trucks, a flower truck is coming to Detroit

For all of the stories about new businesses that have either opened in or moved to Detroit over the past few years, some of the more familiar refrains include pop-ups and food trucks. These relatively inexpensive venues provide entrepreneurs an opportunity to do business without the up-front costs of outfitting a permanent location. One local entrepreneur is taking those concepts to create a uniquely Detroit service in the process.

Lisa Waud owns Pot & Box, a fresh floral and horticultural service with studios in Detroit and Ann Arbor. She has purchased an old ice cream truck and, with the help of a $10,000 NEIdeas grant, is customizing the truck to become a mobile floral retailer. The flower truck -- nicknamed Scoops, a result of its previous life -- has already scheduled three stops throughout the week and Waud plans on adding more. Waud will be selling flowers and plants in front of Shinola in Midtown every Wednesday, Astro Coffee in Corktown every Thursday, and Red Hook in West Village every Friday.

Waud says the truck provides her the opportunity to sell flowers without the cost and risk of opening up a permanent shop. With the flower truck, Waud can more accurately target her customers.

"I'm so excited to have this truck," says Waud. "As small business owners, we're in front of our computers a lot. I can't wait to talk to and meet customers and be out in the world."

Pot & Box has largely been an event-based service, outfitting weddings, dinners, and other occasions. But Waud also offers daily delivery and weekly subscription services. Her flowers are sourced almost exclusively from American farms, and once warm weather finally comes to Michigan, she'll focus more and more on Detroit-grown plants and flowers. 

Waud is also known for creating the Flower House art installation in Hamtramck.

The flower truck makes its debut on Friday, April 22, in front of the West Village location of the Red Hook coffee shop.

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

Church in Midtown restores historic building to former glory

A new church, in a very old building, is beginning to take root in the heart of Midtown. It's called Mosaic Midtown Church, and church leaders have taken on the rather large undertaking of restoring a historic building that dates back as far as the 1880s.

Located on Alexandrine Street, between Woodward and Cass Avenues, the church rests in the shadow of another historic restoration project, the Strathmore Apartments. Once completed, the restoration process will leave the church exterior largely as is, save for some badly needed cosmetic touch-ups, with the interior receiving the bulk of the work.

Though another church held services at the building up until Mosaic church leaders purchased it for $1 million in September 2015, the building was badly in need of repairs. Mosaic is investing an additional $1.5 million in renovating the 17,800 sq. ft. church, maintaining much of its traditional charm while simultaneously bringing it into the 21st century. The floors, windows, pews, and pipe organ will be restored, alongside installation of new HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems. Structural improvements to the walls and roof will also be completed. 

While a few monitors will be placed throughout the sanctuary, they're largely for practical reasons and not to emulate the theater-like settings of modern mega-churches. Pastor Mick Veach, who left Stony Creek Community Church of Washington, Mich. last year to start Mosaic, says that structurally-significant beams may block the views of some in the congregation, just like the obstructed view seats at old Tiger Stadium. The monitors will help alleviate that situation.

Many of the churches in Midtown don't own their own buildings, says Pastor Veach, but instead rent spaces for Sunday services. And rent can get expensive in Midtown these days, not just for apartment-dwellers and businesses, but churches, too. The pastor believes that to truly make an impact in the community, Mosaic had to put their roots down. It's a big investment, but Mosaic believes it to be an important one.

"There's a lack of trust, says Pastor Veach. "A lot of folks have had bad experiences with a church because the church, in some regards, has taken advantage of their authority, or the church is only open Sunday mornings, or the church only wants money. We believe that in the need to have a physical presence, to say that we're here long term, that we're here to collaborate, to be a blessing to the neighborhood, to join everybody else here. And the way to do that is to have an actual physical building."

According to Veach, Mosaic is a multi-denominational church, made up of different ethnicities of various financial means. They've been meeting at St. Patrick Senior Center nearby while waiting for renovations to be completed. Mosaic will continue a relationship with St. Patrick, as well as foster a partnership with the Children's Center across Alexandrine. Pastor Veach is in dialog with Mariners Inn and he says he plans on reaching out to the nearby Detroit School of Arts, too. The goal is to have a presence in the neighborhood not just on Sundays, but every day of the week.

The building itself is an interesting one. The original church, built in 1884, is far off the street, located in the back of today's building. But several additions have brought it closer to the sidewalk. Many groups have used the church over the last 130 years, including its longest tenant, the Masons. Church officials say there's a number of Mason-centric peculiarities about the building, including a secret room complete with a mural featuring Mason iconography painted on the ceiling. A stained-glass window of the Eastern Star, also a feature of the Masons, is going to be removed and gifted to an former octogenarian congregant of the old Eastern Star Temple that was once located there.

Mosaic Midtown Church is scheduled to open in June 2016. It is located at 80 W. Alexandrine St. in Detroit.

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