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Detroit Development News

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Ambitious art installation debuts in downtown's Paradise Valley Harmonie Park

"Nice Outfit," the summer art installation in downtown's Paradise Valley Harmonie Park, made its debut late last week. An 18-foot sculpture in nine sections, "Nice Outfit" complements the Summer in the Park concert series, providing a dynamic setting for the music and dance events that take place throughout the summer. The art was commissioned by the Carr Center, a neighboring arts and cultural center which handles programming in the park.

Nice Outfit is a collaboration between Detroit-based artist Olayami Dabls and the Anya Sirota + Akoaki design studio. Dabls is perhaps most notable for his work at the African Bead Museum, of which he is the founder. The museum, which is located on Detroit's west side, is covered in colorful art and shards of mirrors, among other things. The museum is an unmistakable landmark when traveling along Interstate 96 or Grand River Avenue. Anya Sirota + Akoaki recently completed the Mothership, a portable, P-Funk-inspired DJ booth in the city's North End neighborhood as part of the O.N.E. Mile project.

The artists' collaboration resulted in the "Nice Outift" sculptures, nine distinct figures that are viewed as one collective group. The artists utilized wood, painted layered surfaces, and reflective mirrors as they incorporated themes of the African diaspora. The Carr Center considers Nice Outfit to be its most ambitious installation yet.

"The sculptures form a collective and are dressed for the occasion. We invite visitors to join the park’s festivities and to see themselves as part of an emergent group," says Oliver Ragsdale, Jr., president of the Carr Center.

The project received support from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning and a Quicken Loans grant.

Events at the park are free, open to everyone, and include a concert series occurring every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 6 p.m. and a "Dancing Under the Stars" dance party every third Saturday of the month.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Gabriel Hall to bring New Orleans vibe to West Village

A music venue, bar, restaurant, museum, and music education advocacy group are all coming to West Village -- and they'll all be under the same roof. If all goes to plan, Dameon Gabriel and his business partner will have opened Gabriel Hall by the end of the summer of 2016 in an old three-story house with a ground floor storefront located at the intersection of Kercheval and Van Dyke. Like Gabriel himself, Gabriel Hall is a unique blend of New Orleans and Detroit, or, as he puts it, New Orleans blood with a Detroit heart.

Dameon comes from New Orleans and Detroit music royalty. A family that was at the very beginnings of New Orleans jazz, the Gabriels moved to Detroit in the 1940s and have been carrying on that legacy ever since. Today, Dameon leads the Gabriel Brass Band. His business partner, a Louisiana-born chef, is crafting a menu that draws inspiration from both New Orleans and Detroit.

Finalists in last year's Hatch Detroit contest, Gabriel and his team have a big vision for the place, which they purchased at the end of April. The first floor will house the bar, restaurant, and music venue.

"I love to create an experience. If you have a good time with friends, food, and music, you always remember that," says Gabriel. "I always had that growing up where I would be with my uncles and my dad and everything would turn into a concert and everybody's partying and dancing and everybody's playing an instrument in the house."

Upstairs will serve as a museum, chronicling the deep history of the Gabriel family and New Orleans and Detroit jazz. It will also serve as the headquarters of an already-existing nonprofit dedicated to improving music education conditions in city schools. The group was recently involved in donating 21 instruments to Detroit Public Schools students.

It's a change of intended destinations for the Gabriel Hall team, having originally planned on renting a storefront in Woodbridge. And while Gabriel stresses a deep affection for Woodbridge, the opportunity to own a building proved too valuable to pass up. Gabriel says that the West Village neighborhood and association is thrilled to have the business moving in, already offering to organize volunteer clean-up days for the site. It's a building that has been vacant for quite a while and will require significant effort and investment to become white box-ready.

Gabriel and his business partner have hired the Detroit firm Virtuoso Design+Build to come up with Gabriel Hall's look. The firm is responsible for designing UFO Factory in Corktown and a Big Sean-donated recording studio at Cass Tech. He says they're working on something that evokes that vintage New Orleans flair without looking old and stuck in time.

