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Michigan Nightlight : Detroit Development News

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Outdoor Education Center transforms vacant land in Osborn neighborhood

This past week, the Greening of Detroit and Osborn Neighborhood Alliance have partnered together to repurpose four vacant lots into an Outdoor Education Center. The project was made possible through funding by Bank of America and American Forests.

The Outdoor Education Center is now located at the corner of Mapleridge and Schoenherr streets in the Osborn neighborhood on the city's eastside. From May 4 through May 7, volunteers from the aforementioned organizations as well as from the neighborhood and its schools have worked to install the natural ecosystems that make up the Outdoor Education Center and its grounds.

The education center presents a number of opportunities for Osborn and its residents. "The project allows residents to use the land in a productive way, giving them a place to congregate, play, and use," says Tiffany Douglas, market manager for Bank of America.

It also provides learning opportunities to neighborhood youth. The Greening of Detroit is offering up to 20 environmental education courses at the center in coordination with Detroit Public Schools.

It will also hopefully spark the imagination of area youth as they decide on possible career paths.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service both recognize that there's an under-representation of minorities among their ranks," says Dean Hay, The Greening of Detroit's director of green infrastructure. "That under-representation has a lot to do with minority children's lack of access to outdoor and wildlife activities. The outdoor center will get them involved with hands-on experience."

In addition to education programming, the grounds will provide rest and recreation opportunities for the neighborhood, including the installation of playscapes, benches, shade trees, and plants with edible fruits.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic Catholic school building re-opens as charter school

Cornerstone Charter Schools has moved its Health + Technology High School to the old St. Scholastica Grammar School building along the Southfield Service Drive.


St. Scholastica Grammar School, located just north of the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood at Southfield Road and Outer Drive, closed in 2012 due to declining enrollment and financial woes. According to the Michigan Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit, the final count for 2012 was 85 students, down from 133 students during the '07-'08 academic year. The school opened in 1939.

Unlike many of the schools -- public or private -- that have been shuttered throughout Detroit, St. Scholastica didn't sit vacant long. Cornerstone Charter Schools, a not-for-profit corporation, purchased the building earlier this year and has reportedly spent over $10 million in renovating the school building. Cornerstone has four schools, three in Detroit and one in Redford.

"The improvements we've made will be truly impactful for our students' educational experience," says Cornerstone Charters School CEO Tom Willis. "Our curriculum and teaching methods have shown to be quite successful for our current students, and we look forward to seeing it implemented with our new students."

Cornerstone moved its Health + Technology High School from the old location at 19900 McIntyre Street and into the St. Scholastica building this fall where it began the school year. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting event is being held on Oct. 28 to celebrate the changes at the school, located at 17351 Southfield Rd.

Source: Cornerstone Charter Schools press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Offworld Arcade now open once a month in Corktown


It's been about a year since Don Behm bought his first used arcade game machine, the 1982 classic BurgerTime. His CraigsList find initially cost him $200. In fixing that game, Behm got hooked. He's since collected 18 arcade games.

There are the classics like Ms. Pac-Man, Q*bert, and Donkey Kong as well as perhaps not-so-well known games like Elevator Action, Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja, and Moon Patrol. Behm is more than a hobbyist, though, and is looking to open Offworld Arcade, a bar that will feature his games. He's been searching for his ideal building in neighborhoods like Corktown and Hamtramck where he can serve beer and wine and feature the games he's restored. He's in no rush to find a space and doesn't mind taking the time to find just the right spot.

Until then, Behm and his Offworld Arcade are calling St. Vincent home. It's an old Catholic school in Corktown, one that will eventually become a co-working space. He'll be working out of St. Vincent for the next year, restoring his gaming machines and hosting an "arcade gallery" once a month.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, Behm threw the second of his arcade galleries, where visitors enjoyed an all-you-can-play pass, entry into a BurgerTime high score contest, music from DJs, and a live performance from Cotton Museum -- all for a mere five dollar donation. Offworld's galleries run from 6 p.m. to midnight and are open to the public. From 6 to 9 p.m., Offworld Arcade is kid-friendly. 9 p.m. to midnight is saved for the adults.

To learn about future arcade galleries, follow Offworld Arcade on Facebook.

"It's really cool to see parents and their sons and daughters come in and the kids just stare at these big games," says Behm. "You'll see kids come in and be amazed and say to their parents, 'I've never seen anything like this'."

Offworld Arcade is located in the St. Vincent building at 2020 14th St.

