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Model D & Open City unite for energy-filled discussion on location

Nearly 100 people packed Cliff Bells last Tuesday for the first speaker series hosted jointly by Open City and Model D. It was a natural fit for the two groups, considering the former helps facilitate opening small businesses in Detroit and the latter likes to celebrate such businesses.

The topic of the forum was "Location, Location, Location." As in, you want to start a small business in Detroit and want to know in which neighborhood would be best to set up shop.

The panel, which was moderated by this writer, was comprised of five experts in five specific neighborhoods. Each of them, who works for the non-profit community development corporation dedicated to that area, demonstrated passion for their own specific community tempered with a clear spirit of cooperation.

Michael Solaka of New Center Council discussed some of the projects coming down the pipeline in his neighborhood, including the renovation of the park at the corner of Second and West Grand Boulevard and the rehabilitation of the Argonaut into an expanded College for Creative Studies. NCC's annual CityFest was cited as an example of a major event put on by a non-profit that can generate excitement -- and dollars -- for a small business.

Down in Midtown, Sue Mosey was representing the University Cultural Center Association. Mosey discussed some of the financial incentives available to small businesses interested in locating in the district as well as some less tangible manners of assistance, including navigating red tape at city hall.

Kathy Wendler from the Southwest Detroit Business Association talked about the growing immigrant population that is investing in the community and the number of strong grocery stores, making Southwest an ideal place to locate a food business.

Food is also an obvious strong fit for Eastern Market, and Dan Carmody of the Eastern Market Corp. encouraged those with a small idea to set up shop at the market on Saturdays to generate some buzz and test-drive a new product with a very low overhead -- as low as $60 per week.

Also on the small tip, Khalilah Burt of the Downtown Detroit Partnership discussed how a smaller size space can work for a start-up -- like Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes, rocking out in just 48 square feet. The DDP's Clean Downtown program means that businesses located in the Central Business District can expect clean, inviting sidewalks for their customers.

The next Open City will take place on March 17. Marketing is on the agenda.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Info sessions to inform developers, CDCs about neighborhood stabilization funds

Nine Detroit communities have been targeted for $47 million in neighborhood stabilization funds the the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department secured from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The areas were chosen for an abundance of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed buildings. Four information sessions will explain to the for profit and nonprofit development community how to access these funds for community redevelopment activities, like housing rehab, as well as financing opportunities.

Each session will cover:
  • An overview of Detroit’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program;

  • Information on Detroit’s nine targeted ares: Southwest Detroit (which takes in Midtown and Woodbridge in its borders), Central Woodward (which takes in much of New Center), Brightmoor, Grand River/Greenfield, East English Village, Osborn, North Central and Kettering;

  • An explanation of the competitive selection process to receive NSP funding; and

  • NSP financing mechanisms and opportunities, including gap funding for “ready to proceed” projects.

The sessions will be held 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 18-19 from  at the Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Rd at Curtis, Detroit. RSVPs are available on a first-come, first-served basis and must be confirmed in advance. Call 313 224-3461.

Source: Sylvia Crawford, City of Detroit
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Caffeine round up: Cafe con Leche relocates to W. Vernor and Biggby Coffee set to open on Woodward

Cafe con Leche, formerly in the Mexicantown Mercado, has relocated to W. Vernor and Scotten, fronting Clark Park. "It's a great location and it looks more like a coffee shop," says Vittoria Katanski, Southwest Detroit Business Association's director of marketing.

The new space is located in the same row of storefronts as Tropical Day Spa, at 4200 W. Vernor. Call 248-736-1196.

Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read more about Cafe con Leche and owner Jordi Carbonell here. He hopes to have his (new) door open by the end of the month.

Up in Midtown, Biggby Coffee's first Detroit location is opening in the ground floor of the StudioOne Apartments. It joins Fifth Third Bank, Radio Shack and Utrecht Art Supply. Starter's Bar and Grill also will open there, too.

Model D can hardly keep up with all the coffee shop openings these days. Read this and this to learn about three other recent openings, all in downtown.

One more place to grab a cuppa in the CDB that gets high marks from readers is is the Coffee Cafe, located in the Dime Building at Fort and Griswold. Call 313-962-2049.

Sources: Vittoria Katanski, SDBA; Jordi Cabonell, Cafe con Leche and Jose Cayo, Jr., Biggby Coffee
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

$2.5M invested into 14-unit apartment building in Southwest Detroit

On West Grand Boulevard just north of Vernor in Southwest Detroit, Southwest Housing Solutions has completed renovations at the Grand Apartments. The 14 affordable units range from one- to three-bedrooms and rent for $375 to $700.

