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University commercialization programs receive $2.66 million in state funding

A recent funding renewal will allow two University of Michigan (U-M)-administered programs to continue their mission of supporting collaboration among state universities and spinning off technologies developed at universities into startup businesses.

The Michigan Strategic Fundan oversight board for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)approved $1.4 million for the Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN) and $1.26 million for Technology Transfer Talent Network (T3N), funding each program for another year.


"The state continues to fund these programs because they show results," says Stella Wixom, executive director of the U-M Business Engagement Center and principal investigator of the MCRN grant.


MCRN started in 2011 as a collaboration between six state universities but has since expanded to include all 15 state universities, including Wayne State University. T3N, also created in 2011, was started with help from the MEDC to provide talent programs and resources to support the commercialization of university projects.

Talent resources provided by T3N include a fellowship program, a mentors-in-residence program, university post-doctoral fellowships, and a statewide talent resource network.


"These programs touch on three key areas that are integral parts of commercializing technology: business engagement, technology transfer, and research," says Denise Graves, MEDC university relations director. She says the renewed funding will allow both programs to "expand and refine" the work they're doing supporting all 15 public universities across Michigan.


While the focus of both programs is on finding commercial channels for university-created technologies, much of the work they do is about "building relationships," Graves says.


That relationship-building includes setting up mentorship programs and getting interns into small and medium-sized businesses.


Graves says mentors with "deep industry knowledge" are matched with faculty to help them commercialize technology, get first customers and funding, and provide feedback to faculty on what they need to do to make the technologies viable in the marketplace.


Wixom says the state is interested in exposing students to small and medium-sized companies that students might otherwise overlook. The grant money will help students get internships in those smaller companies.


"A lot of those companies are thrilled with the talent and convert those internships to full-time positions, and the students are more interested in staying after having hands-on experience at those companies," Wixom says.


Wixom says it's important to note that the collaborations among state universities to create technology spinoffs is "a really unique offering."


"It makes us competitive in the country in terms of companies locating here," Wixom says. "I've talked to folks in Texas and Mississippi who are trying to emulate this model. The partnerships and support from the state make us attractive and friendly to businesses."

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township.

Hamtramck performance space and bar turns to crowdfunding for key renovations

Public Spaces Community Places, a state-sponsored placemaking initiative operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has set out to raise funds for a Hamtramck-based project. The campaign's focus is Planet Ant Hall, a performance and social complex located across the street from the original Planet Ant Theatre.

Planet Ant and MEDC have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help finish and repair Planet Ant Hall. Should the crowdfunding campaign successfully raise $35,000 by Nov. 1, the MEDC will kick in an addtional $35,000 as a matching grant.

The campaign is being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity crowdfunding platform.

Though Planet Ant Hall opened earlier this year, organizers say that there is still much work to be done. The group plans on using its crowdfunding and matching grant money, a total of $70,000, toward a new HVAC system, an improved facade, a build out of the back stage area, roof repairs, an upgraded lighting grid, and new techinical equipment.

According to Planet Ant Executive Director Darren Shelton, "Planet Ant Theatre was founded 25 years ago on the core principles of artistic freedom and experimentation, and the belief that these principles are fundamental to the spirit of community, creative fulfillment, and success. The completion of Ant Hall will accelerate the pursuit of this mission by expanding our space and resources and thus, our overall impact."

The original Planet Ant, which is still open today, debuted across the street in 1993. Originally a coffee shop, the storefront became a small black box theater in 1996, and has been putting on scripted and improv productions ever since. Among its famous alums include Keegan-Michael Key, co-creator of Comedy Central's "Key and Peele."

The new Planet Ant Hall includes a 470 capacity performance space and the attached Ghost Light Bar, and features music, comedy, films, karaoke, and more.

Click here to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

Planet Ant Hall is located at 2320 Caniff St. in Hamtramck.

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

Groups seeks to improve North Rosedale Park through public art projects

Prominent Detroit artists, neighborhood schoolchildren, and community boosters have teamed together to bring two pieces of public art to the North Rosedale Park neighborhood in northwest Detroit.

Having already won a $76,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, the Legacy Project is nearing its goal in improving public spaces through art. There is a catch to the Knight grant, however, and for the Legacy Project to receive the money, they must first raise a matching $76,000 of their own, which would bring the grand total to $152,000 to go toward the project.

Marsha Bruhn is chair of the Legacy Project, a group started to improve the North Rosedale Park Community House and its surrounding park. Bruhn says that they have entered the final leg of fundraising for the project, and need to raise just $20,000 to receive their $76,000 Knight grant.

The group has turned to Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity to do just that. The project, titled Great Art! Great Park!, has until 10:30 a.m. on Sep. 30 to raise the $20,000.

"Public art signals to the community that art is important, that the creative process is important. Creativity stimulates thinking," says Bruhn. "And it's another reason for people to come to the neighborhood. This will be the quality of art that is found in museums and galleries."

Two pieces of art are planned for North Rosedale Park. The first is a 25-foot metal sculpture designed by Detroit's Charles McGee, a well-renowned artist and decades-long resident of the neighborhood.

The second is a mosaic from Kresge Fine Arts Fellow Hubert Massey. In addition to his own mosaic, the artist is working with third and fifth-graders at the neighborhood's Cooke STEM Academy to help them design and construct their own mosaics, which will also be completed and installed.

Approximately $8,000 has been raised at press time. Click here to see the fundraiser's current status.

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

Knight and Fisher Foundations grant $250,000 to nearly 40 community groups throughout Detroit

Community leaders and organizations in Detroit have been emboldened recently with the announcement of two grants totaling $250,000. The grants will support community leaders with professional training and development as they work on their community revitalization efforts.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is contributing an additional $150,000 to its Nonprofit Capacity Training program, which it started with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 2014. The Knight Foundation has already granted $515,000 to the program.

The organizations set to receive the Nonprofit Capacity Training grants include Allied Media Projects, College for Creative Studies, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Focus:HOPE, Global Detroit, Jefferson East Inc., Michigan Community Resources, M.O.S.E.S., and Southwest Solutions.

"Ensuring that leaders who care about the community have the skills and resources they need to advance its growth is essential to the success of our city," Katy Locker, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit, said in a statement. "The organizations that will benefit from this program strive to foster neighborhood connections, expand opportunities for Detroiters, and increase civic engagementby making them stronger we can help advance these goals."

The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation is investing $100,000 in 28 community organizations in Brightmoor. These include Brightmoor Alliance, Brightmoor Artisans Collective, Brightmoor Maker Space, Brightmoor Redford Aldersgate, Children of the Rising Sun Empowerment Center, City Covenant Church, City YearDetroit, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance, Crystal Swann Child Care, Development Centers, Don Bosco Hall, Everybody Ready, Greening of Detroit, Kristy’s Early Childhood Development Centers, Leland Community Affairs, Michigan Community Resources, Neighbors Building Brightmoor, Sidewalk Detroit, St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Urban Links Village, Village of Shiny Stars, Voices for Earth Justice, and a cohort training for four block clubs.

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is administering and managing the grants.

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

Placemaking in the city: Kite festival, innovation center, sustainable living, and public art

A spate of exciting placemaking projects have been announced this month, each seeking to improve city life through placemaking and community-building practices and projects.

Each are the targets of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's placemaking initiative, Public Spaces Community Places. The projects are eligible for matching grants from the MEDC, should they reach their intended crowdfunding goals. The campaigns are being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform.

The inaugural Detroit Kite Festival is planned for Belle Isle on July 16, 2017 and organizers are hoping to raise $7,500 to help fund the event. Festivities include on-site kite-making classes, kite culture educational programming, and performances from professional kite flyers. Free transportation for 150 Detroit children will be provided and, beginning in April, several months of kite workshops and programming are planned throughout city neighborhoods.

The Detroit Kite Festival has until April 9 to reach its goal.

Detroit-based non-profit Life Remodeled is seeking to transform the neighborhood surrounding Central High School through a series of placemaking projects that include blight removal and home repair campaigns. Having signed the lease on the historic Durfee Elementary-Middle School building, Life Remodeled is raising $50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to help transform Durfee into the Community Innovation Center. The community center will offer a number of services, including business acceleration workshops, maker spaces, and recreation opportunities. Funds raised through the campaign will help with construction, among other costs.

Life Remodeled has until April 14 to reach its goal.

Over on the city's west side, a group of architecture students from the Netherlands has launched the Motown Movement, an exercise in sustainable and green living. The group is attempting to raise $50,000 to transform 1995 Ford St. into a multi-purpose property, including a community resource center, sustainable living demonstration space and training center, and a second-floor residential unit for a Detroit family that has lost its home to tax foreclosure. A community garden is also planned.

The Motown Movement has until April 18 to reach its goal.

In Grandmont Rosedale, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation is looking to raise $10,000 to help fund its beautification efforts along Grand River Avenue, the main commercial thoroughfare running through the area. The GRANDcorridor Beautification Project will use the money raised to paint three 3,000 st. ft. murals on the sides of local businesses as well as plant 31 new trees along the east side of the avenue.

The GRANDcorridor Beautification Project has until May 13 to reach its goal.

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

$550M committed to private equity fund for Detroit-based Huron Capital Partners

The Detroit-based Huron Capital Partners has closed its private equity fund $50 million over its target goal and three months after marketing efforts began. New York's Sixpoint Partners, which served as the exclusive global placement agent for The Huron Fund V L.P., closed the fund with $550 million in total limited partner capital commitments.

A combination of endowments, foundations, multi-manager funds, public pensions, corporate pensions, and family offices have committed to The Huron Fund V L.P.

"We deeply value the tremendous confidence and broad support that our new and existing investors have placed with our experienced investment team and remain focused on delivering strong returns to our LP base," says Brian Demkowicz, Managing Partner at Huron. "We look forward to deploying our buy-and-build strategy in partnership with seasoned executives to improve and grow our businesses through strategic initiatives, operational improvements and add-on acquisitions."

Huron acquires middle market companies and increases value through ExecFactor, its proprietary buy-and-build investment model. ExecFactor incorporates equity recapitalizations, market-entry strategies, family succession transactions, and other strategies to run its model.

With its $550 million fund, Huron will focus on companies in the lower middle market, aiming at between $20 million and $70 million per transaction.

Huron prioritizes the business services, consumer products and services, and specialty manufacturing sectors. Its portfolio includes such companies as Drake Automotive Group, XLerate Group, and the Dundee, Mich.-based Spring & Sprout, a dental support organization.

"With over $1 billion of demand for Fund V, we believe Huron's 16-year track record drove robust demand from investors for its disciplined investment process and proven strategy," says Eric Zoller, Partner at SixpointPartners.

Huron Capital Partners is located in the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit.

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

Northwest Detroit businesses win Motor City Match funding

On Tuesday, January 10th, fifteen Detroit businesses and organizations were awarded funding through the Motor City Match grant program. A special guest was on hand for the ceremonyVice President Joe Biden joined Mayor Mike Duggan for the big announcement of winners.

"Vice President Biden and the Obama administration have been tremendous friends and supporters of the city of Detroit, so it's great to have the Vice President in our city one more time to participate in this great event," said Duggan in a press release about the event. Every quarter, Motor City Match gives away $500,000 in grants and resources to business owners and organizations in Detroit.

Of the fifteen businesses awarded grants, at least two will be on the Livernois commercial corridor, also known as the "Avenue of Fashion." Narrow Way Cafe, a coffee shop, won $45,000 and will be located at 19331 Livernois Avenue. Loose Massage Therapy won $35,000, and will provide massage therapy services at 19485 Livernois. The Trust Book store, located at 16180 Meyers Rd, is stationed just outside of the Fitzgerald neighborhood, which is the locus of ongoing city-focused development.

All three businesses will bring much needed "third spaces" to the Livernois/McNichols corridors, which have a large number of strong, densely populated neighborhoods, but are bounded by commercial spaces that continue to struggle. Diverse businesses, such as those represented by the winners of the sixth round of Motor City Match's grants, will provide residents more opportunities to shop and spend locally.

Read more about the Motor City Match program's sixth round of funding here.

Students hope to raise funds to build 18-hole miniature golf course in North End

Public Spaces Community Places, the statewide placemaking initiative funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), has set its sights on seven vacant lots in the North End neighborhood of Detroit.

It's there, just north of the New Center area, that a neighborhood youth patrol group called 4Ward Phoenix is hoping build what would be the city's only 18-hole miniature golf course. The group is trying to raise $5,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. Should that group successfully reach its target sum by Jan. 16, MEDC and MSHDA will provide a $5,000 matching grant.

The crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform.

"This Mini-Golf is important to our 4Ward Phoenix youth," says group organizer Phillis Judkins. "Students are creating this putt-putt to implement their professional skills from their classes. Crowdfunding is a great display of the faith and support individuals have for their specific goals. The most powerful tool is to know that someone is interested in your success by donating towards your cause. Engagement for local families, businesses, and organizations is just one of the many thing this miniature golf will support. And for the students, having an entire community behind them, donating to their success is empowering and irreplaceable."

The money raised will complement the more than $275,000 that has already been secured for the project. Plans include the 18-hole miniature golf course, green space, fencing, solar-powered lighting, benches, landscaping, and off-street parking.

[For more on the North End, check out this Model D story on the neighborhood's bright future]

4Ward Phoenix is the youth group of the North End Neighborhood Patrol. The students have taken part in a number of lessons to ready themselves to run a small business, including marketing, banking, and neighborhood outreach. They hope to open the 4ward Phoenix Miniature Golf center by March 2017.

Click here to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

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

Using the literary arts to fight blight on Tuxedo Street

A sentimental drive by a childhood home is a common occurrence in the city, country, and everywhere betweeneven for Pulitzer Prize winners. Stephen Henderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Detroit Free Press columnist and host of both radio and television talk shows, has been checking in on his own childhood home since moving back to Detroit in 2007.

He says his family's former home on Tuxedo Street on the city's west side was well-kept back in 2007 but, as the years wore on, Henderson watched the house deteriorate. In 2012, a window was boarded up. Soon, all the windows would be boarded up. Eventually, the house was stripped.

Henderson is now leading a charge to transform the vacant house on Tuxedo Street from an eyesore into an asset. A purchase agreement to buy the house from the Detroit Land Bank is nearly complete.

Dubbed the Tuxedo Project, the house at 7124 Tuxedo St. will become a literary and community center, complete with an English professor-in-residence. The house will be rehabilitated and turned into a space for students and community members to share their stories and create new ones, using the literary arts to effect positive change. Plans for other abandoned homes on the 7100 block of Tuxedo Street will follow.

