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Detroit Development News

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Campaign launched to keep city's homeless population healthy through the winter

During the cold winter months, Detroit's homeless population is at great risk for frostbite, infection, and a number of other maladies of the feet. The Neighborhood Service Organization has launched a pair of wellness and outreach programs to prevent and care for foot-related issues among the city's homeless population.

A Henry Ford Health System physician and a group of volunteers are gathering today at the Tumaini Center to participate in the ninth annual Our Hearts to Your Soles event. There Dr. David Katcherian and volunteers will provide Detroit's homeless population with shoes, socks, foot examinations, and foot care.

The event takes place today, Tuesday, Nov. 24, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Tumaini Center is the Neighborhood Service Organization's crisis support center for the chronically homeless. It is located at 3430 Third Ave.

The Neighborhood Service Organization and its Homeless Recovery Services, along with partners Level One Bank and Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc., have also launched an inaugural sock drive they're calling "Sock It to Me." The sock drive, which began Nov. 16, runs through Nov. 30.

New socks can be dropped at marked bins at Behavioral Health Professionals at 1333 Brewery Park, Ste. 300, in Detroit. Bins can also be found in suburban Farmington Hills at the Level One Bank Headquarters at 32991 Hamilton Ct.

"Members of Detroit's homeless population spend countless hours walking from place to place, often with inadequate, dirty socks and poorly fitting shoes," NSO President and CEO Sheilah P. Clay says in a statement. "Having clean, dry socks and the proper shoes can mean the difference between life and death for those on the streets."

Neighborhood Service Organization is a 60-year-old nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Detroit. In addition to the Tumaini Center, NSO operates several different housing programs, as well as a mobile outreach program.

NSO is headquartered in the Bell Building at 882 Oakman Blvd.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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.

Bike share program for greater downtown on track for 2016

Detroit has more than 170 miles of bike lanes and greenways, a number that continues to grow. If all goes according to plan, soon a bike share program will complement that infrastructure.

Wayne State University's Office of Economic Development started the feasibility study and helped raise awareness and funds for the proposed bike share before transitioning the program to the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) in July 2015. .

The DDP since has announced a partnership with Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan and the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT). Henry Ford/HAP has pledged a full three-year financial commitment to launch and operate the bike share, while DDOT is assisting DDP in acquiring federal grant funding as well as finding an equipment provider and operator for the bike share. The city and DDOT will issue an RFP later this month. The bike share is also receiving support from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Hudson Webber Foundation, and Kresge Foundation.

Officials say roughly 350 bikes and 35 bike stations will be scattered throughout greater downtown following the first phase of implementation.

"We are super excited that a public bike share program is coming to Detroit," writes Todd Scott, executive director of Detroit Greenways Coalition, a greenways and bike lane advocacy group in the city, in an email to Model D. "This will be a great opportunity to get more people interested in biking throughout the greater downtown. We appreciate that the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP), Henry Ford Health System/HAP, and the city of Detroit have the vision and commitment to make this happen."

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Detroit is the fastest growing city in the country for commuter bicyclists. The group utilized census data to determine that instances of bike commuting in Detroit grew over 400 percent between the years 2000 and 2014.

More than 70 U.S. cities offer bike share programs. Should all go according to plan, Detroit's own will debut in 2016.

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.

Detroiters in film, music, and the live arts to vie for $25,000 fellowships

It's that time of year again, the time when artists in and around Detroit begin imagining what they would do with $25,000. The application cycle for the 2016 Kresge Artist Fellowships has begun.

An application guide for the fellowship program was released on Monday, Nov. 2. While the application process doesn't open until Dec. 1 and the deadline isn't until Jan. 21, the guide is being made available to prepare local artists for a better chance at winning the prizes. Now in its eighth year, Kresge Arts in Detroit will award $25,000 fellowships to 18 local artists in film, music, and the live arts. The awards are available to artists living in metro Detroit, defined here as Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

Nine awards will go to those in the live arts and nine awards will go to those in film and music. According to Kresge, the live arts include choreography, dance, theater directing, performance art, playwriting, and interdisciplinary work. The film and music division includes animation, film directing, music composition, music performance, screenwriting, and interdisciplinary work.

A 2014 Kresge Artist Fellow, playwright Sherina Rodriguez Sharpe characterizes winning the award as a life-changing experience. "The fellowship enabled me to take greater risks in my work and to live my entire life as art," she says in a statement.

This year's programming is a little different than others as applicants for the Kresge Artist Fellowship will also be considered for the 2016 Gilda Awards, two $5,000 no-strings-attached prizes named in honor of Gilda Snowden, a Detroit artist and professor at the College for Creative Studies who died in September of 2014. The Creative Many Michigan organization will also be offering professional practice opportunities for the fellows.

Two applicant orientations and one workshop will be held prior to the Jan. 21 deadline so as to better prepare artists in their applications.