"We are committed to providing affordable housing that is high quality and which enhances the quality of life of our tenants and the neighborhood," says Tim Thorland, executive director of SWHS. "In our restoration of the Grand Apartments, we harmonized a deep respect for historical preservation with advanced construction practices and materials." The $2.5 million project included installation of energy-efficient windows and insulation, central air and heating and all new appliances. Gated parking is available.

SWHS will manage the property and provide support services to residents, who will also have the opportunity to participate in an advisory council.

The Grand Apartments are located at 545 W. Grand Blvd. Anyone interested in an apartment can obtain an application online or in person at 1920 25th St. Call SWHS at 313-297-1311.

Steve Palackdharry, communications manager, Southwest Solutions
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Urban Neighborhoods Initiative begins targeted park planning in Southwest Detroit

Urban Neighborhoods Initiative, formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc., has a new name that better explains its purpose: to create healthy urban neighborhoods.

The organization coalesced 10 years ago to develop a neighborhood center in the Springwells Village area of Southwest Detroit. Over the years, it has evolved to provide programming at its center and at schools and to redevelop five parks. The name change reflects this broader purpose.

Next up: the creation of a comprehensive development design for Springwells Village, in collaboration with other neighborhood organizations, and the identification of ten parks in Southwest Detroit to target with improvements. UNI is looking for greenspaces in which investing "would have significant impact on the development of youth in the neighborhood and the development of real estate in the neighborhood," says UNI's executive director Dennis Nordmoe.

Source: Dennis Nordmoe, UNI
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Southwest Housing granted $300K to redevelop former cigar factory on Michigan Ave.

Southwest Housing Solutions is capping off a busy 2008 with two more accomplishments: the receipt of $200,000 in unrestricted operating funds from Bank of America and another $300,000 from the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund that will be used towards the redevelopment of a historic warehouse on Michigan Avenue east of Livernois.

The four-story building, originally the San Telmo Cigar Factory, was designed by Albert Kahn in 1910. SWHS aims to complete construction by the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011, just in time for its 100th anniversary. Steve Palackdharry, the organization's communications manager, says their development team was impressed with its condition, including the original hardwood floors and wood columns.

Final plans for tenants and floor plans are still being worked out, but it will likely be mixed-use. Although the credit crunch impacts the project's financing, Palackdharry says the building is worth the effort. "It's going to be a spectacular historic renovation," he says.

Source: Steve Palackdharry, SWHS
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Kellogg grant to promote Detroit's tourist nodes

The Kellogg Foundation has granted the Tourism and Economic Development Council $75,000 to support "Developing the D," a plan to build a "Destination Districts" initiative that will attract and retain residents, draw new visitors and spur investment in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Monroe counties.

In the city proper, TEDC director Jim Townsend says the aim is to leverage and support existing developments -- like the RiverWalk -- and to ultimately link them.

The program's targets are tourists as well as current and potential residents. He says the same amenities that make a visit to a city enjoyable also make it livable. "It's really interdependent and kind of symbiotic," he says. "People travel to urban destinations for many of the same reasons that people move to or stay in an urban area."

Initiatives that TEDC will be looking at connecting and promoting include transit, housing, greenspace and greenway developments. He says great cities and cool neighborhoods offer "walkability" and "unexpected great moments."

"Detroit has bones, pockets, of the same experience, there are some isolated successes, but to really achieve our goal for talent and tourists, we've got to build out and link and effectively market," he says.

Ultimately, Townsend hopes that each distinct district -- those being Greater Downtown, Dearborn/Wayne, Macomb County and North and South Oakland County -- work in collaboration and support with one another, rather than in competition. "They're all quite different," he says.

Source: Jim Townsend, TEDC
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
Photo: Marvin Shaouni

Southwest Detroit pub and grub tour post-mortem: taquerias and dive bars

Pub crawlers trekked to the heart of Southwest Detroit on Saturday for an event co-sponsored by Model D and the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

The afternoon booze and taco cruise included stops at three local watering holes and two taquerias in the West Vernor Business District.

Vittoria Katanski, marketing director for the Southwest Detroit Business Association led the tour, which visited the West Vernor Business District, an area bordered by John Kronk to the north, Clark St. to the east, Fort Street to the south, and Dearborn and Dix Avenues to the west.

The first stop was at Charlie's Pub at 1503 Springwells. The group quickly fell in love with its carved wooden bar, pool table, stuffed marlin (we think) on the wall, and stripped down charm, and the $2 beers definitely didn't hurt the appeal.

Next, the group got walking -- yes walking. The West Vernor Business District is one of the most truly walkable communities to be found in the city of Detroit.

Springwells and Vernor, two of the main thoroughfares, are lined with bars, nail salons, auto body shops, walk-up apartment buildings, New York-style pizza joints, and even a Mexican-Chinese buffet.