Source: Don Behm, owner of Offworld Arcade
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Community block party announced for West RiverWalk grand opening

Morning joggers, lunchtime power walkers, and anyone out for an evening stroll have the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to thank for an additional 20 acres of the popular RiverWalk park system. The group is celebrating its latest success with a grand opening party Saturday, Oct. 4.

Happening between 1 and 8 p.m. at 1801 W. Jefferson Ave., the community block party is free and open to the public. Live music, food trucks, and a beer tent will fuel the revelry with family-friendly activities planned for those with children.

This is the first portion of the RiverWalk to extend west of Joe Louis Arena. The path is interrupted by the Riverfront Towers Apartments and its marina and picks up after, running between the Detroit River and W. Jefferson Avenue to Rosa Parks Boulevard. It's marked by the familiar features found along the existing RiverWalk, including new lighting, rails, and promenade.

The promenade of the western stretch has been widened to 30 feet, allowing fishers to cast their lines while worrying less about the speeding bikers weaving in and out of their path. Marc Pasco, director of communications for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, said in an interview conducted earlier this summer, "Fishermen have always loved that location. This will give them some extra room."

Much of the western stretch of the RiverWalk is defined by a large lawn ideal for lounging, sports, or concerts. This year's edition of the annual KEM Live at Mack and Third benefit concert was held at the western RiverWalk on Aug. 24. The concert series, formed by Detroit performer KEM, has raised food, goods, services, and awareness for the city's homeless population since 2009.

The opening of this latest extension brings the conservancy one parcel of land closer to completing its goal of the RiverWalk running from Gabriel Richard Park to the Ambassador Bridge.

Source: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

More state money for Detroit developments announced

Three Detroit developments are part of the latest round of projects to receive aid from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and its Michigan Strategic Fund. The approved projects are part of a larger group throughout the state. MEDC expects 11 developments to generate over $419 million in new investment and 1,471 new jobs across Michigan.
 
  • The issuance of private activity bonds has been authorized for the construction of an arena district between downtown and Midtown Detroit. With a new Red Wings arena as an anchor, the construction of the entertainment, residential, and commercial district is set to break ground this Thursday, September 25. The $450 million in private activity bonds were originally announced by the MEDC in July 2013. The group estimates that construction and construction-related jobs will total anywhere from 5,300 to 8,300 just for the arena itself. Half of those jobs will be filled by Detroit residents, as required by the initial agreement. Once open, the MEDC estimates 1,100 permanent jobs will be created by the arena.
  • The recently announced residential addition atop the 10-level parking structure adjacent to the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel is receiving $1,841,533 in Michigan Business Tax brownfield credits and $4,798,000 in Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based equity investment. 80 one-, two-, and three bedroom units are planned for the development. Three jobs are expected to be created.
  • Automotive supplier American Axle & Manufacturing is receiving a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to rehab a vacant building next to its headquarters to function as a technical center and showroom. A 12-year property tax abatement from the City of Detroit has also been offered to the company. 75 jobs will be created, says the MEDC.
Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Getting Detroit kids to care about historic preservation in their neighborhood


In an effort to foster a stronger sense of place in young people, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network is hosting the second phase of its Preservation Demonstration Project this Saturday, September 13 at 11 a.m. (rain date: Saturday, September 27). The event, 'My Neighborhood, My Heritage,' will teach the importance of the historic Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood's built and natural environments.

The interactive event is for 12- to 18-year-olds. Young people will be provided disposable cameras and will be encouraged to take photos of the neighborhood while being led on a walking tour. It's an opportunity for the preservation group to teach people the history of their neighborhood and demonstrate how that history affects the community today. It's an opportunity, too, for the group to learn from young people and hear how that built environment affects their lives on a day-to-day basis.

A third event, to be held in late October, will feature the photos taken and will be followed by an awards ceremony. Pop-ups, lectures, and presentations are also planned.

While preservation groups are often associated with opposing the demolition of historic buildings, events like 'My Neighborhood, My Heritage are ways for these groups to reach people before a building, block, or neighborhood is even at risk. It's a long-term plan that can change how people view preservation, demolition, and development in general.

"We hope that this exploration and discussion of shared heritage through the eyes of young people will help inform and influence contemporary community decision-making," MHPN Executive Director Nancy Finegood says in a statement.

The event is free but preregistration is required. Morning refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Register at Hope Community Outreach and Development or email info@mhpn.org.

Update: The 'My Neighborhood, My Heritage' event will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 13, an hour later than originally scheduled.