"It's the idea of the power of one," says Henderson. "What happens if one person returns to where they're from and tries to make changes, what will that inspire, and will there be a ripple effect of change."

Henderson has a big team behind him. The Knight Foundation and Marygrove College are working together to bring an English professor to Tuxedo Street. Members of Henderson's 1988 graduating class of University of Detroit Jesuit High School have rallied together to form a non-profit. And the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority have included the Tuxedo Project in its Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

Should the Tuxedo Project successfully raise $50,000 by November 28, MEDC and MSHDA will contribute a $50,000 matching grant. The crowdfunding campaign is being held on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform.

"None of this is any more than an idea in my head without these partnerships," says Henderson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planet Ant turns to crowdfunding to complete redevelopment of old Hamtramck banquet hall

Planet Ant Theatre is growing. Not just in the size of its audience, but physically. 

The theater that showcases Metro Detroit's longest running improv show has acquired a banquet hall kitty corner from its black box theater on Caniff Street, and is in the process of transforming it into Planet Ant Hall. While Planet Ant will continue to utilize its theatre for shows, the hall will allow Planet Ant to increase seating capacity for shows and also offer more improv comedy classes.

(Check out this Model D article on the local improv comedy scene)

Construction is already underway. The drop ceiling has been torn out but the air conditioning will remainan upgrade those familiar with Planet Ant might appreciate today. But a maxed out budget now has Planet Ant turning to the community to help finish the job. Planet Ant has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $55,000. An August 31 deadline has been extended by ten days to help Planet Ant reach its goal.

Michael Hovitch, managing director of Planet Ant, says the money raised will go toward things like sound and lighting equipment, seating, and a renovated floor. The goal is to complete construction by the end of October, the theater's 20th anniversary, and launch the new space with a popular show from Planet Ant's past.

"Planet Ant has been around for a long time and it's become a big part of the community," says Hovitch. "It's a small black box theater but we've been wanting to expand for a while. We've been having more and more success with our classes and want to grow, offer more opportunities for our performers."

It's an impressive list of actors, comedians, and musicians that have come through Planet Ant's doors. Two of the most famous include Jack White, who performed at the Planet Ant Coffee House open mic night, and Keegan-Michael Key, who was a founding member of Planet Ant Theatre and its comedy group.

Planet Ant Coffee House opened in 1993. It transitioned to being a theater three years later.

The Planet Ant Hall crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on Indiegogo.

Planet Ant Hall is located at 2320 Caniff St. in Hamtramck.

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

Christian organization seeks funds to complete renovations of community center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crowdfunding campaign seeks to transform vacant Brightmoor land

Local placemaking group Resurge Detroit has launched a crowdfunding campaign to transform vacant land in the Brightmoor neighborhood into a community center and grow house. Titled "Liberty Harvest," the campaign is part of the Public Spaces, Community Places program, a partnership between Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

If "Liberty Harvest" successfully raises $31,750 through a Patronicity crowdfunding campaign, MEDC and MSHDA will match that amount, providing a grant that will bring the total funds raised to $63,500. "Liberty House" has up until Sep. 18, 2016, to raise the funds.

The funds will go towards converting an old industrial shipping container into a hydroponic grow house. The 400 sq. ft. container will have solar power, a hydroponic water system, and an enclosed environment that allows for 365-days-a-year production.

Resurge Detroit has partnered with nearby Veterans Village for the project. Funds raised will also go toward an urban agriculture training program for veterans.

"The Liberty Harvest project puts vacant land to work in a way that helps address important issues in the community," MSHDA Executive Director Kevin Elsenheimer says in a statement. "Helping veterans transition back into life at home while providing local families and businesses with fresh, affordable, and locally grown produce is an innovative approach to engaging the local community."

Visit the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity to view the campaign's status.

Placemaking update: Another Detroit placemaking project, the reactivation of Dean Savage Memorial Park in Corktown, is nearing the conclusion of its own Public Spaces, Community Places campaign. Launched on June 23, 2016, the crowdfunding campaign has until Aug. 14, 2016 to raise $27,500 in order to receive a matching grant from MEDC and MSHDA. As of time of publication, Activating Dean Savage Memorial Park had raised $14,562 of its $27,500 goal.

View that campaign here.

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

Belle Isle beautification efforts focus on fundraising events for fountain, community programming

The popular fundraising event Detroit SOUP is coming to Belle Isle. The micro grant-awarding program, typically reserved for the city's neighborhoods, is making a one-time appearance on the island park. While the dinner doesn't take place until August 31, organizers are currently seeking grant proposals, which are due August 14.

A typical SOUP event will include a five dollar fee for a dinner that's open to the public. The five dollars pays for soup, salad, bread, and a vote in the micro-grant contest. Four proposals are heard and the dinner crowd votes on which proposal they feel best benefits the community where the dinner is being held. The winner of that vote receives the money collected at the beginning of the night. Many types of proposals are heard, from business plans to community events.

Organizers say that the Belle Isle SOUP will operate in the same fashionthe one caveat being that the proposal must take place on Belle Isle. In addition to the money raised, the Belle Isle Conservancy will offer staff support to help make the winning proposal happen.

Applicants can submit SOUP proposals online or at a physical drop-off location that includes the offices of the Belle Isle Conservancy, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, Live6 Detroit, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Eastside Community Network, SER Metro Detroit, and the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation.

In other Belle Isle news, the Conservancy is hosting a fundraising event to help restore the historic Pewabic tile mosaic at the basin of the James Scott Memorial Fountain. The Conservancy has currently raised nearly $75,000 of a $300,000 goal to restore the mosaic.

On Wednesday, August 17, the Sunset at the Scott fundraiser will include food from El Guapo Fresh Mexican Grill and Cool Jacks Handcrafted Ice Cream + Cookies, an open beer and wine bar, and music from local band ONEFREQ.

Advance tickets range from $50 to $250 and are available until August 1. After the first of the month, tickets will cost $65 at the door.

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

Stadt Garten, a pop-up beer garden, to debut in Midtown

A beer garden is popping up in Midtown this Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The inaugural Stadt GartenGerman for "City Garden," a nod to co-founder Mark R. Beard's German heritageis the first of several planned this summer. Proceeds from the event will benefit Hostel Detroit.

The setting for Stadt Garten is the yard a Gothic-Victorian mansion built in the 1880s. Beard was part of the team that redeveloped the property, which has three residential units, a clothing shop, and, now, a beer garden.

Why does Beard, who lives in one of the aforementioned residential units, wants to invite a couple hundred strangers to party in his yard?

"It's more important now than it has been in the recent past to come together as a community," he said via text message. "I don't really know of any better way to start knocking down some of the implicit biases that exist in peoples' minds than spending time with one another (in a positive way). Also, horseshoes!"

He added, "And, there's too much mulch in the yard and not enough people."

Vendors for Stadt Garten are mostly local. Corktown brewery Batch Brewing Company will be supplying four different types of beer, ranging from $5 to $7 each. Sfumato Fragrances will offer scented cocktails. Wine and food will also be on hand.

Will Leather Goods, the retailer located across the street, will be selling their own cold brew coffee blend, roasted by Tailored Coffee Roasters. Vice Cream, the vegan ice cream business that operates out of an Air Stream trailer, will bring their dairy-free treats to Stadt Garten, as well.

From 7 to 10 p.m., Ryan Spencer from local eletropop group Jamaican Queens will spin records. Detroit Clothing Circle, the retailer located in the house, will be open during the duration of the beer garden. Beer pong and staring contests, too, are planned.

Stadt Garten is located at 3980 Second Ave.

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

Group seeks to reactivate Corktown park

Public Spaces Community Places, a state-sponsored placemaking initiative operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), has set out to yet again raise funds for a Detroit-based project. The campaign's focus is Dean Savage Memorial Park, a small park on the south east end of Corktown.

Activating Dean Savage Memorial Park is an attempt "to improve the equitable usability of open spaces throughout Corktown," organizers say. The park, characterized as overlooked and underutilized by MSHDA executive director Kevin Elsenheimer, has the potential to receive $55,000 in improvements, if the fundraising proves to be successful. MEDC and MSHDA will provide a $27,500 matching grant if the Dean Savage group is able to raise that amount through a crowdfunding campaign.

"Corktown residents and visitors deserve a great public space to relax, play, and meet neighbors," executive director of the Corktown Economic Development Corporation Chad Rochkind said in a statement. "Enhancing Dean Savage Memorial Park as a green gathering space for all people is an essential step to improving the quality of life in Detroit's oldest neighborhood, and it signals our commitment to inclusive growth as Corktown develops."

According to the Patronicity crowdfunding campaign website, the $55,000 being raised to redevelop Dean Savage Memorial Park breaks down as follows: $10,000 for pedestrian improvements; $10,000 for a dog park; $10,000 for fencing; $10,000 for a basketball court; $7,000 for tables and benches; $5,000 for lighting; and $3,000 for refurbishing the shuffleboard courts. A biergarten is also planned.

Activating Dean Savage Memorial Park has until July 22, 2016 to raise $27,500. The project only receives the funds if it meets the $27,500 mark, which triggers the $27,500 matching grant. That campaign is being held via Patronicity, a Michigan-based crowdfunding platform.

Dean Savage Memorial Park is located on Trumbull Avenue and bounded by Porter and Abbott streets.

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Work continues on the restoration of the Detroit Yacht Club

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation (DYCF) is kicking off another year of major repairs to its clubhouse with its spring fundraiser, "Restoring the Grandeur: City Lights Gala." The nonprofit dedicated to the restoration of the country's largest yacht club clubhouse expects another full-capacity crowd for the event, which is open to the public and takes place May 20 at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle.

The gala is an opportunity for both club members and the general public to celebrate the preservation progress already made as well as what's in store for the historic clubhouse, says DYCF president Mark Lifter. Formed in 2011, the foundation has guided a lot of crucial restoration to the building, yet much remains. Lifter estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the exterior work has been completed. At 93,000 sq. ft., it's the biggest yacht club clubhouse in the country.

He calls the current phase of repairs "sealing the envelope" -- big tasks that must be completed before focus can shift to the building's interior. This summer, as in summers past, the foundation will be repairing the roof, stucco, masonry, and windows, protecting the treasures inside from the weather outside. Lifter says that the remaining roof leaks will be finished this summer. "If you don't fix things, they're going to get worse," he says.

It's a big building with a lot of history, making it a sizable undertaking for a relatively small non-profit. Opening in 1923, it was the fourth clubhouse for the Detroit Yacht Club, which was established in 1868. It was designed in a classic Mediterranean style by George Mason, the architect famous for a stable of postcard-worthy buildings that include Detroit's Masonic Temple and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Tickets for the fundraiser gala are available online and via phone. Live and silent auctions, a cash bar, and a strolling dinner are included in the ticket price, which ranges from $125 to $400 -- a significant portion of which is tax deductible. The DYCF also offers monthly tours of the facilities to members and non-members alike.

The Detroit Yacht Club is located at One Riverbank Rd. on Belle Isle. Call them at (313) 757-5240.

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Small business contest seeks applicants for $50,000 award

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

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

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

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

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

Visit HatchDetroit.com to enter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motor City Match seeks business and commercial property owners for third round of grants

Detroit entrepreneurs and commercial property owners are once again being encouraged to apply for the city's Motor City Match program. Applications are open for submission March 1-April 1. It's the third round of the program intended to stimulate Detroit's commercial corridors.

There are four major award categories for which business and property owners can apply for a share of $500,000 in grant funding. Each category is designed for business and property owners at different levels of building a business.

The first category is for business plans, which Motor City Match will help entrepreneurs develop. 

The second category seeks to match commercial property owners with business tenants. Buildings must be in good shape and entrepreneurs must have quality business plans or successful track records.

The third category will award architectural design assistance, construction documents, and priority permitting to business and building owners with recently signed leases.

The fourth and final category is for those with signed leases, quality business plans, and bids for building out the space, but who still have to bridge a financial gap. This category awards cash to such applicants.

Motor City Match was launched by Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation in 2015. Roderick Miller, CEO of the DEGC, says in a statement, "After two rounds of Motor City Match awardees, it's clear this program is making an impact in Detroit. From restaurants and retail establishments to service companies and even manufacturing, Motor City Match is growing neighborhood small businesses across the city."

According to officials, the Motor City Mach program has invested $1 million in 20 businesses to date, leveraging an additional $6 million in public and private investment. Motor City Match also points out that 70 percent of the 196 businesses and property owners that have received support are minority owned. Furthermore, two-thirds are from Detroit and half are minority woman-owned businesses.

Visit motorcitymatch.com for details on how to apply.

Disclosure: Model D receives support from Motor City Match to tell stories of small business development in the city's neighborhoods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Artists seek to transform Livernois with installation along Avenue of Fashion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiber Art Works is located at 19359 Livernois Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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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

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Placemaking projects continue popping up outside greater downtown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Over $500K in improvements planned for three Hamtramck parks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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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

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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

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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

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Nortown community fights to save historic farmhouse, receives demolition deferment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eastern Market: Newly renovated Shed 5 sets standard for regional food hubs

On Saturday, May 2, local dignitaries and Eastern Market Corporation officials gathered to celebrate the unveiling of Eastern Market Shed 5 in all its renovated glory. After Detroit mayor Mike Duggan and Sen. Debbie Stabenow took part in the pageantry of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, market-goers explored the renovated shed while Shed 5 vendors saw their patience rewarded.

Shed 5 stayed open and was host to its usual vendors during its three-year renovation. For all the dust and inconveniences vendors weathered during the various rounds of construction, the improvements made to Shed 5 should prove worth it.

The shed was built in 1981 and had seen few improvements since. Because of the recent renovations, Eastern Market Corporation believes that Shed 5 sets a new standard for regional food hubs.

"Shed 5 was functional before the renovations, but now we can really brag about the shed," says Caroline Glidewell-Hoos, marketing and communications manager for Eastern Market Corporation. "For one thing, it will increase attendance in the winter. A lot of people don't realize we're open year-round and now we have a heated indoor shed."

Shed 5 floors are now heated and its doors are reinforced and better suited for keeping the heat in during cold-weather months.

Adding to the Shed 5 experience is the DTE Energy Foundation Plaza. The newly-landscaped public outdoor space on the Russell Street side of the shed will feature special events and entertainment and likely food trucks and other vendors. Also new to Shed 5 is the Kid Rock Kitchen Commons, a large room dedicated for meeting space that can be rented for parties, exercise classes, and other uses. Green Collar Foods has installed a vertical indoor growing system.