Dameon hopes to open Gabriel Hall by the end of the summer of 2016. It's to be located at 8002 Kercheval Ave.

Source: Dameon Gabriel, founder and CEO of Gabriel Hall
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Laika Dog coming to UFO Factory in Corktown

Roughly eight months after the official opening of UFO Factory in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, the popular bar and music and events venue is now ready to open its kitchen. On July 4th, UFO will celebrate Independence Day by revealing Laika Dog, a 'fancy, fun' take on hot dogs and more. The debut of Laika Dog will signal another change for UFO as the bar expands its hours to open for daily lunch service.

According to its website, Laika Dog hot dogs will be inspired by a long list of other dishes and ingredients, including, "bahn mi, nacho, pbj, kim chi, fried ramen, pickles, build your own, fried egg, grilled cheese, fries, tater tots, simple salads, vegan, grass fed, more..." A mysterious hot dish is also referenced.

Dion Fischer, one of UFO's co-owners, says the group has been running around frantically as they work to ready the kitchen for its July 4th debut. That opening will be celebrated with a party featuring live entertainment from the Mahonies, the Impaler, DJ John Krautner, and more acts to be announced. The party is free to attend.

In keeping with the UFO Factory name, the name Laika is associated with Laika the dog. In 1957, the Soviets launched Laika into space, one of the first animals to reach space and the very first to orbit Earth.

UFO Factory opened in September 2014 in the old Hoot's Robinson's bar on Trumbull Avenue, directly across from the old Tiger Stadium site. Laika Dog operates out of a small but newly-renovated kitchen. There is no table service; rather, customers will order directly from one of the bartenders and the dogs will be delivered "food runner-style."

Source: Dion Fischer, co-owner of UFO Factory and Laika Dog
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

New hotels, a new downtown park, and more: June 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.

June started off with Louis Aguilar of the Detroit News wondering if the Illitches can deliver their 'District Detroit', a 45-block mixed use development surrounding the new Red Wings hockey arena, by the time the sports and entertainment venue opens in the summer of 2017--or if they even plan to. An agreement with the city affords Olympia Development a 5-year window to spend $200 million in development money after the arena is complete. Either way, the historic Hotel Park Avenue is definitely coming down.

The folded glass of the recently renovated Crowne Plaza Pontchartrain Detroit could reflect the construction of a second tower for the 367-room hotel, some 50 years after the original hotel first opened. Crain's is reporting that the hotel's owners are considering a second tower, one that would bring the hotel's total room count up to 800 or 850 rooms. The $30 to $35 million investment could help all of downtown's hotels by attracting more conventions to the city. Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Group, says that a Virgin hotel in Detroit is a real possibility and he had a representative searching for potential sites in the city.

DTE Energy released some attractive renderings of their planned "mini-Campus Martius" in June. The park, currently a gravel lot, should be complete by spring of 2016.

The abandoned, sprawling Herman Kiefer Health Complex could be saved through an enormous redevelopment project by New York-based developer Ron Castellano. The historic complex sits on an 18-acre site just south of the Boston-Edison neighborhood.

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press takes readers on a tour of the environmentally-minded rehab of the old El Moore apartment building in Midtown. In addition to the renovations, developers built two 'urban cabins' on the roof, an elevator shaft along the building's exterior, reserved garden space for each resident, and a newly-built and free-standing green house and community meeting space built from recycled materials.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Michigan Good Food Fund launches to promote access to healthy food throughout the state

Last week, dozens gathered at Shed 5 of Detroit's Eastern Market for the official launch of the Michigan Good Food Fund, a new public-private partnership loan and grant fund created to address lack of food access in rural and urban communities by supporting good food entrepreneurs across the state.
 
According to the Michigan Good Food Charter, good food is healthy, green (sustainable), fair (no one was exploiting during its creation), and affordable.
 
The fund meets two distinct needs for urban areas like Detroit: the need for healthy food access and the need to drive economic development within the local food supply chain, from cucumber farmers to jam makers, farm stands to grocery stores, processors to distributors, and any entity in between.
 
The fund is not only available for financing, but will provide technical assistance and counseling for businesses serving disadvantaged communities.
 