Stefan's Bar (1805 Springwells) was another jewel of a dive bar, just down the street from Charlie's. Walking in the door is like entering a time warp: Detroit, circa 1973. Not only is the decor retro, but the prices are positively old-school. The group guzzled $3 (or less) drinks.

Next, the Crawl turned into a sprint to the nearby taquerias, particularly brand new Cinco Renya on Senator Street, and La Mexicana on W. Vernor at Springwells.

Cinco Renya  (7851 Senator) isn't fancy. It's furnished with Formica tables, plastic lawn chairs, and a handful of children crawling beneath the counter.  Our friendly Spanish-speaking waitress brought over tortilla chips and two kinds of salsa. She served us piping hot tacos and tamales served the authentic way: no cheese, no sour cream, no Grilled Stuft Burritos in this joint. Just fresh tortillas, spicy beef and chicken, with cilantro, onion and limes for toppings -- all at $1 each.

La Mexicana is more stripped down (if possible). Just a lunch counter in a small grocery, it serves up several varieties of meat served in soft corn tortillas with cilantro, lime and onion. Two hot sauces are available. And that's about it. Don't pass on the chorizo. The price is $1.35 for an ample portion.

The final stop was Sherry's on Vernor (7631 W. Vernor Hwy.), offering $4 mini-pitchers and fresh-made Bloody Marys, which our bartender mixed with her homemade habanero hot sauce.

If you missed this one and would like a map or more info, contact Katanski here. There's also talk of another tour early next year.

Writer: Ashley Woods

$47.1M neighborhood stabilization plan presented to Council

One month ago, Housing and Urban Development awarded the city of Detroit $47.1 million to stabilize housing in light of the current foreclosure crisis.

Before spending it, the city must develop a plan that is approved by Detroit City Council and then HUD. Last week, Planning and Development took the first step and presented the plan to Council's Economic Development Committee.

The plan focuses on three things: reversal of the decline of neighborhood housing values; significant elimination of blighted and abandoned structures; and stimulation of investment in and around targeted neighborhoods.

The plan can be downloaded at PDD's site; public comment is welcomed until November 20 at 313-224-6380 or NSP@detroitmi.gov. On Nov. 21, it will go to the full Council followed by submittal to HUD on Dec. 1.

Read more about the grant, the process and guidelines here.

Source: Sylvia Crawford, PDD
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Southwest Detroit seats itself with some new public art

On November 1, Southwest Detroit celebrated the dedication of new public art with some distinguished company: Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. and Senator Carl Levin.

Three benches were created by local artist Mary Laredo Herbeck and her three assistants, Christine Bossler, Anahli Vazquez and Alhan Vazquez. They were installed on the 7700 block of W. Vernor near Springwells, near the neighborhood city hall and the offices of the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

Tthe benches were made possible through support from "community + public art: DETROIT," a program created to support art in public places. It is funded by the Skillman Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and Chase Bank, and managed by the College for Creative Studies.

Source: Vittoria Katanski, SDBA
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Clark Park-fronting day spa opens in Southwest Detroit

Tropical Day Spa has opened on W. Vernor between Clark and Scotten, across the street from Clark Park. The spa offers massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, make-up application, waxing, foot and hand therapy and body scrubs.

Owner Rita Birseno, a hair salon vet, intended to open a day spa and settled on her location soon after SER-Metro began rehabbing the building she now occupies a couple of years ago. "I like this neighborhood," she says. "People here are down-to-earth."

Tropical is the first salon to open in Southwest Detroit. "I want people who work hard to be able to come here and relax," she says. "That's why there's no TV, only music." Birseno plans to add a sauna to the basement soon.

The building as a whole has 12 affordable residential units and 6,500 square feet of commercial space. Birseno says a coffee house is in talks to be the next commercial tenant.

The price for an all-inclusive half-day spa package (massage, eyebrow waxing, make-up, manicure and pedicure and lunch) is $130. A manicure costs $10, a pedicure $25, and a half-hour facial $30.

Tropical's hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The address is 4214 W. Vernor; call 313-843-1281.

Source: Rita Birseno, Tropical Day Spa
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

City Council adopts non-motorized plan that calls for 400 miles of bike lanes in the Motor City

Detroit City Council has adopted a non-motorized transportation plan as well as a resolution urging Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. to implement it. Among other things, the plan calls for more than 400 miles of bike lanes, as well as other improvements to pedestrian and bike facilities. The Michigan Department of Transportation funded the plan's development; the city brought on Giffels-Webster Engineers as consultants to design it.

Scott Clein of Giffels-Webster says that the adoption of the plan means many things to proponents of non-motorized transportation. For starters, MDOT will now attempt to incorporate its recommendations into any future roadway projects it undertakes in the city, such as the reconstruction of Michigan Avenue.

It also does the same for city departments like the Department of Public Works. "DPW is now in charge of supporting and, hopefully, implementing portions of the master plan," says Clein.