Source: Michigan Historic Preservation Network press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Hatch Final Four: A full service music instrument store in Midtown

Given Detroit's rich musical legacy, a lack of music stores throughout the city comes as a surprise -- and an annoyance -- to many a musician. Despite the fact that there are thousands of musicians who live and perform in the city, amateur and professional alike, there's nary a place where a drummer can pick up drumsticks before a gig or where a mother can buy a saxophone reed for a daughter who just joined band class.

Jen David is working to change that. If she has her way, guitarists won't have to drive to the suburbs for guitar strings anymore, and parents won't have to fight traffic as they bring their children to music lessons outside the city. She's starting Third Wave Music, a full service music instrument store that will be located in the Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown. Forest Arms is currently being renovated after a fire shuttered the building in 2008.

David says that the store will focus on accessories like strings, sticks, and reeds as well as music lessons. Locally made products, like instrument effects pedals and cigar box guitars, will be offered, too. David's partner Jeffrey Thomas will offer made-to-order instrument cables (musicians will be able to request specific lengths and specific jacks). Third Wave will sell used gear and offer instrument repair services as well.

For David, it's fulfilling a need for a community of professional musicians, independent artists, and local students that will be the most rewarding aspect of the business.

"The biggest thing is the absolute need for something like this in Detroit," says David. "We've already received so much support and positivity. With the musical legacy of Detroit, it's a resource that this community deserves."

A musician who also gives lessons, David knows first hand the challenges of commuting back-and-forth to the suburbs, currently a necessity for any musician living in Detroit.  

Third Wave Music is one of four contestants vying to win the $50,000 grand prize from Hatch Detroit. Voting ends August 20 at 12 p.m. EST. Voting is open to the public and available online.

Source: Jen David, owner/operator of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

A second baseball diamond being built at old Tiger Stadium site

Since 2010, a group of volunteers calling themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew has dutifully maintained and restored the old Tiger Stadium site. They've removed rubble, demolition debris, and weeds as they've lovingly tended to the historic baseball field every week. Now they're building a second baseball diamond.

The hard work of several volunteers has provided communities near and far a well-maintained public greenspace for five years now. While baseball remains at the heart of the site, from pick-up games among families and friends to organized little league games, the field has also become a place for picnics and pop-up dog parks. The park is so popular, in fact, that different groups often show up to use the playing field at the same time.

In addition to its regular maintenance work, the Grounds Crew is now building a second baseball diamond, this one situated in the northwest corner of the historic site. Through volunteer work and a donation of 50 tons of dirt, a smaller baseball diamond with youth baseball dimensions will eventually be completed.

At nearly 10 acres, the park is certainly big enough to accommodate two baseball diamonds. And while adding a second diamond should alleviate some of the congestion that occurs at the field, Grounds Crew founder Tom Derry readily admits that it's also to demonstrate that the site can be used for youth baseball while also preserving the historic diamond.

A recent development proposal for the site would utilize the historic playing field for youth baseball. It's not clear whether that means altering the dimensions of the diamond to suit smaller players, like shortening the distance between bases and reducing the size of the infield.

"Whatever happens, we hope that the field is accessible to the public," says Derry. "Everything is up in the air. We don't know what will happen."

No development is currently confirmed for the site.

Source: Tom Derry, founder of Navin Field Grounds Crew
Photos: Navin Field Grounds Crew

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Clothing with a cause benefits Detroit youth

A Michigan clothing company has teamed up with the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy to mentor students enrolled at the Detroit school. The company, Merit, also donates 20 percent of its total revenue -- and not just its profits -- to a college scholarship program it started. Business owner David Merritt calls it, "cause by design." The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy is a public charter high school on the city's west side.

The education enrichment program, FATE, works to expose Detroit's high school students to the world of higher education. Students attend a series of 40 workshops throughout their high school career. Merritt says they've developed an innovative curriculum that is interactive and engaging, one that keeps kids continuously thinking about college and how their actions affect their education and community.

Merritt attended the University of Michigan on an academic scholarship. He joined the Michigan Wolverine basketball team as a walk-on, eventually earning an athletic scholarship. In 2009, his final season with the team, Merritt led the Wolverines as co-captain to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. After basketball, the former point guard joined the Michigan broadcast team as a color commentator. It was then when he approached Jalen Rose, also a former Michigan basketball player, about FATE.

"With students who live in urban areas, you have to talk and build more awareness about college," says Merritt. "You have to offer something more positive than what they're exposed to on a daily basis."

Charity doesn't sell fashion alone and Merritt stresses that in order for everything to work, the product has to be great. The fact that the clothing sales benefit others is the cherry on top, says Merritt.

Merit operates out of an online store and Ann Arbor storefront.  

