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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.

Neighborhood beautification and placemaking mini-grants available on city's northeast side

Residents, business owners, and others with vested interests in northeast Detroit are encouraged to apply for mini-grants of up to $2,500 for neighborhood beautification and placemaking projects. Part of the Create NED initiative, these grants are available to anyone in the city's City Council District 3. The deadline to apply is Feb. 29.

According to organizers, Create NED grants will be made available to the residents, block clubs, business owners, churches, nonprofits, and community groups. Beautification is loosely defined, covering a wide range of projects from public art to landscape architecture, urban gardens to rain catchment systems. Community clean-ups, signage, tree plantings, and more also qualify for grants.

"As an artist and designer, I know how visions can change the world we live in, especially when we have the resources to implement those visions," Ronald D. Jacobs Jr., a District 3 resident and member of the Create NED advisory board, says in a statement. "The Create NED mini grant program is an opportunity to uplift the neighborhoods we live in and revive faith in the purpose of collective work and responsibility in our community."

A mini-grant information session is being held today, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Church of Our Father at 5333 E. Seven Mile Rd. There, organizers will walk participants through the application process.

There will be 28 grant winners in 2016 with money made possible by an ArtPlace America grant awarded in July 2015. Ten grants will be between $50 and $100, and 18 grants will be between $500 and $2,500.

Create NED is an initiative of the Restore Northeast Detroit (NED) coalition in partnership with Allied Media Projects and The Work Department.

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

February development news round-up: Breweries, apartments, vacant lots, 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.

Granite City opened its latest restaurant and brewery location in the Renaissance Center earlier this month. It's the largest location for the chain eatery and on-site brewery, which first opened in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1999.

Financing for the Scott, a 199-unit apartment building in the Brush Park neighborhood, was finalized earlier this month. Two weeks after, the Scott announced that pre-leasing had begun. The building is set to open in the beginning of 2017.

In October 2015, Detroit Future City released a guidebook to help residents steward vacant lots in their neighborhood. This month, the DFC Implementation Office announced that it is splitting $65,000 among 15 grassroots organizations and individuals to help facilitate lot transformations as outlined in their guidebook.

A devastating fire wiped out the home of Reclaim Detroit in Highland Park. The fire, which could be seen miles away, decimated the company's operations, destroying much of its irreplaceable stock. Reclaim Detroit, which recovers re-usable materials from vacant buildings in Detroit, is currently holding an online fundraiser to help cushion the blow.

Five hundred and twenty-seven people invested a total of $741,250 in the renovation of Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. The new home for the Detroit City Football Club, Keyworth Stadium is 80 years old and in need of many repairs if it's to host DCFC as their home stadium in the years ahead. DCFC officials hoped to raise between $400,000 and $750,000 in their crowdfunding campaign.

The city revealed its Detroit Home Mortgage program this month. The mortgage program is a partnership between the city, the Obama Administration’s Detroit Federal Working Group, Clinton Global Initiative, local banks, foundations, and nonprofits. The program addresses the appraisal gap, a common hindrance to purchasing a home in the city. Now, banks will be able to make loans for the agreed upon selling price of a home and not just the appraisal number, which is often much lower than what a buyer agrees to pay.

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

Crowdfunding and matching grant campaign begins for public space at 6 Mile and Wyoming

A public gathering-space in northwest Detroit called the McGee Community Commons stands to gain nearly $80,000 in grant money should it reach $38,250 through crowdfunding. By reaching the $38,250 goal, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Public Spaces Community Places program and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will provide a matching grant, bringing the grand total to $76,500 in funds raised for the project. The McGee Community Commons has until April 2, 2016 to raise the money through the Patronicity platform.

The community commons is part of a larger project between Marygrove College and the surrounding community called "Connecting, Recognizing and Celebrating Neighborhood Creatives." Marygrove and McGee Community Commons are both located at the intersection of McNichols and Wyoming roads.