One of the biggest additions to Shed 5 is the community kitchen. It's a fully licensed commercial-grade kitchen available to small food businesses and entrepreneurs. The facilities will allow Detroit Kitchen Connect, a group that connects local entrepreneurs with its network of kitchens, to increase capacity and accept more small businesses into its program. A number of Eastern Market vendors, including Chez Chloe and Five Star Cake Company, have come through the Detroit Kitchen Connect program.

Eastern Market Corporation funded the $8.5 million renovations by way of a number of contributors that include the city of Detroit, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the New Economy Initiative, DTE Energy Foundation, WK Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and Whole Foods Market.

Source: Caroline Glidewell-Hoos, marketing and communications manager for Eastern Market Corporation
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Baseball, buses, and the latest Detroit neighborhood improvement efforts

Two Detroit community groups have turned to crowdfunding to improve the neighborhoods that they represent. A Grandmont Rosedale park and an eastside bus stop are the targeted projects. In both cases, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has pledged to provide each successful crowdfunding campaign with a matching grant.

Launched May 5, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation hopes to raise $13,000 as it seeks to beautify Stoepel Park No. 1. It plans on doing so through the creation of seven murals of mosaic tilework in Stoepel Park No. 1. The park is home to a vibrant baseball Little League and each mosaic will cover one of the dugouts there.

Detroit artist Hubert Massey made one such mosaic in 2014, and now the GRDC plans on working with Massey to create seven more over the course of one weekend in July. More than 180 youth volunteers have committed to assisting Massey in installing the 1,400 sq. ft. worth of mosaic art.

The GRDC has until June 19 to raise the $13,000.

Also launched is a campaign to raise $10,000 to makeover an oft-used bus stop on the city's eastside. MEDC has agreed to provide a $10,000 matching grant to the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative (DECC) if they're able to reach their goal.

Organizers say the bus stop at Gratiot and Connor is used by thousands each year, despite it being nothing more than a plot of unkempt grass. DECC hopes to use the money to install a new walkway, bench, and trash receptacle. They also plan to plant low-maintenance landscaping elements including trees, flowering shrubs, buffalo juniper, and switchgrass.

The DECC has until June 5 to raise the $10,000.

Each project must raise all of their funding goals to receive the MEDC grants. The grants are part of the Public Spaces Community Places initiative, which has awarded similar grants to successful crowdfunding campaigns in the past that include a green alley and an arts district. A campaign to improve Hamtramck's Pope Park is also currently under way.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Hamtramck's 'Pope Park' subject of crowdfunding campaign

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has gotten involved in another of its crowdfunding-matching grants, this time in the city of Hamtramck. Karol Wojtyla Pope Park is the target, a pocket park on one of the city's main commercial drags, Joseph Campau Street. The park was built in 1982 to honor the then-pope. Karol Wojtyla served as pope under the name John Paul II from 1978 until his death in 2005.

Over $100,000 in improvements are planned for the park. Nearly half of that would come from this crowdfunding-matching grant hybrid. If the park can raise its goal of $25,000 via crowdfunding by June 1, the MEDC will contribute a $25,000 matching grant.

Organizers say that the park is underutilized and in need of repairs and upgrades to make it more accessible and valuable to the community. Among the upgrades, they hope to enhance lighting, improve the grounds, add seating and landscaping, and repair the mural. In addition to being a more utilized everyday park, organizers say that the upgrades will also encourage formal activities like Polish Mass and adorations.

One way organizers hope to make the park more accessible is by removing the tall fence which separates the park from the sidewalk.

Kathy Angerer, director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Hamtramck, says, "Pope Park is a destination for people not only in the region, but from all over the world and is of historical importance to Hamtramck. The whole city is excited about the project to restore, enhance, maintain, and beautify Pope Park."

This is another in a series of crowdfunding-matching grants for the MEDC, which has previously helped fund a green alley in Midtown and an arts district in the Grand River Creative Corridor. The crowdfunding campaign is an all-or-nothing campaign, meaning that if the Pope Park project does not reach $25,000 by June 1, it won't receive any of the money and whatever money was pledged to the park will be refunded.

Karol Wojtyla Pope Park is located at 10037 Joseph Campau.

View the crowdfunding campaign here.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Venture capital competition will offer $120k in prizes to local minority-owned businesses

An event designed to connect minority-owned businesses with venture capital will make its Detroit debut next week. Occurring April 13-15, PowerMoves@Detroit will offer $120,000 in direct prizes in addition to exposure and networking opportunities. Local business owners will compete with entrepreneurs from across the country in a series of venture capital-style pitch events. Attendance to events at the Detroit Athletic Club, Garden Theater, and One Detroit are open to the public through an online registration system.

PowerMoves began in New Orleans, where it was founded by current Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) CEO Rodrick Miller. The event is sponsored by Morgan Stanley and is hosted by the DEGC and Invest Detroit.

Events include training sessions, a panel discussion focused on startups and exit strategies, two back-to-back pitch events with cash prizes, and a final pitch event featuring 15 early-stage entrepreneurs, also with cash prizes.

"With all the enthusiasm for entrepreneurs in Detroit and our city’s great legacy for providing opportunities for African Americans, this seemed like the perfect time and place for PowerMoves@Detroit," Miller says in a statement. "This event fills an important niche in the broad spectrum of activities that DEGC undertakes to support small business in Detroit."

The event will feature a number of minority-owned businesses from the Detroit region as well as New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Mayor Mike Duggan believes that not only will it provide Detroiters a pathway to venture capital, it will also expose minority-owned businesses from other parts of the country to opportunities available in the city of Detroit.

Local representatives include Jerry Rucker and Edward Carrington of Warranty Ninja, Terreance Reeves of Networkingout, and Dana White of Paralee Boyd Salon.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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$20 million in upgrades to Chandler Park will include new tennis, soccer, and football facilities

In news that's sure to make other Detroit park booster groups awfully jealous, the Chandler Park Conservancy is announcing millions of dollars in private and public investment for its namesake park. A first round of upgrades in what's promised to be many includes a new turf football and soccer field, improved tennis courts, a refurbished comfort station, and new grass soccer fields. A total of $2.5 million in improvements make up this first round of what's reported to be a total of $20 million in upgrades.

According to the Chandler Park Conservancy, the turf football and soccer field and tennis courts will debut by late spring. LAND, Inc. is overseeing the construction. The City of Detroit General Services Department is renovating the historic Comfort Station, which should also be completed by spring of this year. Chandler Park Conservancy expects the new grass soccer fields to be completed by spring of 2016. Mayor Mike Duggan has committed $250,000 for seeding the grass fields.

The Detroit Police Athletic League is charged with programming the fields in conjunction with some of their own football and soccer teams as well as the U.S. Tennis Association.

Included among the contributing groups are UAW Chrysler, the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, NFL/LISC Fund, USA Soccer Foundation, LAND, Inc., Wayne County, and the City of Detroit. Phillip Pierce is Board Chair of the Conservancy and says that all the money and work being invested in the park is for the sake of the city's children.

Chandler Park itself is a 200-acre park on the city's east side, located off of I-94 at Conner Street. The nearly 100-year-old park is also home to the Wayne County Family Aquatic Center and the Chandler Park Golf Course.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Community, city officials, and local celebs rally around re-opening of Lipke Rec Center

The Lipke Recreation Center in northeast Detroit has been closed for more than a year, and Lipke Park, though not in shambles, could use some work. A true public-private partnership, as Mayor Mike Duggan called it, has assembled $10 million to seriously upgrade the facilities and park, which will re-open as the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center. City officials, community leaders, and local celebrities gathered Tuesday, Jan. 27, on Detroit's northeast side to announce the re-opening of the recreation center. Renovations will begin soon.

Author and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom is largely responsible for the re-opening. His S.A.Y. Detroit foundation is the driving force, promising after-school programming for children eight to 18 years old. Kids with GPAs of 2.5 and above and good school attendance records will have access to six basketball courts, a new soccer and lacrosse field, a renovated baseball field with a new scoreboard and stands, a workout facility with machines and equipment, a dance studio, and a recording studio complete with instruments and teachers. The recording studio is provided by Note for Note.

Plans for Lipke call for the covering of its swimming pool and the construction of a digital learning lab staffed by teachers and tutors. Children who don't meet the GPA and attendance requirements will have access to the learning lab, where they will be mentored. Albom says that for every hour they spend in the lab, they'll earn an hour of use in the rest of the facilities.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was also on hand. He and his Score 7 foundation have pledged $1 million for a new football field and training facilities. An on-field practice bubble will be provided in the winter so children can play football in the cold weather.

Albom says that earning access to the multi-million dollar athletics facility will act as an incentive to neighborhood kids who need to raise their grades, calling it a carrot in front of the horse. "I'm happy to be that carrot," says Stafford.

Both Stafford and Albom stressed a ten-year commitment to the center with hopes of extending the programming long after that. Stafford says he'll make regular trips to the football field over that time and bring some of his Lions teammates, garnering loud applause from the community members gathered to hear the announcement.

Sources: Mayor Mike Duggan, Mitch Albom, and Matthew Stafford
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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MEDC pledges aid for N'Namdi-led arts district

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched another matching grant program for a successful crowdfunding campaign, this time by influential Detroit art dealer and developer George N'Namdi. If N'Namdi can raise $30,000 in 30 days, the MEDC will award N'Namdi another $30,000.

George N'Namdi is the owner of N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown. His goal is to establish a new arts district around the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard. The crowdfunding campaign will help finance Quarter Pop on Grand River, an arts incubator and gallery and retail district that will rotate entrepreneurs in and out of renovated storefronts in three month increments. The 4200 block of Grand River Ave. is the focus of the project.

"The vision for the Quarter Pop is to create and activate a space where Detroit creatives can gain success for their businesses while strengthening the neighborhoods around them," says N'Namdi. "Quarter Pop will be a huge catalyst for creative cultural change in the Grand River Creative Corridor, Detroit, and beyond."

Quarter Pop occupants will receive marketing, accounting, and legal advice along with entrepreneurial mentorship. An emphasis will be put on creative retailers. Money raised will be put toward construction and business service costs.

This is not the first time the MEDC has pledged matching grant money toward crowdfunding campaigns. In November 2014, a campaign was announced to fund the construction of a skate park at the old Wigle Recreation Center. That campaign was soon aborted as it was discovered that the city of Detroit seeks to sell the property. In August 2014, the MEDC pledged matching grant money toward a new green alley in Midtown, which began construction in September of that year.

N'Namdi has until Feb. 13 to raise the $30,000. As of this reporting, the project has already received over $17,000 in pledges from just 6 donors. The campaign is being hosted by crowdfunding site Patronicity.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Downtown Synagogue to begin renovations with grant money

William Davidson was as successful a businessman as he was a professional sports team owner. Davidson's Detroit Pistons won three NBA championships (earning him a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame), his Detroit Shock won three WNBA championships, and his Tampa Bay Lightning won one NHL championship. But in addition to being a team owner and businessmam, Davidson was also a philanthropist.

Though Davidson passed away in 2009, the William Davidson Foundation carries on in its mission to improve southeastern Michigan and support Jewish life in that region. That foundation has just awarded a $350,000 grant to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in downtown Detroit. Another $100,000 is on the table as a challenge grant. For every dollar the Synagogue can raise in 2015, the foundation will pledge two more dollars, up to $100,000.

The Synagogue was founded in Detroit in 1921 and has been at its current location at 1457 Griswold St. since the early 1960s. It is notable for being the only Synagogue in the city of Detroit.

According to the Downtown Synagogue, the funds will be used for building renovations, to support and improve programming, and to help in fundraising. Deeper relations among the board, staff, volunteers, and community will also be a focus.

"We are thrilled to receive the generous award from the Davidson Foundation," says Leor Barak, board president. "There's never been a more exciting time to get involved in crafting the future of Jewish Detroit."

That future is one filled with growth, assures the Synagogue. According to a release, over 1,000 first-time visitors have come to the Synagogue in the last three years. The Synagogue credits an energetic board of directors and talented director as key factors in their recent successes. The board is also planning to hire a new executive director soon.

Source: Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, LISC among latest group to give millions of dollars to M-1 Rail

M-1 Rail has fit a big piece into its funding puzzle. The 3.3-mile-long streetcar line has agreed to a second round of funding though the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. In addition to NMTCs received earlier in 2014, the recent agreement on a second phase of tax credit funding brings M-1 a grand total of $40 million. This is the first time a transit project has received NMTC funding since that program's creation in 2000.

NMTCs were designed to spur development, economic growth, and investment in low-income urban neighborhoods by offering tax credits to organizations contributing to qualifying projects. NMTC investors receive a tax credit equal to 39 percent of their total qualified investment. That tax credit is spread out over seven years; the first three years of the credit returns at five percent and the last four returns at six percent.

JPMorgan Chase, Invest Detroit, The Great Lakes Capital Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and United Fund Advisors contributed to the NMTC fund. Major contributions include $18.4 million from Invest Detroit and $14 million from JPMorgan Chase.

Tahirih Ziegler, executive director of Detroit LISC, says her organization is investing in M-1 Rail for various reasons. "All of the catalytic affordable housing and other development that will result as part of the project is really important to our 'Building Sustainable Communities' activities in the Grand Woodward neighborhood," she says. "We think this project ties into other opportunities for small businesses to come in and create new jobs available to local residents."

The approximately $40 million in funding through NMTCs covers just a portion of the M-1 Rail construction costs. M-1 Rail projects that it will cost $140 million to acquire the streetcars and build the streetcar line and vehicle maintenance facility. The rest of the money has been obtained from a combination of private and public entities, including a recent $12.2 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in September 2014.

Source: M-1 Rail press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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PJ's Lager House to raise money for future Detroit music store

Corktown bar, restaurant, and music venue PJ's Lager House is hosting a two-night fundraiser for Third Wave Music, a musical instrument and supply store scheduled to open in August 2015 in Midtown's Forest Arms apartment building, which is currently being rehabbed. The event takes place Friday, Jan. 2, and Saturday, Jan. 3 at PJ's in Corktown.

Though they didn't win the ultimate $50,000 prize as a finalist in the 2014 Hatch Detroit contest, Third Wave Music has experienced a significant boost from the community. A recent crowdfunding campaign, fundraising concerts, and art auction raised a reported $10,000 for the music store. That money is being used to purchase inventory.