Source: David Merritt, owner of Merit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Detroit Achievement Academy is a new kind of charter school in Grandmont Rosedale

Kyle Smitley, founder and executive director of the new Detroit Achievement Academy at 15000 Southfield in Grandmont-Rosedale, describes herself as "aggressively ADHD." At the age of 24 she was a full-time law school student in California while also running a multi-million-dollar organic children's clothing line. She was named among Inc. Magazine's "30 Under 30" in 2009. She has had dinner with President Obama. And now she's running a charter school in Detroit.
 
She recalls that dinner in D.C. surrounded by other rich young entrepreneurs where they all sat around talking about how they were going to make their next million. This triggered something inside her.
 
"(I remember thinking) if this is the best we (successful young entrepreneurs) have to give the country is f-ed," she says. (She speaks rather colorfully. And isn't afraid of being honest.) Her company gave some money to a charter school in Chicago and she had the opportunity to meet "all these wonderful, bright, charming kids." Looking at Detroit Public Schools, she says, "This is insane. You can do better for your kids." And this was the beginning of Detroit Achievement Academy.
 
Detroit Achievement Academy is a free public charter school that uses the rich cultural history of Detroit for project-based learning. Located inside an old church that had lost about half of its congregation in recent years, Smitley plans on staying in this location for about three years until they are able to secure government funding to build new.

"There are no buildings being occupied with room to lease that don’t need to be gutted and brought to code," she says, a sentiment increasingly being echoed by eager entrepreneurs and community leaders looking for space in Detroit. "Any school in a big, beautiful, abandoned building would need three-quarters of a million dollars sunk into gutting the building, putting in sprinklers, and bringing it up to code. That's just not in the budget for 40 kids. I've been watching other charters not open because they couldn't find a building."
 
She was fortunate to find the space in Grandmont-Rosedale. Detroit Achievement Academy has launched with four kindergarten and first grade-level classes and one arts class. Next year the Academy will have second grade for the students already enrolled and the Academy will continue to grow with its student population up to fifth grade.

"We're starting small and growing upwards," Smitley says. Referring to older students going through the DPS system, Smitley says, "These kids don't know how to be in school any other way. We can't snap our fingers into K through 5 and unbrainwash them."
 
Nearby schools in the surrounding neighborhoods are among the poorest performing in the state, with 50 kids in every classroom and violence in the parking lots. For Smitley, it was important to open by putting the kids first, regardless of how many were enrolled. She aimed to open with 100 kids but instead got 40. "…and it's been wonderful. I'm not an evil capitalist. (We're) not part of a management company with a bottom line where we have to have (a certain number of) kids."
 
She admits that it is a challenge to open a charter school in the city and convince parents to send their kids there, especially since some charter schools have reputations as poor as DPS. But for the parents who took a chance on Detroit Achievement Academy, Smitley says they are "thrilled." The Academy receives state funding and the school is free. To find out more about the school and enrollment, visit their website here.
 
Source: Kyle Smitley, founder and Executive Director of Detroit Achievement Academy
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Spielhaus Toys popping up as part of D:hive's PILOT program through the holidays

2013 Hatch Detroit semifinalist Spielhaus Toys will pop up as part of D:hive's PILOT program starting Tuesday, Oct. 22 through Dec. 24 in downtown Detroit.
 
As we have previously reported, PILOT tenants receive two months rent-free in the 375-square-foot space inside the D:hive space on Woodward. Kurt Spieles, owner of Spielhaus Toys, is confident that there is a market for retail stores aimed at children in Detroit and looks forward to proving it during this pop-up run.
 
The store will stock a variety of toys, games, and books for kids, and will also have a reading corner for storytimes and an area for coloring, crafts, and a place to play with the store's toys and games. It won't just be a store but a place for parents to bring their kids to play.
 
Spielhaus Toys focuses on unique, high-quality products. Spieles says they're looking for items made in the U.S., companies that are environmentally-friendly, and also local companies and designers. "We can't overlap with the big box stores because we can't compete," he says. They will also stock items from big manufacturers that focus on specialty independent stores.
 
They will stock wooden toys from the classic German toymaker HABA Toys as well as wooden toys from Treehopper in Illinois, a family-owned toy company that makes everything by hand in their woodworking shop. They'll also have board games and riding toys for toddlers, single-player logic games, unique stuffed animals and puppets, a wooden rocking horse, and a small selection of children's books. "We're trying to cover it all," he says.
 
Spielhaus Toys will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 24. Spieles hopes to open a permanent location soon after this but for now is focused on making the pop-up a success.
 
Source: Kurt Spieles, owner of Spielhaus Toys
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.
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