A vacant lot at the corner of McNichols -- colloquially referred to as Six Mile -- and Wyoming will be transformed into the Charles McGee Community Commons, a green space and public art venue. A relief sculpture by local artist Charles McGee will be installed there. The site will also feature permeable paving, a healing garden, technology access, low voltage LED lighting, and signage.

"This is a project we've worked to bring to fruition for more than five years," Rose DeSloover, Marygrove professor emerita, says in a statement. "Being able to join with Patronicity and MEDC/MSHDA is a wonderful opportunity, and all the people working on the project with us are newly energized about reaching our goal."

Other Detroit Public Spaces Community Places recipients include the Brightmoor Artisans Community Kitchen, the Commons: 7900 Mack Avenue, Fiber Art on the Avenue, the Alger Theater, It Takes a Village Garden, Brightmoor Maker Space, House Opera | Opera House, and Mosaics in the Park.

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

Group launches crowdfunding campaign to transform Mack Ave. storefront into community space

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has selected another target for its Public Space Community Places initiative, and this time it's a community commons on the city's east side. Should a crowdfunding campaign reach its stated goal of $50,000, MEDC and its partner on the project, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, will then offer a matching grant to the group responsible for The Commons: 7900 Mack Avenue.

Mack Avenue Community Church Community Development Corporation (MACC) is the organization behind the Commons, a 12,000-square-foot commercial building on Mack Avenue. MACC has been working to rehab the long-abandoned building, repairing the facade this past summer. Improvements include new cedar siding and cleaned brick.

The group is hoping to transform the building into the Commons, a mixed-use community space that will include a coffee shop, laundromat, literacy center, legal clinic, window-lit common space, and an open-to-the-public shared work and office space.

"We are very proud to call home a community many so-called experts declared too far gone," executive director of MACC Development Jonathon Demers says in a statement. "The Commons is a wager, a confirmation that genuine, equitable stabilization in Detroit should begin and end in the city's neighborhoods. We're excited to play a small part in that stabilization through returning business, resources, and community space back to Mack Avenue."

MACC has until December 31 to reach its $50,000 goal. Once met, MEDC and MSHDA will award the community development corporation an additional $50,000.

Donations are being taken online. Rewards are given in exchange for donations and include tickets to the MACC Development 2016 Gala at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle, the Commons concept book, Mad Cap Coffee, and more.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Fighting tax foreclosure, Recovery Park, and more: October development news round-up

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

In just 14 days, a group called Keep Our Homes Detroit successfully raised $108,463 through crowdfunding, well over its goal of $100K. The group worked in partnership with the United Community Housing Coalition with the stated intent of buying foreclosed homes for the people still living in them, homes that were being sold through Wayne County's 2015 tax foreclosure auction. That auction, which ended Oct. 22, has been the subject of much analysis, with people like Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies offering a number of ideas on how to make the foreclosure auction process better for everyone involved. A potential 60,000 properties could be eligible for auction in 2016, a large majority of them in the city of Detroit.

The Detroit Land Bank has decided to attempt a more citizen-friendly approach in managing its own list of properties, a number of which are owned by the city yet have people living inside of them without the city's permission. Detroit will attempt a pilot program that offers the homes to those living in them at $1,000 each. If purchasing a home, that person will have to pay $100 a month for one year, stay current on their water bill, attend a home buyer counseling course, and maintain their property. If they satisfy those requirements, the deed is theirs. The land bank says the city gains nothing by driving people out of their homes.