The adoption of the plan means that community groups working to establish bike lanes know that the government, at least on paper, is on board. Clein cites Greater Corktown Development Corporation's Corktown-Mexicantown Greenlink as an example. "Now they know that the city will be supportive instead of obstructionists," he says.

DPW is in the process of writing a letter of conceptual support to MDOT, a step necessary for the project to capture funds the state committed to it a few years ago.

Besides bike lanes, the plan looks at pedestrian safety via the separation of bikes and pedestrians and the continued improvements of sidewalks.

Read more about the plan here.

Source: Scott Clein, Giffels-Webster
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
Photo by Marvin Shaouni

AIA sustainable design program kicks off with Oct. 6 meeting

Detroit was selected as one of nine cities to participate in the Sustainable Design Assessment Team program by the American Institute of Architects, and it is an opportunity being seized with relish by those involved. "We have a chance to make Detroit into a model for sustainability," says Eleanore Eveleth, who is working to coordinate the SDAT process, which is focusing on the Southwest Detroit, Mexicantown, Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market, Midtown and New Center districts.

The SDAT program will look at four realms of sustainability: transportation, energy, land use and the new economy. Local experts in each area will get teamed with national ones in a three-day charette from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 -- but first, the locals are gathering on Oct. 6 to orientate and plan.

"We want to have a more productive meeting on the 30th," says Eveleth. "We will give an overview of the SDAT process, which is what the folks from out of town are coming to do."

Eveleth expects community organizations, residents, people that work within the project boundaries and those already working on green products and issues to participate. "There are a lot of people already working on small bits and pieces of this," she says. "This is a way to bring all these people together and learn from folks that have done this in other cities."

SDAT has made a survey available on-line to help frame the process' roadmap. Click here to get started.

The SDAT kick-off is on October 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will be held at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, located at 2930 Woodward in Detroit. The three-day charette will be held at the University of Michigan Community Design Center, also in Midtown. For more information, call Zachary & Associates at 313-831-6100.

Source: Eleanore Eveleth, SDAT
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Photo by Marvin Shaouni

Hit the town by bike during upcoming Tour de Troit event and Wheelhouse tours

There are some great opportunities coming up to see Detroit from the luxury of your own, or a rented, bike. The best part of these tours is that they take you into the city's neighborhoods at a pace that affords participants the chance to admire the architecture and get a real feel for the places.

The annual Tour de Troit is Saturday, Sept. 20. Take in 40 miles of the city at a leisure pace with several hundred of your closest friends. It's a police escorted ride through Downtown, Eastern Market, Brush Park, Boston Edison, University District, Palmer Park, Old Redford and Grandmont-Rosedale.

Last year 600 people participated. Advance registration is strongly encouraged to guarantee a T-Shirt. Register by Sept. 13 to ensure you'll get one. Advance Registration is $25, $15 for students. Day-of-ride registration is $35 from 8:30-9:30 a.m.

But wait, there's more. Wheelhouse Detroit, the city's newest bike rental and repair shop, is also offering weekly tours of Detroit's neighborhoods. Each week, they feature a different portion of the city, and most rides are around 15-25 miles. Upcoming tours include Southwest Detroit (9/13), The Villages (9/27), Boston Edison (9/28), Creekside (10/04) and the Conner Creek Greenway (10/5). Wheelhouse also offers weekly tours of Downtown and the Woodward corridor, offered in conjunction with Inside Detroit. For more information and pricing, check their web site.

Sources: Wheelhouse Detroit, Tour de Troit
Writer: Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey

Southwest Detroit Passport offers incentive to "Explore the Detour"

As a companion piece to their well-received Southwest Detroit road map, the Explore the Detour Coalition has released a Passport that offers users discounts to more than 30 neighborhood restaurants.

The passport and the map both distinguish the five unique neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit -- participating restaurants in each include Baile Corcaigh and Mudgie's in Corktown, Los Galanes and Mexican Village in Mexicantown, El Barzon and Hygrade Deli on Michigan Avenue, Gonellas in Oakwood Heights and Vince's and Mi Pueblo in the W. Vernor Business District.

Passport holders simply present it at participating businesses to receive a 10 to 20% discount, as spelled out in the document. The passport "expires" when the Gateway Project construction is complete.

The Explore the Detour Coalition recently held a Southwest Detroit Lowrider Hop that was promoted with a commemorative poster designed by Camilo Pardo. They have a few that are signed to give away; anyone interested should contact Vittoria Katanski at the Southwest Detroit Business Assoc. at vittoriak@southwestdetroit.com or 313-842-0986.

Look for the passports around town, especially in Southwest Detroit, or contact Katanski to find out where to find one.

Source: Vittoria Katanski, SDBA
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

215 Southwest Detroit Articles | Page: | Show All
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