The Kresge Foundation funds the fellowships, having given $3.5 million directly to local artists since 2008. Kresge Arts in Detroit at the College for Creative Studies administers the fellowships. 126 Kresge Artist Fellowships, seven Kresge Eminent Artist Awards, and two Gilda Snowden Awards have been doled out since 2008.

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.

International design community collaborates with Detroiters on Culture Lab product line

Members of the international design community are coming to Detroit this Thursday, Oct. 29, to celebrate the launch of Culture Lab Design, an exclusive line of "green space"-themed products for the home. The products are collaborations between internationally-renowned and Detroit-based designers, a result of Culture Lab Detroit programming. The products will be available to the public at the Midtown store Nora from Oct. 30 through Nov. 15 and range from $65 to $2,000.

Jane Schulak, founder of Culture Lab Detroit, curated teams of outside and local talent to design unique products for the home. The pop-up shop is being hosted at Nora, itself a store selling "thoughtfully designed housewares, jewelry, gifts, and accessories." One of the Culture Lab Design product designers, Brooklyn-based David Stark, is also designing the pop-up space at Nora.

"Literally a grass roots project, our store-in-store structure will house products from designers that I have great respect for, all relating to the land," Stark says in a statement. "Truly exciting."
 
  • Stark has also teamed with Detroit ceramicist Victoria Ashley Shaheen to create a variety of glazed flower rests that sit atop glass vases.
  • New York-based interior designer Kelly Behun has partnered with Cass Community Social Services to re-purpose discarded tires as hanging planters.
  • Fernando and Humberto Campana, interior designers in Sao Paolo, and Todd Erikson of College for Creative Studies have designed a cast aluminum 4" x 11" vase.
  • New York's Sebastian Errazuriz and Detroit's Samuel Arambula have produced Rock Lamp, photo luminescent lamps powered not by electricity but by high grade phosphorescent material.
  • Paola Navone, an architect and designer from Milan, teams with Andrew Ward of Line Studio for April Planter, a cement planter for garden centerpieces. Navone also teamed with Detroit Denim Company to create Mario Overalls, functional overalls for garden use.
In anticipation of the pop-up, Nora has commissioned a number of additional Detroit-based designers, producing more than a dozen home products to be sold alongside the featured collaborative works.

Nora is located at 4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 109, in the Auburn building.

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.

Midtown salon shutters, pop-up hub to open in its place

A familiar business in Midtown's Cass Corridor is closing up shop and will be replaced by a pop-up boutique.

Jen Willemsen opened Curl Up & Dye seven years ago. She is closing the non-toxic barber and beauty shop but will retain the storefront, instead launching a new concept.

Willemsen will open JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous by the end of the month, she says. JoyRide will utilize the former salon space to host rotating retailers for months at a time. The business at Curl Up was fine, according to Willemsen, and the change is being made to afford her more time as she enters the seventh month of her first pregnancy.

The pop-up has been a popular trend in Detroit, launching a number of what have become permanent businesses throughout the city. Used as an opportunity by what are typically first-time entrepreneurs, the pop-up allows for a brick and mortar experience without all of the up front costs of a traditional start-up. Cinema Detroit, Love Travels Imports, and Coffee and (___) are all recent examples of Detroit pop-ups that have made the transition from pop-up to permanently located businesses.

"I'm proud and thankful to be part of Cass Corridor," says Willemsen. "It's been my home for so long, and in so many ways. The changes I've witnessed in this community are immense, yet it's still a familiar friend. Change can be difficult, but that doesn't make it bad. I miss the old 'Corridor,' but I'm still looking forward to its future and being part of it."

The first JoyRide tenant will be Z Ballerini. The manufacturer of men's travel and everyday bags uses natural materials and makes them in Detroit. Z Ballerini is readying for the holiday season.

JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous is located at 4215 Cass Ave.

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.

Woodbridge developer continues line of fable-themed rehabs with "Wonderland House"

Alex Pereira and Secure Realty, the team responsible for the "Lorax"- and "Up"-themed redevelopments in Woodbridge, are back at it, this time with an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed duplex on Commonwealth Street.

Consistent with his other rentals, the Wonderland house is a modern rehabilitation of a century-old building. Were he to stop there, Pereira's rentals would be simple attractive updates of classic homes; 21st century utility upgrades complement the refurbishment of early 20th century designs and hardware. Pereira, however, has opted for something with a little more panache. The front yard of his first Woodbridge rental is marked by a sculpture of and quotes from the title character of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss. His second redevelopment is painted in the same pastel color scheme as the house from Disney animated film "Up."

The Wonderland house is a duplex. Each unit is roughly 2,000 sq. ft. with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Much work was done to restore the home, including a back wall that was bowing outward due to water damage. Pereira's crew disassembled the brick wall, shored up the infrastructure, and put it back together.

