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Our favorite stories of 2015

Young Detroit chess players wait to play Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura


It feels like it was just yesterday that we ran this feature about the things we were looking forward to in 2015, but here we are again, another year gone by. And what a year it was! In June, Model D turned 10, and to celebrate our decade of publishing stories of transformation in Detroit, we launched a series called "10 Years of Change," where we've been revisiting some of our favorite content and digging deep into a number of issues important to the city since our launch, including regionalism, historic preservation, urban agriculture, architecture, non-motorized transportation, talent, and more. Look for more "10 Years of Change" stories in the first half of 2016.

But before we put 2015 to bed, let's take a look back on some of our favorite and most-read stories from the past year.

Our exclusive interview with Nicole Curtis, the Detroit-area native who stars in HGTV's hit show "Rehab Addict," was our most-read story of 2015. And that piece wasn't our only celebrity interview this year -- we recently jumped at the chance to speak with native son and funny man Keegan-Michael Key about his Detroit roots and what's next for him post-hit show "Key & Peele."

 
By far our most popular non-celebrity story in 2015 was one in which we spent a day
searching for the most beautiful blocks in Detroit. We didn't limit ourselves to conventionally beautiful neighborhoods (no offense to places like Indian Village, which we can all agree is about as handsome of a neighborhood as they come), but allowed ourselves to find beauty in unexpected, even ordinary, places throughout the city's 139 square miles (and Hamtramck and Highland Park, too), which is why we think this story resonated so much with readers.

Readers also loved our stories about exceptional Detroit kids, like our piece on how the highest rated chess grandmaster in the U.S. faced off against 50 Detroit kids, only to meet his match, and our feature on programs that are helping develop Detroit's young men of color into leaders.



 
Neighborhood transformation was another area that grabbed readers' attention in 2015. We looked at
Alexandrine Street as a microcosm for understanding the change happening in Midtown, as well as how Midtown's anchor institution-driven community and economic development strategy is being applied and adapted to the neighborhoods surrounding the intersection of Livernois and 6 Mile Road in northwest Detroit. We looked at how a coalition of artists, small business owners, and residents, are transforming a mile-long stretch of Oakland Avenue in Detroit's North End neighborhood, starting with a re-production of George Clinton's Mothership. Across Woodward Avenue, we highlighted a community organization that's transforming vacant lots into mini fitness parks to create a healthier, more connected neighborhood in the Piety Hill area between Boston Edison and New Center. We also asked how long-time residents can help steer development with change afoot in Southwest Detroit.




 
Also popular were stories of neighborhood-level development projects like
the rehab of an old corner bank in West Village, the redevelopment of a seedy Corktown motel into a chic boutique hotel, and Detroit City FC's plans to rehab a historic stadium in Hamtramck using investments from fans.

Our three-part series that challenged Detroiters to re-imagine I-375, America's shortest (and we argued silliest) Interstate highway, elicited large numbers of pageviews and impassioned reader responses via Facebook. (Read the series here: part one, part two, and part three.)

 
Readers also loved our stories about classic Detroit businesses surviving and thriving, in some instances against all odds. We profiled
Dutch Girl Donuts, one of the city's favorite places to get a sugar fix since it opened in 1947; Franklin Furniture, a used furniture dealer that refuses to give up on Detroit after four decades in businesses; and Goodwells Market, home of the famous pocket sandwich and a quiet leader in Detroit's food renaissance since it opened its doors in Midtown a decade ago. We also celebrated the arrival of new businesses that hope to become the classics of tomorrow, like Kuzzo's Chicken and Waffles, which opened on the Avenue of Fashion in January.

Local history was another subject Model D readers found engaging. Last year, we went in search of the oldest bar in Detroit, only to discover that more than a few of Detroit's well-worn drinking establishments can make a strong case for that distinction. We also celebrated the legacy of Detroit's unsung mother of historic preservation, Beulah Groehn Croxford, whose battle to protect her historic street in Midtown led to the creation of Detroit's historic district ordinance. More recently we dug deep into how the single-family home became the city's dominant housing type.



 
We hit the road to see
how Detroit was representing itself in Nevada's Black Rock Desert at the annual Burning Man Festival and spent an entire day circling above downtown Detroit on the People Mover, learning a lot about our city in the process.

We explored the intersection of race, class, and identity along the border between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, as well as the slow and steady strides the communities of metro Detroit have made over the last decade when it comes to thinking and acting regionally.

We snuck around the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library in search of that institution's hidden treasures.



 
We looked into
how climate change will affect Detroit's neighborhoods, profiled women working cool jobs in STEM fields, and investigated the public health implications of Detroit's water shutoff policy.

We examined how the Mounted Police Division plays an important role in building trust between city residents and the Detroit Police Department and how a growing group of cartographers are mapping a better future for Detroit.



 
Then there were our stories about food in the city, like our
coverage of the launch of the Corktown Farmers Market and our feature on how Detroit helps satisfy America's craving for corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.

With that, Model D says "so long" to 2015. If last year was any indication, we have a lot to look forward to in 2016. See you in the New Year!

Matthew Lewis is Model D's managing editor. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjlew.

All photos by Marvin Shaouni.
 

Read more articles by Matthew Lewis.

Matthew Lewis is a writer and former managing editor of Model D. He's currently the communications officer for the New Economy Initiative. 
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