Clearly, the time is right for the Michigan Good Food Fund here in the Motor City. Detroit’s food scene has kept pace with the city’s burgeoning farm and garden movement. Detroit Food Lab has 140 members that participate in training and activities to help cultivate their individual food business start-ups. Between the city’s pop-up-shops-turned-restaurants, internationally envied urban gardens, and many small producers making big waves, the momentum is growing.
 
Yet, despite the growth and promise in farming and food production in Detroit, many of these high-quality fresh and processed goods don’t make it into low-income households.
 
What’s happening in Detroit is happening statewide. While Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation with food and agriculture contributing $101.2 billion annually to the state's economy, more than 1.8 million Michigan residents—including 300,000 children—live in lower-income communities with limited healthy food access. Wayne County has the highest food insecurity rate among U.S. counties, at 20.9 percent.
 
The lack of access to affordable and nutritious food has serious implications for the health of our children and families—more than 30 percent of Michiganders are obese, the second highest rate of obesity in the Midwest region. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted.
 
“The Michigan Good Food Fund will be an essential component of our work to provide accessible healthy food to everyone in Michigan, especially vulnerable communities,” said Oran Hesterman, Fair Food Network president and CEO. “The fund will also be an incredible opportunity for food entrepreneurs, harnessing capital, and growing strong, local economies.”
 
Fair Food Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems will co-lead business assistance and pipeline development. Other core partners include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and fund manager Capital Impact Partners.
 
Source: Meredith Freeman, program director at the Fair Food Network
Writer: Melinda Clynes, Michigan Kids project editor
 
This story is part of a series of solutions-focused stories and profiles about the programs and people that are positively impacting the lives of Michigan kids. The series is produced by Michigan Nightlight and is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read other stories in this series here.

Pop-ups and peplums: Trish's Garage makes its Detroit retail return

Ebony Rutherford's clothing store has popped back up in Detroit. Trish's Garage is celebrating its opening in the Grand River Workplace, a co-working space in Grandmont Rosedale. The clothing and accessory shop first popped up downtown in April and May 2014.

Trish's Garage sells clothing, jewelry, and accessories, much of which is Detroit-themed. Rutherford's specialty are her self-designed and -made peplums, tops with flares at the bottom meant to flatter women of all shapes and sizes.

The Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation opened Grand River Workplace in Oct. 2014. The co-working space also hosts pop-ups, the first having been Love. Travels. Imports., an artisanal crafts boutique. Trish's Garage will be open until the end of the year.

"Trish’s Garage is exactly the kind of home-grown, locally-owned business we would like to see more of in our community. It embodies the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that are needed to bring new life to neighborhood business districts like Grand River," Tom Goddeeris, executive director of GRDC, says in a statement.

The store's first run as a pop-up occurred in the spring of 2014, after it was accepted into the D:Hive pop-up program. Rutherford went through that organization's Build Institute--which has since spun off as its own entity--learning business planning, pricing, and money management. She's also a graduate of the TechTown Retail Boot Camp, where she learned to identify customers' needs rather than stocking only what she wanted to sell. Now it's a pop-up in Grandmont Rosedale. She won a contest for the spot, one run by GRDC and REVOLVE Detroit.

Trish's Garage opened Saturday, June 20, and will operate out of the Grandmont Rosedale storefront every Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m until the end of the year.

The clothing and accessories shop is located at 19120 Grand River Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

New $30M medical distribution center opens in New Center

After a couple of years of wrangling and another year of construction, Cardinal Health has opened a long-awaited distribution center in Detroit. It is the first part of a larger campus dreamed up by Henry Ford Health System, which hopes to drive over $500 million in development over roughly 300 acres south of Grand Boulevard, west of the Lodge Expressway, and north of Interstate 94. The new campus would be a mix of light industrial, residential, commercial, and green space.

The roughly 140 employees that worked at Cardinal Health's previous facility near Detroit Metro Airport are expected to relocate to the new facility. The company was lured to Detroit by Henry Ford Health System and the Detroit Medical Center as the two agreed to long-term distribution deals with the company in return for its moving to the city. Such a deal represents a long-term strategy for those anchor institutions as they take a broader role in development, looking to improve both their businesses and the neighborhoods in which they operate.