The weekend-long benefit was actually the idea of Lager House owner Paul "PJ" Ryder, who approached Third Wave about hosting another fundraiser. All of the money collected at the door and 50 percent of bar sales will be given to Third Wave.

Detroit is a city internationally renowned for its contributions to popular music. Yet for all of the musicians living and working in Detroit, be they students, amateurs, hobbyists, or professionals, there are few -- if any -- places to buy even the simplest of supplies, from reeds to guitar picks, strings to drum sticks.

"The outpouring of love and support reminds me of how much musicians and the people who love music really have each others back," says co-owner Jen David. "How we really want to help each other succeed, but also how bad we need a music store that is focused on the community."

In addition to supplies, the store will sell used gear, Detroit-made products and instruments, and will offer instrument repair services. As it stands today, Detroit musicians have to rely on suburban stores for the majority of such products. Music lessons are also planned.

A Benefit for Third Wave Music occurs Friday, Jan. 2, and Saturday, Jan. 3, at PJ's Lager House at 1254 Michigan Ave. Music begins at 9 p.m. on both nights. Friday includes sets from Six and the Sevens, Coyote Cleanup, Alison Lewis, 3FT, and DJ Nothing Elegant. Saturday features performances from Robbie Dwight, Kaylan Waterman, Rollin'N'Tumblin, Duende!, and Stone Clover. There is a $10 suggested donation.

Source: Jen David, co-owner of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Skate park campaign suspended as city puts target property up for sale

UPDATE: Curbed Detroit is reporting that Community Push has suspended its crowdfunding campaign because the city of Detroit is selling the property where the organization planned to build a skatepark. Here is Community Push's statement from its Patronicity page:

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, Wigle Recreation Center is being sold by the city. Community Push and the MEDC is looking for alternative spaces within the city for our future skate park."


A group of Detroit skate boarders is receiving a major push from the state of Michigan.

Community organizers and skate boarders Community Push began building a skate park at the old Wigle Recreation Center earlier this year. Not only has the city of Detroit's recreation department given the group its blessing, the state of Michigan, through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has gotten in on the fun. The state's marketing arm has agreed to contribute $20,000 toward major improvements to the skate park if Community Push can reach their own $20,000 through crowdfunding. Community Push has raised $4,055 at the time of publication.

Community Push officially adopted the park from the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department earlier this summer. The park is part of the larger Wigle Recreation Center, a five-acre site in Midtown located at the southeastern corner of the John C. Lodge Freeway service drive and Selden Street. It has been vacant since 2005. Another community organization, the Wigle Recreational Baseball Field, has been caring for the baseball field since 2012.

This summer, after the demolition of a previous DIY skate park at the Brewster-Douglas Housing Projects, Community Push began working on the park at Wigle. The first phase of construction was completed in September and opened for public use. With the crowdfunding and matching grant, the group will finish phase two which includes new obstacles, beautification projects, public seating, and youth programming.

"This project has been a dream to work on," says Community Push’s Derrick Dykas. "I feel very fortunate to be able to take the tools I’ve acquired as a skateboarder, tradesman, and organizer and use them to give back. What's been accomplished so far has sparked a fire in the community that'll burn for years to come, and it's exciting to see what comes next."

Community Push has until Dec. 13 to raise $20,000 and receive the matching MEDC grant.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Brightmoor residents to open food co-op and community kitchen

Despite the many urban farmers, gardeners, bakers, and makers living in Brightmoor, the northwest Detroit neighborhood lacks a community kitchen. State law requires that many food products be produced in commercial kitchens, thus prohibiting many would-be food entrepreneurs in Brightmoor from selling home-made products at market.

To address this, a group of Brightmoor residents has organized to open a commercial kitchen in their neighborhood, one that will pump up that area's food economy through a co-operative model. It's called the Brightmoor Artisan's Cooperative and Community Kitchen, and if all goes right, they'll have opened their doors by April 2015.

After a number of conversations, members of the community identified the need for access to a commercial kitchen and decided earlier this year to purchase a building. After a successful a crowdfunding campaign, the group purchased the building at 22739 Fenkell Street, a 7,000 sq. ft. building split into three storefronts, at a price of $18,000 in the recent Wayne County foreclosure auction.

The group says that the building's previous owner -- a man who owns the liquor store next door -- is contesting the auction, though the co-op is confident enough in the sale to move ahead with their plans.

"Brightmoor has seen some tough times, but things have been improving in the past half decade," says Nicky Marcot, chairperson of Brightmoor Artisan's Cooperative and Community Kitchen. "The kitchen might bring businesses back to the Fenkell corridor and help create a vibrant and stable commercial district. This could be a catalyst."

In addition to the commercial kitchen facilities, the group plans on utilizing storefront space for a cafe or restaurant and a store where local food makers can sell their products. Classes for adults and children are also planned.

Source: Nicky Marcot, chairperson of Brightmoor Artisan's Cooperative and Community Kitchen
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Brightmoor's Wellspring youth development center to triple in size after securing $400K in funding

The Kumon math and English academic programming offered by Wellspring is so popular that it serves 100 to 125 students a year with another 100 on a waiting list. Now, with the help of a number of organizations, Wellspring has raised the $400,000 necessary to expand their building and begin construction of an addition to the back of the structure. Once complete, the neighborhood center will have the capacity to serve 300 children a year.

The Wellspring Center is located in an old house at 16742 Lamphere in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood. In addition to faith-based youth development programming, the center offers Kumon courses, an after school tutoring program. Kumon is a Japanese-based corporation with many franchises throughout the United States.

While the for-profit Kumon franchises are typically in middle- to upper-class neighborhoods, Wellspring runs its program as a nonprofit -- one of only a few in the United States to do so. Through grants and fundraising efforts, Wellspring is able to subsidize tuition for students coming from low-income backgrounds. Roughly 50 percent of students are from the Brightmoor neighborhood, according to the nonprofit.

Dan Bandrowski founded Wellspring with his wife Cherie in 1986. They moved operations to 16742 Lamphere in 1988, and by 1992 they were incorporated as a nonprofit. As demand for their academic services began to outpace their capacity, the Wellspring board weighed its options. Board members were determined to keep the center in Brightmoor, and they eventually decided to build onto the house rather than search for a new facility. After a recent company directive from Kumon saying that franchises had to operate out of traditional business-like facilities, the Bandrowskis appealed to the president of the corporation, seeking and receiving permission to remain on Lamphere Street.

"We kept the house because we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to place," says Dan Bandrowski. "We're a place-oriented organization and the neighborhood looks at us as a community institution. We also liked the idea that we're in the neighborhood, in a residential area, in a home-like setting for the kids."

Construction of the expansion should be complete in three to four months, says Dan, and will result in a facility that is three times its previous size, increasing from 1,834 sq. ft. to 5,719 sq. ft. Detroit architecture firm Hamilton Anderson Associates designed the addition. A Wellspring-led capital campaign raised $70,000 for the project while IFF made a community investment loan of $60,000. The nonprofit received grants of $150,000, $100,000, and $20,000 from the Carls, Kresge, and Skillman foundations respectively.

Source: Dan Bandrowski, co-founder of Wellspring
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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$5 million available to urban innovators across 26 cities, including Detroit

Big thinkers, dreamers, and just about anyone else with an idea on how to make cities better are invited to apply for part of $5 million offered by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Dubbed the Knight Cities Challenge, the foundation is granting money to innovators in 26 cities throughout the United States, including Detroit. Applications open Oct. 1 and will be accepted until Nov. 14.

The money is available to an array of urban innovators and doers -- from entrepreneurs to artists, students to educators -- as long as the idea deals with one or all of the key drivers of city success as defined by the foundation.

Ideas must address the issues of talent, opportunity, and/or engagement. According to the foundation, successful ideas will address how Detroit can attract and keep the best and brightest population, how the city can boost economic activity for everyone, and how to better connect and involve citizens in their collective future.

"We are looking for ideas from innovators who will take hold of the future of our cities," says Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives, in a statement. "To succeed cities need talented people who can contribute to their growth, new opportunities that are open to all, and ways to engage people to spur connections and civic action."

A community Q&A will be held in each of the foundation's 26 Knight cities, including Detroit, that will help applicants prepare a successful submission. That date is yet to be announced. A virtual information session will be held online from 3 to 4 p.m. EST on Oct. 1.  

Source: Knight Cities Challenge press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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First round of Hatch voting ends Thursday as 10 startups vie for $50K prize

The popular Hatch Detroit contest has entered its fourth year and the ten start-ups announced as semi-finalists are doing all that they can to garner votes. The eventual winner of the small business competition will receive a $50,000 grant and a suite of business support services.

Voting for the semi-finalist round is open to the public and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on August 14. Voters may select four businesses during the first round and may vote once a day. Voting for the second round will begin August 15, when the field of competitors is narrowed to four businesses. The eventual winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced August 20.

While there is only one winner, just making it into the top ten is a great source of exposure and motivation for businesses.

"Hatch has given us a faster pace to run to," says Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music. "I've been meeting new people and talking to many musicians and students excited for a new spot to get what they need and have support. It's been really encouraging to hear positive feedback. It's really motivating."

The semi-finalists are:Source: Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Summer development news round-up

It's been a busy season for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories that have made  headlines this summer.

The longer it takes for construction to begin, the less likely it seems that a development project will ever be built. With that in mind, Detroit light rail advocates are closer to breathing easy as the M-1 Rail project has announced a July 28 start date for construction. Work begins downtown before it makes the slow climb northward on Woodward Avenue to New Center.

Nearly a year to the day after the grand opening of the city's first Meijer store, officials broke ground on a second Detroit location of the popular grocery superstore chain. The second Meijer is being built on the site of the former Redford High School at Grand River Avenue and McNichols Road on the city's northwest side. The new store will hire up to 500 people, reports say.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. is leading a crowdfunding campaign as it seeks money for a new Green Alley. The alley slated for development “is bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley and Alexandrine.” The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the campaign's $50,000 goal if it is met by July 25.

Curbed argues that the first thing the new owners of Corktown's CPA Building should do is board up and secure the building. The old building at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street has been devastated by vandals -- among others -- over the years while much of the rest of Corktown continues to experience redevelopment.

Plans to redevelop the old Detroit Fire Department headquarters into a downtown boutique hotel are still under way, assures the development team. Though the developers announced a late 2015 opening, it's still unknown when construction will begin.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop opens in time for summer

The grand re-opening of Mt. Elliott Park has brought more than a new water park and pavilion to Detroit's riverfront. Entrepreneurs Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer and Chief Fun Officer Abby have opened the Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop in the River Park Lofts building at Mt. Elliott and Wight streets.

Having opened in the first weeks of June, the Fun Shop is already quite a presence on the block that faces the park. Roy has some of his homemade corn hole boards in front of the shop, ready for passersby. They rest on a sidewalk covered in colorful chalk drawings. He says that he likes to take one of those big-hoop bubble makers and teach the nearby kids how to use it.

Roy and Dwyer come from the art and advertising worlds. Though still involved in those industries, they decided a storefront across from the new Mt. Elliott Park would be an ideal location for a shop that specializes in, well, fun. Much of the shop is geared toward kids of all ages -- which the new Mt. Elliott Park has no problem attracting -- with bubble makers, kites, and frisbees for sale. There are a few refreshments, too.

"It's a lot of fun. It's fun when we sell bubbles or those snap poppers and you hear them used outside. Or we'll sell a couple of kites and you watch them out there flying the kites, laughing and running around," says Roy. "It's great."

Another important component of the shop is local art. It's made by friends of Roy and Dwyer who create everything from iconic concert posters to porcelain wares, Detroit-themed t-shirts to jewelry. The pair saw the shop as an opportunity to provide artists a place to sell their work, something that's not always so easy or affordable.

The store is currently involved in a micro loan campaign.

Source: Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer, co-owners of Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Hubbard Farms artist residency program hopes to grow

An artist residency program and art gallery, Third Story, is bolstering its mission through a crowdfunding campaign. Third Story is located on Detroit's southwest side in the Hubbard Farms neighborhood.

Third Story was started by artists and married couple Lauren and Ryan Harroun in the third story of their home. The couple has built an art gallery there and has already hosted a handful of artists.

The aim of Third Story is to introduce new artists to Detroit. The residency program only accepts those who have little to no experience in the city. With so many outside artists having heavy interest in Detroit, the Harrouns are looking to provide a place for artists to stay and work. They're excited, too, to introduce the artists to the neighborhood.

"It's a wonderfully diverse, lively, and passionate neighborhood," says Lauren. "We're excited to bring something like this to Hubbard Farms, to provide a place to stay in a really nice neighborhood."

As they look to further establish their artist residency program, the Harrouns are hosting a fundraiser and party at their home on Thursday, June 5. The party is open to the public and art raffles, music, pizza, and a bonfire are planned.

The couple is currently running a crowdfunding campaign. The money raised will allow them to join a number of national registries, granting them access to new resources, including fundraising opportunities. The Harrouns hope to register their artist residency program with Fractured Atlas, ResArtis, and Alliance of Artists Communities.

The Harrouns encourage artists to stay for a minimum of one month. Artists looking to apply can do so through the Third Story website.

Third Story is located at 1130 Vinewood.

Source: Lauren Harroun, co-founder of Third Story
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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City's first dog park opens in Corktown

On Thursday, May 1, another pop-up turned permanent in the city, though this pop-up, the Detroit Dog Park, has nothing to sell. The roughly 3/4 acre site is located on the former Macomb Playlot, an abandoned playground at 17th and Rose adjacent to Roosevelt Park. Michigan Central Station looms largely nearby.

Pop-up success stories have become commonplace in Detroit. They've proven efficient and effective in introducing businesses to the public without all of the initial costs that can eat up startup funding. They also serve as a means for community building, as was the case with Detroit Dog Park.

The nonprofit group first organized in the summer of 2011. By 2012, it became part of a larger group that was holding a pop-up dog park every third Saturday on Navin Field (the site of old Tiger Stadium). This month's meet-up will take place on the second Saturday instead, coinciding with the new park's official grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 10.

Detroit Dog Park came to occupy the property by way of the city's Adopt-a-Park program. Volunteers mowed the grass and cleared out brush and debris from the neglected park. PetSmart, the national pet supplies store, helped the group establish the site. The company sent a mobile dog park kit -- a shipping container with the basic components required for setting up a dog park, including the perimeter fence.

Succeeding in establishing the city's only permanent dog park, the group now shifts its focus to maintaining it. Instituting additional dog parks in other parts of the city is also a goal.