The city has also agreed, pending city council approval, to a five-year, $15 million urban agriculture redevelopment plan with the nonprofit RecoveryPark Farms. The urban farms group will lease 35 acres of city land at $105 per acre per year. Officials expect 128 people to be hired as a result of the deal. The farm plots occupy areas between I-94, Forest Avenue, and Chene and St. Aubin streets.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit City FC to kick off largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history

Detroit City FC is preparing to kick off what it's estimating to be the largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history, the renovation of its future home, Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. The popular semi-professional soccer team is releasing details of its community investment campaign at a Keyworth Kickoff event at the Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Since coming to terms on a ten-year lease agreement with the Hamtramck Public Schools this past September, the next hurdle between Detroit City FC and its new home is money. Detroit City FC is hoping to raise an estimated $750,000 to $1 million in renovations for its future home, a 1936 stadium that was the first Works Progress Administration project built in Michigan. In addition to believing it to be the largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history, the soccer organization also estimates it to be the largest community investment campaign of any kind in the state of Michigan.

To launch the campaign, the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers are presenting Keyworth Kickoff at Fowling Warehouse. Free fowling lanes will be offered from 7 to 8 p.m. to registered participants. Registration is open to Michigan residents only.

The campaign launch and an interview session with Detroit City FC owners will occur following open fowling.

"The success of the 2015 season saw us turning away people at the gates. It was a clear sign DCFC is ready to take the next step, and grow as an organization," Detroit City FC co-owner Alex Wright says in a statement. "Come spring of 2016, Keyworth Stadium will be the home field both our supporters and the residents of Hamtramck deserve."

In moving from its current home at Cass Tech to Keyworth Stadium, the team will double its capacity from 3,000 to 6,000 spectators after the first wave of renovation. Hamtramck Public Schools retains ownership of the property over the course of the ten-year lease and its own sports teams will have access to the renovated stadium throughout the year.

Detroit City FC is set to open its season at Keyworth Stadium in April 2016.

Keyworth Kickoff occurs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fowling Warehouse, 3901 Christopher St., Hamtramck.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Artists seek to transform Livernois with installation along Avenue of Fashion

Detroit artists Mandisa Smith and Najma Wilson are hoping to liven up the Avenue of Fashion with their unique brand of fiber art. The duo owns Detroit Fiber Works, a fiber arts studio and gallery in that district, and is looking to create an installation that will fill the empty space of a Livernois Avenue boulevard median. They also hope to offer fiber arts workshops to members of the community.

In order to reach their goal, Smith and Wilson have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 for their "Fiber Art on the Avenue" project. Should the artists raise $10,000 by November 30, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will award the project a $10,000 matching grant as a part of its Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

The project will receive great input from the community, organizers say, and the money raised will be used for materials, student transportation, teaching fees, and construction costs. The artists will invite community members to lectures, field trips, and lessons in creating fiber art, resulting in an installation created by those taking part in the workshops. That installation will then be located on the Avenue of Fashion median.

For the president of the Avenue of Fashion Business Association, Dolphin Michael, "Fiber Art on the Avenue" would bring some much deserved attention to his district. He says, "Recently, there has been significant national attention on many of Detroit's public art installations in other areas of the city. With the revitalization that the Avenue of Fashion is currently undergoing, including new shops and restaurants, improved street lighting and median landscaping on Livernois, this is the perfect time for our own public art project."

In crowdfunding $10,000, the artists will actually receive $40,000. By reaching their goal and successfully raising $20,000 through the combined crowdfunding and MEDC matching grant, Smith and Wilson will then match an earlier 2014 grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, necessary for that $20,000 Knight grant to be released. Raise $10,000, receive $40,000.

The "Fiber Art on the Avenue" crowdfunding campaign is occurring on Michigan-based site Patronicity and available here.

Fiber Art Works is located at 19359 Livernois Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Font fight: Preserving Detroit's visual cultures

For all of the different preservation interests in Detroit, little is said about the city's sign culture. All over the city are fonts unique to their signs, to their businesses, and to their neighborhoods. And once a sign is taken down or a wall is painted over, that style--be it dreamed up by a neighborhood artist or professional sign painter--could be lost forever.

Jessica Krcmarik is hoping to save some of those fonts, and she's won a Knight Arts Challenge grant of $5,000 to do so. The grant is contingent upon her raising matching funds, which she hopes to do through a Kickstarter campaign launching today at 6 p.m.