Cardinal Health is a $91 billion health care services company that offers pharmaceuticals and health care products. The distribution center's proximity to HFHS and DMC makes delivering such items to the hospitals that much more efficient, officials say.

"We're excited to have this beautiful building and these jobs in the city of Detroit," says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

The building is a 275,000-square-foot distribution center built by KIRCO, the company that bought the site from HFHS and is the acting project developer. A steel manufacturing facility previously occupied the site, which presented environmental remediation challenges like contaminated soil and petroleum storage tanks buried in the earth.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Full disclosure: Henry Ford Health System and the Detroit Medical Center belong to a group of organizations that provide underwriting support to Model D's parent company Issue Media Group for its coverage of anchor institutions in Detroit.

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.

Massive I-94 modernization efforts to limit residential and commercial displacement, officials say

It's not a widening of Interstate 94 so much as it is a right-sizing, Michigan Department of Transportation officials said of their plans to update the aging freeway at a media round table on Monday, June 8, at the agency's Detroit Operations Service Center on Fort Street.

While the 6.7-mile-long modernization project stretching through the heart of Detroit will cause the displacement and demolition of some structures, MDOT officials say that the majority of the construction will occur within the existing footprint of the Interstate. Because I-94 is bounded by sloping mounds of earth, any lane additions will be accommodated by eliminating the landscaped hills in favor of vertical retaining walls similar to ones found along I-696.

Neighborhood residents and various organizations have been vocal in their concerns that efforts to widen I-94 will result in the displacement of residents and businesses. Officials insist that their goal is to minimize any displacement and keep as much of the construction within the Interstate's existing footprint as possible.

"We don't want to turn this into L.A., and we don't want to turn this into Atlanta," says MDOT communications specialist Rob Morosi, referencing the wide, sprawling freeways that characterize those cities.

Still, displacement will occur. According to officials, 16 residential structures and 18 commercial structures will be in the way of construction along the 6.7-mile stretch. One of those buildings is United Sound Systems Recording Studios, historic for its role in Detroit's musical legacy. Talks are currently underway to perhaps move or work around that building, officials say. Also at risk of removal are the Brooklyn Street pedestrian bridge over I-94 and the Canfield pedestrian bridge over the John C. Lodge Expressway.

The I-94 modernization project will span the 6.7 miles between I-96 and Norcross Street, which is just east of Conner Avenue. Planned improvements include the extension and improvement of on-ramps, the elimination of left-lane exits and entrances, and the re-building of a crumbling infrastructure, including overpasses that haven't received significant upgrades since being built as early as 1954. Estimated costs come in at nearly $1.9 billion in today's dollars. Construction of the modernization project's three phases will not be completed until 2036.

MDOT is hosting two open houses to present to and listen to feedback from the community. The first is from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14, at Cathedral Church of St. Paul at 4800 Woodward Ave. The second occurs from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 16, at Wayne County Community College Eastern Campus at 5901 Conner Ave.

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.

Small vineyard takes shape in old school on east side

Local land baron Dennis Kefallinos is getting back to his roots in his adopted home by planting a small vineyard deep in the Motor City’s east side.

The Bellevue Vineyard is rising in one of the playfields of an old Detroit Public Schools elementary school at 3100 Bellevue. The school had been closed and stripped several years ago before Kefallinos purchased it.

"This school has been pretty beaten up over the years," says Eric Novack, senior project manager of Boydell Development, which is owned by Kefallinos. "He said, 'We need to do something over there soon to activate it.'"

Kefallinos is one of the larger property owners in Detroit. He owns several downtown properties, such as the Michigan Theatre, and many others scattered throughout the city's neighborhoods like the Russell Industrial Center. He is known for owning several vacant commercial buildings across the city and redeveloping several others most people had given up on, turning them into lofts and affordable spaces for small businesses.

Kefallinos immigrated to America from Greece in the 1960s. He started off a dishwasher and worked his way into becoming one of the entrepreneurs behind the development in Greektown in the 1980s. The Bellevue Vineyard is a way for him to return to his ancestral roots.