"The idea is that we'll build one, learn from it, and turn around and try to make it happen again," says Megha Satyanarayana, a board member of Detroit Dog Park.

Detroit Dog Park is free and open to the public.

Source: Megha Satyanarayana, board member of Detroit Dog Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Community group purchases historic Ford Highland Park Plant building with intent to redevelop

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has purchased the Administration Building and Executive Garage at the historic Ford Highland Park Plant. The economic and community development organization raised over half a million dollars to acquire the property. WA3 purchased the buildings with three acres along Woodward for $550,000.

A second round of fundraising begins as the organization has determined that the buildings require $7.5 million in renovations. Debbie Schutt, executive director of WA3, says that fundraising should be much easier with the property now in their possession.

WA3 plans on building an Automotive Heritage Welcome Center at the site. The center will serve as a gateway to the grounds of the Highland Park complex, similar in spirit to a national park welcome center. The center will provide information about local tours and house interpretive displays and a theater. Rather than focusing solely on the history of the Ford Motor Company, the center will instead focus on the culture of creativity and innovation fostered by the local automotive industry.

"So much more has come out of the industry than cars. We need to tell our own story to ourselves and then tell it to others," says Schutt. "There's a reason Detroit has a patent office."

In addition to the historical and informative plans for the site, WA3 is going to use the site for training purposes. They have partnered with Wayne County's Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) to build a high tech learning lab for the modern assembly line. The building used to house one of Henry Ford's original trade schools, says Schutt, making it an appropriate place for a modern training facility.

The lab will be designed to serve both the citizens of Highland Park and the region as a whole.

Source: Debbie Schutt, executive director of Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Transit awards nominations now open to public

The greater Detroit transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United is taking nominations for its third annual Regional Transit Awards. Nominations are open through Feb. 28. An awards committee has been formed to pick four nominees for each of the six categories. An awards dinner is planned for May 8. Tickets are $75 and open to the public. The event doubles as a fundraiser for TRU in support of its advocacy efforts throughout the year.

Award categories include:
  • Transit Employee of the Year
  • Corporate Transit Champion Award
  • Exemplary Innovation Award
  • Under 30 Breakthrough Transit Champion
  • Unsung Hero Award
  • Forward Motion Award for Most Effective Public Service
TRU hopes that opening nominations up to the public will involve more of the region and draw attention to the people working to improve public transportation in metropolitan Detroit. The ceremony itself is an opportunity for bus drivers and politicians to spend an evening together and celebrate the work being accomplished in the region.

"There's a lot going on in transit," says TRU executive director Megan Owens. "There aren't many big and dramatic things happening yet but there have been a lot of the essential steps to develop the type of transit system that we want."

Though some projects aren't happening as quickly as some may like, Owens notes that a number of transit-oriented developments are occurring. These include the formation of the Regional Transit Authority citizens committee, the M-1 Rail utility work, and a new Detroit mayor and Detroit Department of Transportation director. A SMART bus millage will be on the ballot later this summer.

Previous winners of Regional Transit Awards include DDOT bus driver Michael Childs (Transit Employee of the Year), Quicken Loans & M-1 Rail (Corporate Transit Champion Award), and Freshwater Transit co-creator Neil Greenberg (Transit Activist of the Year).

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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NEI nears second round of grant giving

The New Economy Initiative is about to reach its fundraising goal, having raised $33 of $40 million in funding from local, regional, and national foundations. NEI is entering a three year-long period of grant-giving and support for the region's entrepreneurs. The group is planning a new-look NEI, one that will build on and improve the already successful first round of grant programs that began in 2008.

One planned change is a new focus on pre-existing businesses throughout southeastern Michigan. With so much attention being focused on the region's startup scene, NEI is crafting a contest to reward existing businesses that have the potential to grow. Still in the planning stages, the group hopes to have the contest ready for March.

Still, startups remain at the center of NEI's economy-stimulating strategy. The group's territory includes all of southeastern Michigan with a focus on Detroit. NEI executive director Dave Egner says that one of the reasons for this focus is that, as far as he can tell, there are more organizations servicing Detroit entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world. That network of organizations allows NEI to more effectively distribute grants to promising entrepreneurs.

Grants are available to entrepreneurs of every stripe, says Egner. "Our focus is industry-agnostic. When we tried to pick sectors, we didn't get the outputs. We've been industry-agnostic since 2009."

NEI is hoping that the modifications planned for its second round of funding will improve on their already impressive numbers.

The New Economy Initiative launched in 2008 and has since awarded $76 million in grants to local entrepreneurs. The program has helped start over 675 new companies and created over 8,000 new jobs in southeastern Michigan. NEI has also helped support BizGrid, an infographic that breaks down Detroit resources for small businesses.

Source: Dave Egner, executive director of New Economy Initiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New Corktown gym opens with charity drive

A new gym is opening in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. The personal fitness club Detroit Tough is celebrating its opening with a benefit for the homeless and under-clothed. Detroit Tough is opening with the help of an Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy grant.

Roger Dyjak is one of the people behind Detroit Tough. He's also responsible for Train like a Savage, a personal training method that uses the pressure of working out within a group to elevate individual performance. This style of personal fitness champions mental toughness as much as it does physical toughness.

Detroit Tough is not a gym in the traditional sense -- there won't be any treadmills or stationary bikes. Instead, it features physical tests like intense obstacle courses to improve fitness. The private club offers tiered training to better fit need and ability.

The gym is celebrating its opening with a charity drive on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers are asking for a $20 donation and clothing or canned food. All money raised will be given to New Life Rescue Mission and Empowerment Plan. Clothing will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Music is scheduled throughout the course of the event, including sets from Band B, Velveteen Rabbit, and Volcano and the New Radio Standard. Fellow Corktowners McShane's Pub will be there roasting a pig. University of Detroit Mercy dental students will be providing free dental screenings to the homeless.

Detroit Tough is the recipient of an OTSC grant. The money was secured by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin to redevelop the area of the old Tiger Stadium site. A total of $800,000 was reserved for businesses in the Corktown neighborhood.

Detroit Tough is located at 1244 Beech.

Source: Detroit Tough press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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How pedicabs can fill gaps in public transportation

A new pedicab company is getting ready to launch in Detroit. Pedicabs, or rickshaws, are bicycle-powered taxis. Gabby Bryant is currently prepping her pedicab company, Reddicabs, for a summer launch.

The company is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign that ends Jan. 20. Venture for America helped Reddicabs launch the campaign. In a contest with other Venture for America Fellows, Reddicabs stands to win an additional $10,000 if they raise the most money. Gabby says $10,000 is enough to buy three pedicabs and provide drivers the training necessary for operating the taxi service.

Reddicabs plans to separate itself from the city's other pedicab companies by being more visible in the community and offering more continuous and predictable services. Gabby is working to establish a series of hubs outside hotels, restaurants, and bars to build a more reliable system of pedicabs. In doing so, she says that pedicabs will fill in the gaps that buses and standard taxis can't--or won't.

The idea of Reddicabs originally began as a service that would deliver people from parking lots to events, such as a Tigers game or a concert at the Music Hall. But the more Gabby thought on the state of public transportation in Detroit, the more the service grew.

"Detroit is so interesting because we don't use different types of transportation," she says. "We're just now becoming more of a bike city. Public transportation is kind of foreign to a lot of people and those that do use it aren't the biggest fans of it. We have to gauge the different options for public transportation."

Gabby is partnering with Thrive Detroit to train individuals to be able to rent and run the taxis. She also credits the people at Green Garage in helping craft a strategy for the system of pedicabs.

Source: Gabby Bryant, owner of Reddicabs
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Dine Drink Detroit celebrates Detroit's culinary culture while benefiting the Riverfront

Starting this Thursday, Oct. 10, a brand-new Detroit dining event launches and you don't need to make any reservations, any kind of special time commitment, or even adhere to any kind of special dress code. Detroit, it's time to start dining and drinking.
Dine Drink Detroit runs Oct. 10-16 and highlights some of Detroit's most unique casual dining restaurants. All of the 13 participating restaurants will offer some sort of food and drink combination for $15.
"The inspiration is that there are so many cool small businesses in Detroit," says Scott Rutterbush, operations developer for Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and co-organizer of Dine Drink Detroit. "People are doing some really great stuff that we wanted to showcase and celebrate. These are places that maybe not everyone knows about."
Rutterbush and Kate Williams, Executive Chef of Rodin in Midtown and fellow co-organizer of Dine Drink Detroit, opted to focus on places that are independently owned and operated and are known as popular locals spots. They also looked specifically at places with a liquor license to showcase that component as well – places with really interesting wine lists, excellent craft cocktails, and extensive craft beer lists. The price point was intentionally kept low at $15 to encourage people to try more than one place. "People can do to multiple locations even in the same night, which people do anyway. it's really part of the everyday experience."
These October dates were chosen because there is a brief lull in events before the holidays come around and restaurants kick into high gear for their busy season.
They have partnered with Uber and Zipcar to offer discounts to Dine Drink Detroit participants. All net proceeds from Dine Drink Detroit will go to benefit the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "(The Riverfront) is a common space a lot of people from Detroit go to experience, and we wanted to celebrate that as well," Rutterbush says. "It's really about celebrating and promoting the city."
Dine Drink Detroit will be held annually and there will always be some sort of charity component. The organization effort has been entirely grassroots and collaborative, with people volunteering their time for everything from web design to social media marketing. "It's a microcosm of how Detroit businesses have been operating. It's really collaborative and everyone supports each other. When there's a new place that opens everyone rallies around them asking, 'What can we do to help?' Dine Drink Detroit is an extension of that."
Restaurants have been encouraged to put forth their best efforts in their menu pairings. "We want people to really know they're going to go to these places and get their best for $15." Restaurants were also given a lot of latitude in what to offer; diners can potentially visit several of these restaurants multiple times during the seven days and get something different each time.  
Source: Scott Rutterbush and Kate Williams, co-organizers of Dine Drink Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Oakaloosa, a philanthropic music festival, to benefit Historic Fort Wayne

The City of Detroit is gaining another new music festival this summer. Oakaloosa will be held at the Historic Fort Wayne on July 27, and, much like Orion Music + More, will reinvest into the maintenance and preservation of the concert site itself -- Historic Fort Wayne.
The 96-acre Historic Fort Wayne site in Delray includes some original buildings from the mid-1800s as well as faithful replicas, though many are in disrepair. The Fort is operated by the Detroit Recreation Department with other nonprofit assistance. They rely heavily on volunteer efforts and individual generosity.
Oakaloosa is a brand-new outdoor concert, billing itself as the region's first fully philanthropic music festival, with a percentage of every dollar raised going back towards the restoration of Historic Fort Wayne. "We were looking to participate in restoring its renown by adding an event there where people can appreciate it and relate this event to its name," says Adrian Pittman, founder of Module, which is handling Oakaloosa's marketing. "What happened to (the Fort) is sort of what happened to Detroit in the rest of the country … it was forgotten. It requires a local to give it a little attention and polish it off a bit. It needs to be maintained for generations of people to come."
With connections in the parks & rec department, Detroit Sports Zone, Inc. – the nonprofit group organizing this event – was able to secure the site, which needs little in the way of infrastructure work in order to host the event. "They were looking at the fort from day one. It's such a unique opportunity." A first event of its kind for the site, they hope this event will also encourage other organizations to host festivals here.
DJ Mikey Eckstein of Embarco is responsible for programming, which includes both local and national acts. Main headliners include Girl Talk and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (as part of their big reunion tour).
They expect about 15,000 people to attend. Tickets are $45.

The odd name actually came from a typo on a website about the fort's history. The organizers liked it despite it being a misspelling, and decided to use the name for the festival.
Source: Adrian Pittman, Director of Development at Module
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Yacht Club Foundation aims to preserve DYC building

The Detroit Yacht Club has created a namesake foundation to help preserve its historic structure on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Yacht Club is a private sailing club founded in 1868 and its current Mediterranean-villa-style clubhouse was designed by George Mason (who also designed Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel and Detroit's Masonic Temple) and opened in 1923. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is a nonprofit that will focus on fundraising and coordinating the preservation of the yacht club's nearly 100-year-old clubhouse. Although the building itself is still sound, the foundation will focus on securing and preserving its envelope features, such as its roof, walls, doors and windows.

"All of these areas are 89 years old," says Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation. "With Michigan's freeze-and-thaw cycles, water always finds a way."

The Detroit Yacht Cub Foundation's first order of business is to conduct an engineering study of the building before moving forward with any improvements. In the meantime the foundation is working on raising money and resources from members and people with a connection to the yacht club.

"Over time, there are probably millions of people with a connection or an affinity for the Detroit Yacht Club," Lifter says.

Source: Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Locals work to open Detroit Dog Park in shadow of MCS

A group of Detroiters are working to create a dog park next to the iconic Michigan Central Station in Corktown.

The Detroit Dog Park is a off-leash dog park that would be built on the Macomb Playlot at the corner of 16th and Rose streets, adjacent to the Roosevelt Park. The organizers have reached an agreement with the city of Detroit to build the lot and are currently fundraising for the effort. It hopes to open next summer.

"There are a lot of people who live in an urban setting with dogs and don't have backyards," says Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park. "There is a need for a place to let them run off leash, a place for them to socialize with other dogs and people."

The Detroit Dog Park is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for the dog park's construction. It has raised nearly $12,000 as of Monday. The money will go toward buying construction materials and services. Mys says the project will have a heavy emphasis on green construction, employing things like rain barrels.

"We want to be sustainable, using things like recycled materials is high on our list," Mys says.

Source: Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Highland Park installs first solar streetlight, aims for 200 more

Public lighting has consistently been a problem in Highland Park for years. Struggles to keep the streetlights lit and paying the electric bill for those lights was followed by DTE Energy removing several hundred streetlights from the inner-city suburb last year.

That problem gave birth to a new solution. Soulardarity, a grass-roots group of local stakeholders, installed the city's first solar-powered streetlight last week and is making plans to bring another 200 to the city within the next five years.

"In the back of a lot of people's minds is what are we going to do about the streetlights around here," says A.J. O'Neil, one of the organizers of Souladarity.

The Souladarity streetlight was installed at 150 Victor Street, between John R and Oakland, and is shining down on the street now. The Michigan-made product utilizes super-energy-efficient LED lights which last longer than traditional streetlights. It also has a solar panel on top of the pole and its batteries are only a few feet below it, making the streetlight self-sufficient.

"It's completely self-contained," O'Neil says. "It's very theft proof because the batteries are locked away up high."