With the money, Krcmarik will take signs from ten different neighborhoods as inspiration and create fonts out of existing letters. Where characters are missing, she'll do her best to fill in the gaps. She'll then offer her custom font sets on a pay-what-you-can basis. In doing so, Krcmarik hopes to preserve the distinct visual cultures that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Krcmarik is the owner of Gratiot & Riopelle, a locally-focused type foundry. With a background in lettering and typography, she's been taking photos of Detroit signs as a hobby for a couple of years now. Having amassed an impressive archive of unique signs, Krcmarik hopes to both preserve and promote Detroit's heritage.

"A lot of these signs are disappearing," says Krcmarik. "I've always liked the visual landscape here. Some of the anti-blight measures kind of destroy things. I have to keep it alive in some way even if I can't stop them from tearing down a building."

She invites anyone to send along photos of their favorite Detroit signs for consideration. The city's car washes are some of her favorites, she says, with particularly interesting and unique designs.

A good chunk of the money will be used to purchase expensive font-making computer programs. Krcmarik hopes to complete ten font sets as part of the project.  

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Placemaking projects continue popping up outside greater downtown

Seven placemaking projects, one for each city council district, are being given a boost by Community Development Advocates of Detroit. With the financial support of the Kresge Foundation, CDAD is spreading $42,000 across the city, granting the money to projects addressing the needs and challenges of their neighborhoods.
 
District 1: In Brightmoor, a house is being converted to provide meeting space for the community. Outside, a learning area will feature native plants, walking tours, and an outdoor seating area with a fire pit.

District 2: A portable artists tent is being installed in Palmer Park, where it's hoped that the addition will stimulate arts programming beyond the Palmer Park Arts Fair.

District 3: Renovations and improvements are planned for a pocket park on Keating Street near East State Fair in the Lindale Gardens neighborhood.

District 4: A mini-fitness park is to be built in an East English Village vacant lot, featuring stationary fitness equipment and a small track.

District 5: At the Peace Zone in District 5, improved seating and murals will be added to the existing area. It is part of the Peace Zones for Life project, which aims to counter neighborhood violence.

District 6: At Garage Cultural, a community arts hub at Livernois and Otis, enhancements to the pre-existing space include a mini-skate park, community stage, market, and outdoor movie area.

District 7: Littlefield Playfield in D7 will receive markers and sculptures acknowledging the neighborhood groups that work to maintain and improve the park.

Both CDAD and Kresge stress the importance of investing in the neighborhoods outside of the city core. CDAD executive director Sarida Scott says that it's projects like these that keep Detroit strong and vibrant. Bryan Hogle, Kresge Foundation program officer, agrees.

"For the city to succeed, neighborhoods have to succeed."

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Over $500K in improvements planned for three Hamtramck parks


The city of Hamtramck is preparing a series of groundbreaking ceremonies for the renovation of three city-owned parks: Karol Wojtyla Pope Park, Zussman Park, and Veteran's Park. More than $500,000 is planned for renovating the public spaces.

The city is welcoming residents to join officials from the city of Hamtramck, Wayne County, and the state of Michigan in celebrating the summer construction projects.

A ceremony will kickoff the renovations at Pope Park (10037 Joseph Campau) on Wednesday, July 8, at 10 a.m. Following that event, the train of officials and onlookers will travel to Zussman Park (3401 Evaline St.) for a second groundbreaking party. A third ceremony will be held at Veteran's Park at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 14, at the Veteran's Memorial located on Joseph Campau between Goodson and Berres streets.

The renovation of Pope Park has been especially touted, as the park was the recent target of a crowdfunding campaign which successfully raised $31,307 in contributions as well as a $25,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In total, more than $100,000 in renovations are planned for Pope Park. Plans call for the removal of a large fence that separates the park from the sidewalk, making the public space more welcoming and accessible to passersby. A restoration of the park's large mural, new seating, and enhanced lighting are also in the works.