"This is not foreign to him at all," Novack says. "He did this for a few years at farms before he came to the U.S."

Kefallinos and his team at Boydell Development planted 300 vines imported from Washington for Canadice, Reliance and Interlacken grapes. The vines are expected to take root over the next two years and be ready for harvesting by year three.

The Boydell Development team has tested the soil for toxins and found none. They tilled the soil and balanced its PH levels by adding compost.

"This is our test," Novack says. "We plan to do 300 vines. Dennis originally wanted to do more."

Source & Photos: Eric Novack, senior project manager of Boydell Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

 

Northwest Detroit Farmers Market returns to Grandmont Rosedale

It's farmers market season in the city of Detroit. The northwest side is celebrating the return of its own seasonal market Thursday, June 4.

Occurring from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday through October 1, the Northwest Detroit Farmers Market takes place at the North Rosedale Park Community House in North Rosedale Park.

For the past 10 years, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation has hosted the market.

"The Northwest Detroit Farmers Market is not just a place to buy fresh produce. It's also a place to meet your neighbors, learn a new recipe or do a craft with your kids," says GRDC executive director Tom Goddeeris. "It's a place where people come to feel connected to their community."

More than 15 produce and food vendors will be selling their goods at the market. The vendors come from all around southeast Michigan. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy products, and baked goods will be among items sold. James Tate, District 1 city councilman, says the market addresses some of the challenges local residents face in accessing nutritious, fresh, and affordable food.

On opening day, June 4, the market will also play host to a number of events as it celebrates the start of market season. DMC Sinai-Grace will be on hand to offer free health screenings. A yoga class by Detroit Community Yoga will be offered from 6 to 7 p.m. Home Depot will be hosting a youth wood working workshop, free to attend. A perennial swap and a local artists market are also planned. The market is a part of Eastern Market's Detroit Community Markets program.

Organizers say that Northwest Detroit Farmers Market is the second most frequented farmers market in Detroit.

The North Rosedale Park Community House is located at 18445 Scarsdale St.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Inside La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine's expensive Midtown expansion

La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine opened on the corner of John R and Canfield in Midtown near the end of 2012. Just a couple of years later and the restaurant has made significant upgrades to its physical space and services offered, resulting in nearly $500,000 in investment. Acquiring two recently-vacant adjacent storefronts, the restaurant has knocked down the walls in between the spaces, growing from 1,600 to 3,000 square feet.

The expanded kitchen and dining room debuted this past January. With it came a new menu, one that saw the addition of hamburgers, wraps, and quesadillas to the more traditional Mediterranean fare already offered. A breakfast menu debuts this week, one accompanied by longer hours of operation. Before, La Palma opened for lunch at 10:30 a.m. The restaurant will now be open for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

La Palma co-owner Adam Mahdawiyan has overseen the upgrades, each a response to his customer base. Mahdawiyan estimates that 70 to 80 percent of his customers are repeat customers, and the majority of those are coming from one of the several hospitals nearby. Around half of his business comes from catering, he says, and the expanded kitchen helps greatly with that. The larger dining area is a boon, too, offering a more comfortable dining experience throughout the day. Much care has been put into the molded wood ceilings and herringbone-arranged floor boards.

"A lot of people, when they come, they have that 'wow' effect," says Mahdawiyan. "We've spent a lot of money on the interior and décor. A lot of them are shocked."

Including more American menu items, like hamburgers, was a direct response to a demand Mahdawiyan saw. The recent addition of breakfast fills a large gap in nearby dining options. Other additions include Caribou Coffee, Mighty Leaf organic tea, freshly squeezed juice, and fruit smoothies.

One thing that hasn't changed is the quality of food. La Palma still uses fresh ingredients bought from nearby Eastern Market vendors. The food is prepared by hand every day. The kitchen operates under halal guidelines and is one of the cleanest commercial kitchens this writer has ever seen.

La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine is located at 113 E. Canfield St.

Source: Adam Mahdawiyan, co-owner of La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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