Souladarity is raising $6,000 to acquire and install the lights through a crowd-funding campaign. A little more than $5,000 of that has been raised as of Monday afternoon. For information on Highland Park's solar-powered-streetlight initiative, click here.

Source: A.J. O'Neil, one of the organizers of Souladarity
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Spaulding Court rehab brings new residents to North Corktown

Work on the rehab of Spaulding Court is starting to gain traction as more units in the apartment building in North Corktown come online and more people take residence there.

So far five of the complex's 20 units are renovated and occupied. About a dozen people live in what was once such a stereotypical piece of Detroit blight that it shared the stage with the Michigan Central Stadium in an Eminem video. Today those people are creating a grass roots community that is breathing new life into the complex's two structures of stone row houses.

The Friends of Spaulding Court, the organization behind the renovation, is now trying to raise funds to finish the rehab of a few more units this year. "If we can get five done by summertime that would exceed our expectations," says Jon Koller, president of the Friends of Spaulding Court.

The immediate goal is to rehab one vacant and one occupied unit while a third unit waits in the wings. Residential units are the priority but the Friends of Spaulding Court sees potential for small scale commercial or community space in the future.

"We're trying to get it done with rough finishes and have it insulated and warm before Thanksgiving," Koller says.

For information on the project, click here.

Source: Jon Koller, president of the Friends of Spaulding Court
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Midtown Lending Solutions takes aim at condo lending logjam

Midtown Detroit Inc is joining a small-but-growing group of Michigan-based community-development-oriented nonprofits to help make financing for renovations and sales more accessible.

Four of these eight non-profits (Midtown Detroit Inc, Southwest Solutions, Vanguard Community Development Corp and Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp) are from Detroit and make up the bulk of the Michigan Lending Solutions consortium. The group helps homeowners prevent foreclosure, find mortgages for home sales and locate financing for building renovations.

The Midtown branch of the Michigan Lending Solutions, Midtown Lending Solutions, is based in Midtown Detroit Inc's Co-Lab space on Woodward. One of Midtown Lending Solutions is helping locate financing for condo sales.

"At least 85 percent of all of the condos in Detroit are non-warrantable," says David LeClerc, manager of lending operations of Michigan Lending Solutions. He adds that non-warrantable means banks won't extend mortgages in those condo buildings because there aren't enough pre-sales or the condo association doesn't have enough cash reserves or to many units in the building are rentals, among a bevy of other disqualifiers.

Midtown Lending Solutions is looking to secure a $15 million loan fund that would be able to provide the financing for local condos sales. If enough condo sales are approved through this fund, that should help release pressure on the market and make it more attractive to traditional lenders. LeClerk believes the fund will be able to close 200 mortgage deals for local condos within the next two years.

"We believe we will be able to free up all of these condominiums within two years so they can leverage traditional financing," LeClerc says.

The Michigan Lending Solutions will also be able to help other homeowners and small developers find financing. That could be as complicated as nailing down a $140,000 loan to renovate a derelict building to financing a $5,000 loan so a homeowner can improve their house with minimal hassle and frustration.

Source: David LeClerc, manager of lending operations with Michigan Lending Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

People for Palmer Park plan to refurbish trails in park

The People of Palmer Park group is working to bring back the 12 miles of trails in and around the park, starting with going for a $50,000 grant.

The non-profit activist group has been making great strides to improve the quality of life in Palmer Park and the neighborhoods surrounding it in recent years. Some of its wins have included planting fruit orchards throughout the park and planting sunflowers along Woodward Avenue.

People for Palmer Park
is now going for a $50,000 grant to improve the trail system throughout the park. The Tom's of Maine contest is awarding $150,000 in grants to six nonprofits from across the U.S. The Palmer Park project is the Michigan representative. The project with the most online votes wins a $50,000 grant while the next four runners up each receive $12,000 grants. Voting closes out today.

People for Palmer Park would use the money to restore and rebuild the trails and path throughout the park, along with adding signage to notes the area's historic and natural assets. "There is a lot of history in the park, like Native American history," says Sarah James, a board member for the People for Palmer Park. "We want to highlight the whole area."

Source: Sarah James, a board member for the People for Palmer Park
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Hatch Detroit's four finalists to be determined Wednesday

The final four of this year's Hatch Detroit competition are set to be named on Wednesday.

Voting to determine the four finalists for the second-annual competition finished yesterday. The contestants are competing for $50,000 in seed capital to open a retail location for their business in Detroit. This year's semi-finalists include some familiar names that have been growing their businesses from their homes and hope to leverage the Hatch cash to build a home for their budding businesses.

"There is a lot more experience in this group than what we had last year," says Ted Balowski, co-founder of Hatch Detroit. "A lot of them have worked through Eastern Market or the Rust Belt Market (in downtown Ferndale). They have worked very hard to build up their following."

Balowski and Nick Gorga launched Hatch Detroit last year as a vehicle to champion, support and grow locally owned retail businesses. The nonprofit accomplishes this through funding its $50,000 contest, education, exposure, and mentoring. The bottom line is providing a stimulus that helps revitalize the Motor City and inspires others in the community to create change.

This year's winner will be revealed on Sept. 27. Last year's winner, Joe Posch of HUGH, is close to opening his contemporary mens fashions store in Midtown. "He is going into the Auburn building, which still being built," Balowski says.

Source: Ted Balowski, co-founder of Hatch Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Centennial set for North Corktown's Spaulding Court

Celebration is in order for Spaulding Court, a 20 unit Townhouse in Detroit, which turns 100 years old this year.

A down-home street festival is Saturday June 16. The party is free and open to the public, and there will be a cash bar.
Built in 1912, Spaulding Court was a lively community for those living in the North Corktown neighborhood along Rosa Parks Boulevard. By 2009 though, the building had become a serious hazard to the public and was seized by Wayne County. Nearby residents then formed Friends of Spaulding Court, a community based nonprofit on a mission to promote the strength and diversity of the Corktown community. 
The organization stepped in to revive the property, stabilizing the neighborhood and developing high impact redevelopment models. They also hosted nearly 50 Soup at Spaulding events that raised cash for rehab at Spaulding Court and other local projects.
RSVP on Facebook. Contributions/donation are also welcome. Spaulding Court is at 2737 Rosa Parks.
Source: Jon Koller
Writer: Leah Johnson

Hellenic Museum of Michigan greens up new home in Midtown

The Hellenic Museum of Michigan, an institution devoted to celebrating Green culture, is turning one of Midtown's more historic buildings into one of the neighborhood's greenest.

The Hellenic Museum of Michigan recently bought the Scherer mansion at 67 E. Kirby, one of the few remaining grand mansions along the lower Woodward corridor. Robert Pauli Schearer invented the soft gelatin capsule, which was a major step forward for the pharmaceutical industry.

The Scherer mansion was built in 1912 and eventually became the home of the Detroit Children's Museum. The building was vacant for 10 years before the Hellenic Museum of Michigan purchased it with plans of turning it into its future home in the heart of Detroit's cultural center.

"We're going to upgrade the entire building," says Ernest Zachary, president of the Hellenic Museum of Michigan. "We're gradually getting it together."

The renovation will have a heavily lean on sustainability. The Hellenic Museum of Michigan has installed LED lights throughout the building and plans to install other green features, such as low-flow plumbing, insulation and a geothermal heating/cooling system. The Hellenic Museum of Michigan has received a $66,160 SmartBuilding's grant from the city to help make these upgrades.

The Hellenic Museum of Michigan is working to get the building to the point where it can be open on a daily basis. It has raised about $450,000 to get the project this far and is working to raise even more. For information on making a donation to the effort, call Zachary at 313-831-6100.

Source: Ernest Zachary, president of the Hellenic Museum of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Hatch Detroit makes first hire, plans to expand offerings

Hatch Detroit is growing, making its first hire and planning to expand its service offerings to help more small businesses take root in Detroit.

"We're in a growth mode right now," says Ted Balowski, co-founder of Hatch Detroit. "We're laying the groundwork right now."

Hatch Detroit is a nonprofit that champions and supports independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding, exposure, education and mentoring. It debuted last year with a $50,000 contest to support an entrepreneur opening a retail outlet in Midtown.

Hatch Detroit recently hired Vittoria Katanski (marketing director of the Southwest Detroit Business Association) as its first executive director. She will oversee next year's Hatch Detroit retail funding competition. She will also lead some outreach efforts later this year that will help educate entrepreneurs and citizen leadership. Hatch Detroit is also in the final stages of nailing down a partnership with a major, local corporation that will help the nonprofit pursue its social engagement initiatives.

Source: Ted Balowski, co-founder of Hatch Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Preservation Detroit regroups, rebrands and works to save McGhee House

What was once Preservation Wayne is now Preservation Detroit, a new name for a renewed organization that specializes in historical preservation and is focusing its efforts on mapping out and registering the historic structures throughout the city.

"There are so many treasures in this city that just rot away," says Marion Christiansen, interim executive director of Preservation Detroit. "We cannot allow that to happen."

One of the non-profit's newest priorities is working to preserve the Orsel & Minnie McGhee house on the near West Side. The four square-style house at 4626 SeeBaldt (just northwest of I-96 and Tireman) played a critical role in the repeal of race-based restrictive covenants in property deeds.

Orsel McGhee, a press operator for the Detroit Free Press, and his wife Minnie, a postal worker, rented the house for a decade during the depression and tried to purchase it. The block club sued to remove the McGhee family during World War II. By 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against restrictive covenants based on the McGhee lawsuit and another similar case from St. Louis.

The McGhee house has been a rental for years until it was recently sold to its longtime tenants. They reached out to Preservation Detroit about helping preserve the house, which is on the Michigan Historical Register but not the National Register of Historic Places.

"It really is a treasure," Christiansen says. "It has fallen into a little disrepair."

Preservation Detroit is working to map and catalog the city's historic structures, like the McGhee house, on the state and national historic lists. The hope is identifying these buildings and establishing what needs to be done to preserve them will help make sure they survive. For instance, Preservation Detroit is helping fundraise for a new roof and other essential improvements for the McGhee house and by putting it on the National Register of Historic Places makes it eligible for tax credits and other governmental incentives.

For information on Preservation Detroit and its efforts to preserve the McGhee house, click here.

Source: Marion Christiansen, interim executive director of Preservation Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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The Peacock Room renovation brings transparency to crowd sourcing

Crowd sourcing has become a double-edge sword in Detroit. The innovative funding tool can be both beneficial (Hatch Detroit and The Detroit Institute of Bagels) and controversial (Robocop and Jack Detroit). Rachel Lutz believes crowd funding projects need more transparency, and she's following that up with the renovation/historic preservation of the space for The Peacock Room.
"I have some strong ideas about crowd sourcing to come up with start-up funds," Lutz says. "If you are having a hard time pitching an investor for a small amount of money, maybe you should rethink what you're doing."

Midtown-based The Peacock Room is a boutique in the Park Shelton that features apparel, accessories and gifts, along with upscale consignment and resale items. While she was preparing her space last year, Lutz stumbled upon the details of the Crystal Dinning Room for the building's original occupant, the Wardell Hotel.

Lutz has since worked with the city and Preservation Wayne to preserve the details of the historic space. She coordinated a crowd sourcing campaign with Preservation Wayne so the nonprofit makes sure whatever money is raised goes toward the preservation of the room, and not toward building her business.

"This space will be here long after the PR ends," Lutz says. "I wanted to make sure people who were contributing were contributing toward the neighborhood."

Lutz describes The Peacock Room's innovative partnership with Preservation Wayne as a way to bring order and expectations to crowd sourcing. In turn, it makes investors feel more invested in the venture and the social entrepreneurial aspect of it.

"How are you going to be accountable to how that money is spent?" Lutz says. "If you raised $5,000 from Aunt Bertha you have to look her in the eye on Thanksgiving."

Source: Rachel Lutz, owner of The Peacock Room
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Rosa Parks foundry building erupts with incubator, retail activity

For Scott Griffin and Angel Gambino, the co-owners of Corktown's newest business and retail incubation space, redeveloping the old foundry at 2051 Rosa Parks Blvd. "provides a greater context for the neighborhood, increasing and enhancing the visibility" of Detroit's oldest neighborhood.

The Lincoln Brass Works foundry made bullets during World War II -- Griffin calls the 100,000 sq. ft space "an extraordinary example of classic Detroit industrial architecture." The building's eccentric layout, with options ranging from small offices to large, dramatic spaces, makes it perfect for the mixed-use environment envisioned by the owners, who hail from New York. In the six weeks since Gambino and Griffin purchased the building, they've spent their time erasing the improvements the previous owner made to the building. While the previous owner had normalized the spaces into typical office cubicles with carpeting and dropped ceilings, Griffin says they're focused on "undressing the building so the classic architecture shines."

That eye to design has paid off. Griffin says Loveland Technologies, Curbed Detroit and the new Huffington Post have all rented offices inside the foundry. Corktown Cinema is launching its re-imagination (courtesy of Big F Deal) of the art house theater in the building, which Griffin says, "is a tremendous boost to the nightlife in the neighborhood and the greater community." And while he's mum on the details, he says they're negotiating almost 20 office and retail leases in the next week.

Source: Scott Griffin, co-owner
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Thrive Detroit monthly newspaper set to hit the streets in time for Charter vote

Delphia Simmons says she has no previous media experience. But as a project manager for the Coalition on Temporary Housing in the Cass Corridor, she learned a lot about the plight of the city's homeless. And after a whirlwind summer, this winner of 2011's Kiva Detroit mini-grant program will launch Thrive Detroit, the city's first street paper, in time for the November charter commission vote.

Street papers, which offer homeless and at-risk entrepreneurs the ability to work as vendors by selling the papers (and keeping the proceeds) are lively additions to the local media scene in cities like Ann Arbor and Boulder, CO. Simmons, working in partnership with the Detroit chapter of the National Association for Black Journalists, Model D (which will share content with Thrive) and community writers, will offer readers a monthly 12-page tabloid-style publication for $1. Vendors purchase the papers for 25 cents each; and keep the proceeds. Simmons and a team of five are currently laying out the issue from their office at COTS headquarters on Peterboro St.

Simmons says Thrive Detroit will provide a niche by spotlighting social justice and community issues. "We'll have information on the charter vote, a relationship column, a movie review, and a story on Occupy Detroit," she says of the debut issue. "There was a wedding down at the Occupy Detroit site in Grand Circus Park, and we were there to shoot it."