Sculptures of Alice and the Queen of Hearts stand out front. A quote from the tale will line the large planter box where the sculptures rest. On the third floor, Pereira has commissioned four custom-made stained glass windows, each depicting a scene from "Alice in Wonderland." Bold reds, yellows, and blues highlight the building's eaves and frames.

"People have this misconception that historic colors are bland and drab and brown and all tones of beige. It's not true," Pereira says. "Historic colors used to be very, very bold. They were just limited in the pigmentation that they used to be able to get."

Pereira says he received some flak for the pastels of the Up house, so this time he consulted the National Historic Trust to find colors more suitable for the period in which the Wonderland house was built.

Of course, that's not the only blowback he's received. From past stories Model D has run on Pereira and his Woodbridge projects, the comments section has become a place to air grievances, with arguments breaking out over Pereira's properties and practices. And while he's certainly not the only person redeveloping properties in Woodbridge, Pereira is likely the most polarizing--something he doesn't seem to mind. But whether his are designs considered whimsical or tacky, acts of rehabilitation or gentrification, Pereira believes in what he's doing.

"There's a group of people that love what I do and encourage me to do it, and there's a group of people that wants me not to do it," Pereira says. "At the end of the day, I think you have to be a little bit light-hearted with these types of projects. They're here today and they may be gone tomorrow. Who knows? Things change. But I think what most individuals fear the most is change, in general. We are in a time in Detroit's history where everything is in flux--for the better, in my opinion, but there's a subset of people that don't like change."

He's already working on a fourth property, 4305 Trumbull Ave., a stately manor in a condition of serious disrepair and neglect. No word yet on that building's future theme.

The Wonderland House is located at 3947 Commonwealth St. 

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit Future City releases guide to help residents steward vacant lots

As the city of Detroit makes it easier for residents to purchase vacant lots in their neighborhoods, the Detroit Future City Implementation Office has developed a field guide for residents that informs them how to transform the empty land into neighborhood resources.

The DFC's "Working with Lots: A Field Guide" contains 34 different lot designs that residents can use as suggestions for improving vacant parcels. Examples include rain gardens, native butterfly meadows, and natural ground pollution remediation techniques. Among other features found in the 74-page field guide are tips on collaborating with neighbors; analyzing the lot for quality of soil, sun, and shade; and information on how to attain lots.

The Field Guide is available online and in print editions found at the DFC Implementation Office in New Center and every Detroit Public Library branch.

While the DFC Strategic Framework report emphasized the importance of blue and green infrastructure in future city planning efforts, the field guide is a way for residents in the city to shape those efforts based on their own needs. DFC held stakeholder reviews with members of the community in the year-long development of the guide. Andrea Perkins, a community planner and engagement specialist for Black Family Development, was a member of the review team. She says the process yielded a guide that "provides comprehensive details that address and complement unique neighborhood characteristics across the city."

Dan Kinkead, acting executive director of the DFC Implementation Office, says, "While our office has made great strides to advance the shared imperatives laid out in the DFC Strategic Framework from a systemic level, the Field Guide puts the tools to fulfill those imperatives in the hands of Detroiters."

According to officials, more than 30 projects utilizing the guide and its lot designs are already planned for before the end of the fall planting season. A number of community engagement groups are being planned for further education.

The DFC Implementation Office is located at 2990 W. Grand Boulevard, Ste. 2.

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.

High-priced houses, new apartments, movie theaters, and more: September 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.

Raggedy and fire-damaged, an eight bedroom Victorian home built in 1880 is on the market for $3.5 million. The reason for this otherwise unusually high price tag is its location. The house sits directly in the soon-to-be shadow of the new Red Wings hockey arena just north of downtown. The plucky group that purchased the building for $25,000 in 2002 seem determined to cash in on their long-term investment. The Ilitches and anyone else looking to redevelop an area of the Cass Corridor now being re-branded as Woodward Square have yet to bite.

Construction is to begin on The Griswold, a reported eight-floor addition of apartments to be built atop the 150 Michigan Ave. parking garage adjacent to the Westin Book Cadillac downtown. Detroit Economic Growth Corporation sold the rights to the Roxbury Group. When first announced last year, the development consisted of 80 apartment units among five floors. No word yet on how many units the new eight-floor configuration will contain.

Cinema Detroit, which has called the former Burton International Academy its home for nearly two years, has announced a move. The small first-run movie theater operation will move to 4126 Third Ave. and re-open Oct. 1. This is the second movie-showing organization to leave the old school building. The Burton Theatre group left the building in 2011.

A recent column in Crain's Detroit opines that plans for the high profile former Hudson's site and Monroe block should be released soon. Dan Gilbert owns development rights to both locations, which are currently owned by Downtown Development Authority. The parcels are also two of the largest undeveloped sites downtown. Big splashes can be expected for each.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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