A number of changes are planned for the other parks, too, including a multi-age playground, a sustainable wildflower garden, and exercise equipment. Benches and bike racks are also in plans released by city officials.

In addition to the crowdfunding and MEDC money that is earmarked for Pope Park, additional money raised for the parks comes from a number of sources, including Community Development Block Grant funds, Wayne County Parks millage funds, and the Karol Wojtyla Parks Committee.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Long-awaited Brightmoor Maker Space turns to crowdfunding

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation continues to roll on with its successful placemaking initiative, announcing yet another project targeted for funding through the Public Spaces Community Places program. This one, a long-hoped-for maker space in the Brightmoor neighborhood, has until July 10 to raise $25,000 through crowdfunding. If the campaign succeeds, MEDC will provide the space a matching grant of $25,000.

The Brightmoor Maker Space would transform a 3,200 square-foot building on the Detroit Community Schools campus into a space outfitted with equipment and tools for woodworking, metalworking, printmaking, rapid prototyping, and multimedia production. The campaign was organized by the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan and its partners in Brightmoor, and the money raised for the project will be used to purchase tools, equipment, community resources, as well as for programming and the setting up of an organizational infrastructure.

"The Brightmoor Maker Space will provide a much-needed physical space to expand the impact of our ongoing arts programming in the Brightmoor community," says Gunalan Nadarajan, dean of the Stamps School.

In 2014, the Brightmoor Maker Space was the recipient of a two-year $100,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through its Knights Arts Challenge.

The Brightmoor Maker Space is the latest entry into the MEDC Public Spaces Community Places program. It is also one of five currently vying for crowdfunding, though two of those projects have already met their goals and ensured matching grants. Announced just a week ago, the It Takes a Village Garden at Votrobeck Playground in northwest Detroit has already met its $27,500 goal. Also successful is Mosaics in the Park, a Little League baseball diamond beautification project in nearby Stoepel Park.

House Opera | Opera House, a plan to convert an abandoned home near Clark Park into a performance and arts venue, is still attempting to reach its $10,000 goal by July 1. Also open is the Greenway Friendly Bus Stop, which has until June 26 to raise $10,000 in hopes of improving an oft-used bus stop on the city's east side.

Brightmoor Maker Space has until July 10 to raise the $25,000.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit groups raise funds for placemaking projects, from opera to sunflower living rooms

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has added two more Detroit placemaking projects to its Public Spaces Community Places initiative. An events venue in southwest Detroit and a community garden in a northwest playground will receive sizable grants from the MEDC should each of them meet crowdfunding goals.

Several blocks west of Clark Park is 1620 Morrell St., an abandoned house stripped of much of its infrastructure. It's the focus of House Opera, an arts and performance group hoping to transform the derelict structure into a community space and venue called House Opera | Opera House.

House Opera is attempting to raise $10,000 through the Michigan-based crowdfunding site Patronicity. If successful, the arts and performance group will receive an additional $10,000 from the MEDC.

A huge transformation is planned for the building, including structural and roof repairs, a custom Tyvek wrap, and a 25-foot-high open stage. One of the events planned for the space is the inaugural Sigi Fest by Afrotopia.

House Opera has until July 1 to raise the $10,000.

On the city's northwest side, near the intersection of Seven Mile and Evergreen, is Votrobeck Playground. A number of organizations have banded together to form It Takes a Village Garden, which aims to raise $27,500 through crowdfunding in an attempt to receive a matching grant from the MEDC.

Among the many improvements planned for the park include a bioswale and rain garden, butterfly garden, gourd trellis, meadow maze, island hopping playground, and sunflower living room. The MEDC says that the project "supports families and seniors in their move towards improved health and economic independence." It's the final phase of a comprehensive neighborhood rehabilitation project in that neighborhood.

It Takes a Village Garden has until July 16 to raise the $27,500.