Simmons says Thrive Detroit is still waiting for the city to grant the nonprofit street permits for their vendors to sell papers. For now, they will offer subscriptions. She says they're also looking for local businesses which would be willing to host a vendor selling copies on their property. If you're a local business owner who is interested in helping Thrive Detroit see the light, head to their website (you can also provide a donation).

Source: Delphia Simmons, founder, Thrive Detroit
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Grants, Kickstarter and a lot of hard work bring art park to Lincoln Street

Down at the newly-imagined Lincoln Street Art Park, bridging New Center and Woodbridge, the Oct. 29 dedication ceremony will be both a celebration of local funders and believers, and a chance to find out what lies ahead for one of the city's most exciting new community spaces.

The Lincoln Street Art Park is a collaborative project between Detroit Synergy, Recycle Here! and Midtown, Inc., funded with the help of a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (not to mention 44 art-lovers who ponied up Kickstarter funds to help make the park a possibility). This community space, designed by James Willer on land donated by Recycle Here!'s Matthew Naimi, will feature plenty of recycled and re-imagined materials, not to mention the works of Lincoln Street Art Park's founding artists -- Marianne Burrows, Amanda Box, John Suave, Lindsay Harnish, Sarah Gavie, Carl Oxley III, and graffiti artists Fel3000 and BrownBag -- from murals and paintings to sculptures, and even a garden of wishes.

"Lindsay Harnish did this installation/exhibition at Figment on Belle Isle this year, where she made this handmade paper with wildflower seeds in it, and invited people to write wishes on the paper," says Michelle DiMercurio of Detroit Synergy, who serves on the park planning team. "Then, for Figment, she strung them up on a tree, so she had a tree of wishes. So we took the wishes, and we actually planted them in the garden."

The dedication ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 29 kicks off at 4:30 p.m., though the bonfire will last till 10 p.m. Make sure to drop by for hot apple cider, s'mores and the inside scoop on plans for the park's second phase of development.

"It's a chance to do something permanent and have that be something that people can enjoy," says DiMercurio. "And it's a way to establish connections between the neighborhoods," she says, noting that the Lincoln Street Art Park is a "connection point" between many other local green spaces, like the Woodbridge Community Garden, New Center Park, Anna Scripps Park and Sprit of Hope. "It's connecting dots on the map that are about a mile and a half to two miles apart, so it makes this little chain of green spots throughout the neighborhoods."

Click here to RSVP to the dedication on Facebook.

Source: Michelle DiMercurio, Detroit Synergy
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Marygrove College opens Tom Doak-designed golf practice facility

Golf architect Tom Doak has designed four of the world's 100 top golf courses, according to Golf Magazine. He's now left his mark on Detroit, in the form of a pro bono golf practice facility crafted by Doak for the Midnight Golf Program and students at Marygrove College.

The Midnight Golf Program is a 30-week course for high school students that teaches life essentials like financial literacy and community activism alongside the rules and customs of golf.

"The organization does amazing work with youth around their own development, life skills, life lessons and choices and college preparedness, and it's all built around the game of golf," says Marygrove President Dr. David Fike, who partnered with the Midnight Golf Program several years ago and hosts the students on the university campus. "They utilize the game of golf in emphasizing successful life choices, integrity and discipline."

Those students will now have the chance to study chipping and putting in the new facility, which includes a large sand bunker, a four-hole short course, two practice tee areas with 26 hitting bays and a putting green. It's located near the soccer fields just to the left of the college's main entrance off McNichols. It will also be the home practice facility for Marygrove's new intercollegiate golf program. "Tom Doak says you can practice any shot with the exception of a long tee with the space that we've designed here," he says.

Dr. Fike says the facility was also built with a commitment to environmental sustainability, inspired by the influence of the sisters and servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who founded and continue to guide the university. The college worked with Renaissance Golf to build the facility without altering the topography of the land. The golf facility uses 100 percent organic seaweed fertilizer donated by Ocean Organics and is committed to using as little water as possible, thanks to a low irrigation grass seed mixture designed by Tom Mead.

"It's serving inner-city youth with a game that doesn't typically provide opportunities for inner-city youth," Dr. Fike says. "And we're doing it using a compact urban land use. The game is generally suburban and rural, and needs sprawling space. That not only makes it inaccessible to inner-city youth, but it also presents some environmental issues."

Golf aficionados, good news -- Dr. Fike says there are long-term plans to make Marygrove's new golf practice facility open to the public.

Source: Dr. David Fike, President, Marygrove College
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Hubbell Fund mini-grants give a helping hand to Midtown entrepreneurs

Colin Hubbell, who passed away in 2008 after a battle with cancer, was more than a Midtown developer. He was one of the neighborhood's first champions, a true urban visionary who understood that small business owners would help remake the Midtown district into a true community. And, given his experience working in city administration, his consulting and mentoring were invaluable to new entrepreneurs unfamiliar with Detroit's workings.

"He was really helpful with assisting people in small businesses -- he really valued that," says his wife, Trish Hubbell, who began the Hubbell Fund to honor his passion for assisting entrepreneurs.

Carrying on that legacy, the Hubbell Fund announced its latest mini-grants to Midtown area entrepreneurs, contributing primarily facade improvements to several local businesses. People's Records, 14 East and Thistle Coffee Shop all received grants for new signage; security doors will be funded for the Art Center Music School. Bike racks will be built for visitors to the Park Shelton building; employees at Source Booksellers will receive the money to purchase an internet software and hardware system;  These are just a few of almost a dozen grants currently being administered by the Hubbell Fund, with several more grants in the works for 2011.

Hubbell says her husband wouldn't be surprised by the current wave of entrepreneurs staking their claim on Midtown's soil. "This is what Colin kept emphasizing -- you need to get a critical mass, you can start to create buzz, and create a demand," she says. "People really miss community, and small businesses are all about serving your local community."

The Colin Hubbell Fund is currently accepting donations. Find out more about how you can help here.

Source: Trish Hubbell, Hubbel Fund
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Detroit Bike Project seeks to link Detroit's greater downtown

Bike-sharing companies, which offer 24-hour access to bicycles for short trips around cities, have popped up in Europe, and along the East Coast; DC, Boston and New York City. If three CCS grads have their way, Detroit will be the next city to offer visitors and residents a network of two-wheeled transportation stations throughout the greater downtown district.

The Detroit Bike Project is the brainchild of Victor Quattrin, Stephanie Lucido and Jenna Przybycien. The three college friends have spent the past year working on the first phase of their plan, which they will submit to Hatch Detroit by the Sept. 1 contest deadline. No matter what happens with Hatch, the three say they're committed to launching the company within the next year.

Their plan involves building park-and-ride bike stations in the Renaissance Center, Wayne State's campus, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Woodbridge, New Center, Grand Circus Park, Corktown and Eastern Market, as a public transportation alternative "Sometimes, there's a little distance between the main veins of Detroit," says Quattrin. "Nothing is really that walkable," says Przybycien, comparing Detroit's layout to that of more densely-populated cities like New York. "If someone parks downtown and wants to head up to Wayne State, it takes a lot of time to get there. Bike sharing allows you to see a lot more of the city, and to get places quicker, because it's so spread out."

With a swipe of a credit card, customers will be able to rent a bike from any station and take a spin through the city -- then drop it off at the closest bike rental facility upon completion.

The Detroit Bike Project will operate as a nonprofit, and they hope the promise of increased mobility from residents and visitors throughout the greater downtown will inspire local companies to lend their support, through advertising or sponsoring a bike station on their properties. They're also committed to purchasing bikes made from recycled materials. The team estimates they'll need $137,000 in investment dollars to launch the first phase of the program.

Lucido says the team is encouraged by the immediate feedback, all of it positive, from the first 48 hours of their viral campaign, which launched last week. "In the first 48 hours, we had 500 page views on our website and 150 likes on Facebook," she says. "We know this can work."

"Our goal is to not let them down, and make things happen," Przybycien says.

Become a fan of the Detroit Bike Project on Facebook, and read more about the team's proposal here.

Sources: Jenna Przybycien, Victor Quattrin and Stephanie Lucido, co-founders, Detroit Bike Project
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Signal-Return letterprint shop to open in Eastern Market

A new venture from Team Detroit creative director and Detroit champion Toby Barlow will bring the fine art of letterpress printing to a storefront in Eastern Market.

Signal-Return will operate as a nonprofit studio dedicated to advancing the art of letterpress printing, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. Though widespread use of the printing method for book-making died out in the 1950's, letterpress books and posters have since become hot commodities, both in the art world and with students.

Team Detroit Project Manager Ryan Schirmang has spent much of the last year helping bring Signal-Return to life -- ever since Barlow returned from a trip to Nashville awed by a letterpress shop he had found in the city. The operation will be housed in a 2500 sq. ft. space next to Division Street Boutique in Eastern Market. Helming the shop is Megan O'Connell, an expert on the craft of book-making and classic printing.

Schirmang says they are waiting on the city to formally approve plans, and they expect to begin building out the space within weeks.

"On the right side, it will be the storefront with a counter and posters lining the walls, and then the left side will be the studio with all the presses and areas for assembling type and composing and laying out," he says, "It'll be a place where you can go in and see the production of it."

In addition to custom-printing posters, invitations and other printed materials, Signal-Return will host several workshops for beginners interested in learning the craft and customs of letterpress printing.

Schirmang says the store will open its doors this fall.

Signal-Return is located at 1345 Division Street. Click here to become a fan on Facebook.

Source: Ryan Schirmang, project manager, Team Detroit
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Digitizing Detroit's history at the Burton Historical Collection

One of the state's largest repositories for manuscripts, the Burton Historical Collection is a treasure trove for Detroit historical explorers. The collection dates back to the city's founding in the late 17th century, and includes 12 million pieces of information. Every historical record for the City of Detroit and Wayne County is stored at the Burton, located beneath the Detroit Public Library, as well as personal collections donated by the likes of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Ernie Harwell, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Until now, sifting through the Burton's extensive holdings was something of a daunting mission. There was no available index to let researchers, genealogists and history buffs even know what was in those archives. Out-of-town sleuths best hope of discovering that 300-year-old historical map or City Council record from the 18th century was to show up, in person, and get to work.

All this changed with the production of the Burton's new digital index, a project that brought together federal, state and private groups together to digitize every one of the Collection's holdings, available online for perusal (note: the index is available online, but the papers themselves still must be viewed in person).

The partnership utilized matching grants provided by the Friends of the Detroit Public Library and the National Historic Public Records Commission; aid from Michigan state archivist Mark Harvey; and archival support from Wayne State's archivist program, which provided students for the hard work of cataloging through the Michigan History Foundation in Lansing.

"We had the expertise and the students; that was critical," Merritt says. "Staff resources are extremely slim, but it got us students who were able to work on first-rate collections and we had faculty members who were just as anxious."

Who'll benefit most from the digital index? "I would think anyone interested in Michigan history: genealogists, people that want to find connections between the lumber industry and the Upper Peninsula and what happened in Detroit," Merritt says. "Transportation; it has so many socio-economic interests that any historian trying to understanding American history and Michigan's contribution would find this fascinating."

And word has spread -- Merritt reports visits to the Burton Historical Collection have increased by 56 percent already this year.

Source: Patrice Merritt, executive director, Friends of the Detroit Public Library

Writer: Ashley C. Woods

CITGO spruces up four Eight Mile service stations

Four gas stations along Eight Mile Road have received major upgrades, thanks to a new partnership between the CITGO Petroluem Company, local fuel suppliers on Eight Mile Road, and the Eight Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA).

"Our initial outreach to CITGO was in regards to their corporate appearance standards," says 8MBA Executive Director Tami Salisbury. "A lot of their locations on Eight Mile didn't have landscaping, and we wanted to see if they wanted to take advantage of our facade improvement program. And CITGO really stepped it up."

Representatives from CITGO's corporate office flew from Texas to meet with 8MBA, and pledged major improvements at all four of their service stations, at an average cost of $30,000 for each location. The improvements range from new pumps and canopies for motorists to improved lighting and landscaping, upgraded signage and changes to convenience centers. Local facility owners have pledged to keep appearances to a higher standard after the upgrades are complete.

Salisbury says it's just the beginning of the nonprofit's new relationship with CITGO, which has become a sponsor of other events put on by 8MBA. "We hope that we have as warm of reception with some of the other major brands on Eight Mile Road," she says.

And she says the upgrades to Eight Mile's facades provide more than just a face-lift to the corridor. "When we change the physical appearance of Eight Mile Road, we're changing the mental landscape," she says. "Eight Mile has this notorious reputation, and we're trying to break down this negative imagery. Over 100,000 cars traverse Eight Mile Road every day."

Source: Tamil Salisbury, Executive Director, Eight Mile Boulevard Association
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Canine lovers scheme Detroit's first dog park

In most major metropolitan areas, there are dog parks," says Kales Building sales manager Carly Mys. That's why she and 25 canine-loving residents are in the initial stages of plotting a playground for Detroit's doggie denizens.

Led by Detroiters Mys and Alison Woodburn, the Detroit Dog Park group hopes to build a secured outdoor community center where dogs and owners alike can socialize.

"It is in the initial steps, but we're really excited about it. Who doesn't like dogs?" Mys asks. "Let's have some fun!" 

While the Detroit Dog Park team is looking in several different locations, Mys says they hope to build the dog park in the greater downtown district. They're hoping to secure enough land to build a larger park with benches and secured gating.

So far, interest has been red-hot. They received over 400 responses to a survey they created, and the group hopes to use the results to tailor the park to the community's needs.

What's the cost? While the price of the land can't be estimated yet, Mys says, "based on some of the research we've done, Canton recently opened one. They said that it cost 38 thousand dollars. I don't know what the cost will be yet, but we'll get there."

Researching dog parks in other cities, Mys says it can take up to three years to build a dog park. She and her team hope to work with the community and the city to speed up that process. "I know that the group of people we're working with is very passionate," she says. "And Detroiters rock, and dog owners, too. So we're moving forward."

Find out more about what the Detroit Dog Park is up to on Facebook. If you'd like to get involved, send an email here.

Source: Carly Mys, sales manager, The Kales Building
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Kunthstalle Museum lights up Grand River Avenue

The only museum devoted exclusively to multimedia and light art exhibits in America opened its doors June 10 in the historic former Comerica Headquarters building on Grand River at Warren on the western edge of the Woodbridge neighborhood.

In Germany, where the term originates, a kunsthalle is more than just a gallery. Around the world, kunsthalles operate as exhibition halls and community centers for temporary art exhibits, unlike museums, which host permanent collections. And Kunsthalle Detroit director Tate Osten says the organization hopes to be more than just art space to the city.

"Why Detroit? Everything is ready to go here," Osten says, comparing Detroit's potential to that of New York City's Chelsea meatpacking district in the late 1990's. "These ideas, of Detroit becoming an international center for the arts, this is not my idea. It's been brewing. It's been up in the air. A lot of people have been talking, thinking and writing about it," she says. "And I thought, it's just time to act. Somebody has to take the first step. And the first step is to add something that's missing from Detroit's art scene."

A rotating gallery of multimedia projects, film and light installations is certainly something new to the area.  It's also an opportunity to see a dozen of the nation's preeminent multimedia artists, most of them more accustomed to solo exhibitions at museums around the world, sharing 4,000 sq. ft. of space and a collective theme. With the museum's first exhibition, Time & Place, Osten says, "We're trying to connect video and light-based arts to visual arts in general."

Osten says the Kunsthalle has received enthusiastic welcome from both art insiders and neighborhood residents.

"Everyone understands film," she says. "It's the most understood and accepted medium for the widest audiences."

She found the building, which is around 100 years old, driving around Detroit. "We don't want to be where things are already done," she says. "We want to bring art education to where they are most needed. And people have never seen anything like this. That's the idea."

Kunsthalle Detroit
is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Source: Tate Osten, Director, Kunsthalle Detroit
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Detroitbigfdeal website to combine crowdsourcing and coupons

An innovative new website in Detroit seeks to combine two web trends -- couponing and crowdsourcing -- to build a virtual community to support the city's new projects.

is a web-based community financing platform. Unlike websites like Kickstarter, they aren't focused on hitting a targeted sum. Rather, a project gets funded when enough community members donate -- whether they give $10 or $50. Members who donate are then eligible for discounts and coupons from local businesses, like Union Street, The Raw Cafe, the Garden Bowl and GOODS.

The first project Detroitbigfdeal will fund is the 4th Street Farm community garden in Midtown. Website co-founder Tunde Wey says they hope to engage 50 members of the community to donate (click here to give).

Wey says, beyond financing, they are also hoping to create an apparatus where people can do more than donate -- they can adopt a project and be a part of it, based on his own experience helping grow 4th Street Farm.

"We're finding ways that we can take this offline platform, bring it online, and then move it back offline -- it's just this seamless connection," Wey says.

Though Detroitbigfdeal is a for-profit website, Wey says the site's first priority is creating a community of users who come back to the site -- and they'll work to make deals with local businesses whom their user base will support.

"We're trying to engage people here. We're trying to be a part of all this wonderful energy that's happening here," Wey says. "I think for me, Detroit is like a different speed. You reorient. What I think success is, what I think community is, what I think happiness is."

Support the 4th Street Farm and Detroitbigfdeal.com by attending a free benefit at the Magic Stick on Tuesday, May 31. Audra Kubat and others will play. Check out detroitbigfdeal.com for more information.

Source: Tunde Wey, co-founder, Detroitbigfdeal.com
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Fourth Street Farm makes a Midtown garden grow

The lot at Fourth and Alexandrine in Midtown is mostly empty. But Patience Young has plenty of dreams to fill it.

The Fourth Street Farm will offer community space for Midtown residents -- or anyone with a green thumb -- to garden for free. She and a dusty crew of organizers are working to amend lead levels in the soil, build a tool shed and a rainwater catchment system, and even plant a pumpkin patch for fall.

"There is a community garden in my neighborhood, but it costs $50 for a plot, and I didn't have the money to do that," she says. After talking to neighbors, they decided to expand the garden into a community project.

"The area where we live is more lower-income than the rest of the MIdtown area, and there are a lot of people who don't have yard space and can't access the only gardening resource around them, but are still interested in learning," Young says. "So my idea is to find a way to provide those resources to the community for free, so if they want to farm, they can. Because eating is a right, not a privilege."

While plots will be available for free, Young will plant tomatoes, potatoes and an herb spiral for community use. She hopes it will provide an impetus for the neighborhood not just to garden together, but meet together, eat together and enjoy the outdoors. They're even installing an art sculpture, which they hope will be the beginning of an art park. And that's just the seeds of her master plan.

"We're only farming one lot, but we're surrounded by five or six empty lots," she says. "There's no reason we couldn't expand and make this community self-sustainable."

Fourth Street Farm is in need of donations, both monetary and in the form of tools and sweat labor -- and they're looking for more growers to come together this spring. Find out more here or on their Facebook page.

Source: Patience Young, organizer, Fourth Street Farm
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

NSO breaks ground on historic Bell Building renovation

The Neighborhood Service Organization, known as NSO, breaks ground today on a renovation of the historic Bell Building, located at 882 Oakman near Focus:HOPE, that will provide housing for formerly homeless adults in transition, as well as NSO corporate offices and support services.

The $50 million renovation will create 155 one-bedroom apartments in the 255,000 sq. ft. structure, as well as a health clinic for residents, sundry shop, fitness center, walk-out roof gardens, library, chapel, and more. Services for residents will all be under the Bell Building's roof -- life skills training, addiction treatment, mental health counseling and case management. They found the building through Focus:HOPE's Debbie Fisher, and decided the location would help spur community redevelopment in the area.

"We serve a very large homeless population, and our philosophy is, the way you end homelessness, is you house them," says NSO President and CEO Sheilah P. Clay. "We wanted our project to be part of a revitalization effort, and really feel like we were going to help a community, but the number one goal was to end homelessness."

In addition to caring for the homeless, NSO also provides gambling treatment, addiction treatment, elder adult services, suicide prevention hotlines and youth anti-violence programming throughout Southeast Michigan. Those programs will be housed at the new headquarters in the Bell Building.

NSO has raised $40 of the $50 million needed to complete the project through equity financing, tax credits, loans and grants; and continues to seek funding. Current partners include MSHDA, the City of Detroit, Wayne County, The Kresge Foundation, the McGregor Fund, The National Trust Community Investment Corporation, Bank of America, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Opportunity Resource Fund.

Source: Sheilah P. Clay, NSO President and CEO
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Bricktown's Good People Popcorn expand retail; announce community fundraising

As the two-year anniversary of Good People Popcorn nears, their tasty treats are popping up all across Metro Detroit. Good People, owned by sisters Crystal Mott and Sarida Scott-Montgomery, along with their cousin, Kimberli Heard, report their gourmet product can now be found at half a dozen retail outlets across Southeast Michigan, including Pure Detroit, Kim's Produce, Frank's Deli and Harbortown Market within the city limits. Downtown's only store is located at 633 Beaubien in Bricktown. Mott says they were inspired by the memory of the city's popcorn shop on Woodward, which closed over 20 years ago, and try to recreate a similar experience for their clients.

"It's doing real well at the retail locations," Mott says. "Business has picked up at our main location, which is nice."

The secret to these three ladies' success appears to be the breadth and range of their sweet and savory snack food flavors. Good People has expanded their selection to offer eight variations onf the classic treat, including Spicy Chili Cheddar, Cinnamon Crunch and Bacon Cheddar. Yes, Bacon Cheddar.

"Sarida reads some food blogs, and so do I," Mott says. "Bacon was sort of gaining popularity last year, so we just tried it. It has some regulars. People love the flavor."

The ladies announced a new program to give back to the community -- a fundraiser aimed at sports teams, schools and other small groups in the area. The program gives 40 percent of popcorn pack sales back to groups who sell $500 or less, and 50 percent of the profits for orders placed over $500. They're also donating $15 from every popcorn tin sale to organizations. Unlike many other food-based fundraisers, the groups place their orders with Good People only after securing funds, instead of buying product up front.

"Popcorn is a small luxury that people can afford even in tough times," Mott says. "It's not a high price point, so you can treat yourself for five times."

For more information on GP2 fundraising, send your inquiries here.

Source: Kimberli Heard, Crystal Mott and Sarida Scott-Montgomery, owners, Good People Popcorn
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Eastern Market to build community kitchen

Thanks to Birmingham's Erb Foundation, Eastern Market will build a $200,000 community kitchen sometime in 2011, furthering one of the foundation's key missions: promoting environmental health and justice.

Plans for the grant, payable over two years, will allow Eastern Market to develop the community kitchen as an hub for food entrepreneurs, in a city where access to commercial kitchen space can be difficult to find. They also hope to increase access to locally grown and processed healthy foods.

"It's going to serve as an incubator for people, especially Detroiters, who want to start their own niche food processing business. It's a good way to not only support the local food system, but to create jobs," says the Erb Foundation's Jodee Fishman Raines.

It's also a way to make better use of produce and other perishables that can go to waste -- fruit that can't be sold can still be pickled or jarred, for example. There will be food demonstrations and workshops encouraging healthy eating, plus the community kitchen can be rented out by groups.

The Erb Foundation, which has distributed money over the past three years, focuses primarily on promoting environmental health and cultural wellness to help revitalize the Great Lakes region, with a focus on Metro Detroit.

"Eastern Market is really, we think, an important institution in the city, an important part of building this local food system ... the better and stronger it is, the better off we think it will help revitalize the city. When you've got these wonderful local institutions, you can make them even more accessible to people. Eastern Market is already very user-friendly, but this takes it to a whole new level," says Fishman Raines.

Source: Jodee Fishman Raines, Vice President of Programs, Erb Foundation
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Five sisters pour their energy into kickstarting juice biz

The five James sisters had a dream -- opening a raw juice stand in Detroit.

"Recently, all of us girls needed to have something to call our own. We just had the general desire to self-actualize and start something. We took our passion of health and wellness, and in particular, juicing, and turned it into a business," says co-founder Cait James.

They turned to Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing website which has quickly become Ground Zero for several of the city's dreamers and creators -- and raised over $13,000 from 151 different backers.

"Our original plan, just based on being the most economical and practical option, was to open up as a specialty vendor in Eastern Market. That's the project we pitched on Kickstarter," James says.

The overwhelming support they've encountered from Kickstarter followers, local entrepreneurs and members of Detroit's food community have the DROUGHT sisters re-thinking their original plan to begin with a vending stall at Eastern Market. They're now pursuing a commercial food license to take advantage of bigger opportunities on the horizon.

"The food stall is still definitely in the plans, but we've had so much interest and opportunities open up to us, that we have to amp it up a bit," she says.

Cait is currently bouncing between Detroit and Manhattan, but she's excited to set up this business in Detroit proper.

"Our focus is still on the city and the Detroit area. We're from the suburbs," she says, "but we all have a natural inclination to go to Detroit -- everyone for their own particular reasons."

Find out more about DROUGHT Juice here.

Source: Cait James, co-founder, DROUGHT Juice
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Fundraisers for Georgia Street Community Collective turn up the heat for new furnace

In the neighborhood that surrounds Georgia Street, on the East Side near Harper and Gratiot, Mark Covington successfully transformed what is now five empty lots near his grandmother's house into a community garden and meeting space, a place where neighborhood kids come after school to hang out.

"The garden was needed. People were choosing to buy food, or not to buy food, because they had to pay for prescription drugs or utilities," he says.

The garden features 37 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and even a goat and chickens. It's also become a way for Covington to mentor as many as a dozen kids who live around Georgia Street.

"Hearing their stories, the stuff that they were going through at home and at school, I just wanted to be a mentor and to help any way I could. We started doing movie nights in the garden, backpack giveaways, and other activities. It was just a way to show them that we cared about them," he says.

His next idea? Rehabbing a building purchased through probate into a community center and offices for the Georgia Street Community Collective, which will also house a multi-purpose room, library and computer lab for residents. They're currently raising $4,000 online to buy a new furnace and fix ductwork in the building (click here to donate).

"It went from wanting to do stuff in the garden, to wanting to do it all year round, and getting the building rehabbed, so we can do it year round," Covington says.

Mark's been named a semi-finalist in the national Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame contest. Click here to vote him in.

Source: Mark Covington, founder and president, Georgia Street Community Collective
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Southwest Lending Solutions opens on West Vernor

Southwest Solutions has opened a new for-profit lending mortgage broker, Southwest Lending Solutions, with offices on Vernor east of Grand Blvd. They've hired Dave LeClerc, who has over 20 years lending experience, to get the new program off the ground.

SLS may be for-profit, but new lending officer Emily Doerr says the brokerage is similarly committed to the Southwest area.  "The profits for the mortgage will be reinvested into Southwest Detroit, rather than to the profit margins of a bank," she explains.

SLS currently has three banks backing them as lenders, and are doing conventional loans, regular FHA loans, FHA 203K loans for rehab assistance, and refinances. Doerr says they are targeting young professionals and families investing in the city, as well as anyone in the suburbs -- they will underwrite mortgages outside of Detroit.

Doerr says, "We have just as competitive rates as any other bank or lender, all the way down to closing costs." Affiliation with Southwest Solutions offers buyers access to credit repair and pre-purchase counseling classes.

And, rest assured, SLS won't be offering adjustable rate mortgages.

Contact Emily Doerr at (313) 670-0149 or email her.

Source: Emily Doerr, lending officer, Southwest Lending Solutions
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Next phases of Riverwalk, Globe, Dequindre Cut net $34.4M

The Detroit Riverwalk is much-loved but non-contiguous. Currently, it stretches for about a mile from Joe Louis Arena to Rivard St. and then picks up again at Joseph Campau for another three-quarters of a mile to Mt. Elliott. Soon, those stretches could be joined with a recent funding announcement from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).

$34.4 million dollars has been pledged to the Riverwalk for land acquisition that will connect the two segments to each other, expand Milliken State Park and construct a path along the Uniroyal site that currently divides the walkway from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's Gabriel Richard Park at the foot of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

A portion of the money is pegged for redevelopment of the Globe Building ($9 million) and a 0.7-mile extension of the Dequindre Cut north to Mack Ave. ($375,000 for land acquisition).

The MNRTF Board of Trustees recommended a total of 117 recreation projects and land acquisitions totaling $102,098,400 be funded in 2011, the largest grant award since the fund was created in 1976, and Detroit's riverfront came away with a not-insignificant slice of the pie. "The Riverwalk has enough accomplishments on the ground to show that it is working and that the project is ready to receive the funding," says Nancy Krupiarz of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, an organization that advocates for a statewide system of trails and greenways.

Other Detroit parks saw some love as well: Balduck on the east side and Southwest's Patton each garnered $500,000 towards improvements.

The Trust Fund recommendations require the approval of the state legislature for the funds to be disbursed; that could happen as early as spring 2011, says Krupiarz.

Source: Nancy Krupiarz, MTGA
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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