These two projects join two other Detroit-based Public Spaces Community Places initiatives currently ongoing in their crowdfunding efforts. The Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation is hoping to beautify its Little League baseball diamonds while the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative attempts to raise funds necessary for making upgrades to a busy bus stop at Gratiot and Conner.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

6 Detroit groups win money and mentorship in contest to improve city's vibrancy, livability

Six Detroiters have been named 'City Champions' for their ideas on improving the city's vibrancy and livability. The six are among 25 young community leaders chosen for the prize by the nonprofit 8 80 Cities and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Each Detroiter will receive $5,000 for their project as well as training and support from professional mentors.

Chad Rochkind is one of the winners. Rochkind plans on using the $5,000 to build parklets and artful crosswalks throughout Corktown. The project is designed to beautify and increase walkability along Michigan Avenue. Kyle Bartell and his Sit On It Detroit project is also a winner of the contest. Bartell has been using reclaimed lumber to build and install public benches at various bus stops throughout the city.

Other winning bids include Cornetta Lane's Detroit Dialogues series, a monthly discussion group that aims to strengthen community and provide civic engagement activities. Ciarra Ross and her Heal Detroit program spread holistic wellness practices throughout the city. Orlando Bailey's C.O.D.E. on Mack is a community space on Mack Avenue that promotes "unity, creativity, and education for all." Block x Block, a website designed by Margarita Barry, has also won the prize. Barry's site, BlockxBlock.com, raises funds for neighborhood improvement projects by offering users a place to shop for products by local builders.

Emily Munroe is executive director of 8 80 Cities. She says that each of the winners have a "high level of creativity, passion, and a proven track record of community leadership."

Community leaders in the eight cities where Knight Foundation invests were solicited to submit applications back in April, which attracted over 150 presentations. After Detroit, the Knight cities include Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, NC; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Philadelphia; San Jose, Calif.; and St. Paul, Minn.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Nortown community fights to save historic farmhouse, receives demolition deferment

Efforts to stop the demolition of one of the Nortown neighborhood's most architecturally and historically significant buildings have been successful, at least for now. The Norris House, built by one of Detroit's most notable 19th century residents, has been spared the wrecking ball as the city's Public Health and Safety Committee deferred its demolition at its meeting Monday, May 11. While there is more work to be done, including better securing the property, meeting with the Historic District Commission, and launching a fundraising campaign, organizers are so far emboldened by the results of their efforts.

Reportedly abandoned since the early 1990s and once the target of arson, the Norris House has remained largely intact. The Victorian farmhouse was built in the early 1870s by Col. Philetus Norris, a Civil War veteran who cleared the land around what is now 17815 Mt. Elliot St. In addition to being credited for bringing business and infrastructure to the area, including streets and the railroad, Norris built the Two Way Inn, the oldest bar still operating in the city of Detroit.

After Norris established then-Prairie Town, neighbors began calling the area Norris Town, which evolved into Nortown before being annexed by the city of Detroit. Norris himself would move on to become the second superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, where he played a role in exploring, documenting, mapping, and establishing the park.

While the Nortown Community Development Corporation has owned the Norris House for a couple of years now, preservation efforts have kicked into high gear since recently finding out that the house was on the demolition list. Michelle Lyons, a member of the restoration committee, credits Nortown CDC executive director Pat Bosch for working tirelessly to save the building.

Still, many issues stand in between preservationists and the preservation of the Norris House. While the house is no longer in immediate danger of demolition, that doesn't mean it couldn't reappear on the demolition list in the future. Fundraising will be necessary to shore up structural issues before it can be turned into the neighborhood asset the CDC hopes it can become. Given the legacy of Norris, organizers desire to one day re-open the house as a National Parks interpretive center. Now it's up to them to convince the city that such a transformation is possible.

"It could take years to get this building back and going," says Lyons. "We just want to make sure it's still around to do so."

Source: Michelle Lyons, member of the Norris House restoration committee
Photo: Jen Lyons via ProhibitionDetroit.com
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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