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Get Into The Groove on Record Store Day - Photo by Marvin Shaouni
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D:hive: Coordinating and connecting Detroit talent

Welcome to D:Hive! Photo by Marvin Shaouni
Welcome to D:Hive! Photo by Marvin Shaouni
You may have noticed that Inside Detroit no longer occupies the downtown storefront from which enthusiastic Detroiters welcomed visitors for the past six years. But Inside Detroit hasn’t gone away, exactly; they’ve remodeled, significantly expanded their scope, and gotten a new name. Detroit, meet the D:Hive.

The transformation started with Josh McManus, an outside the box Chattanooga entrepreneur who came to Detroit with the support of the Hudson-Webber Foundation in 2011. (McManus had just wrapped up work with Create Here, a successful five-year arts, economic, and cultural development project in downtown Chattanooga.) When he arrived, he got a three month crash course in Detroitism by meeting with over 300 people, from Dan Gilbert to on-the-ground community leaders.

His conclusion, after all those conversations, was that the city is full of talented people working on inspired projects, but it lacks meaningful coordination of these things. To more effectively capitalize on our assets, McManus assessed, creative Detroiters need to communicate with each other more often and in more coordinated ways. Enter the nonprofit D:Hive, whose mission is "to help grow the number of talented individuals in Detroit by providing them with the information, connections, and key tools to live, work and engage in the city."

Originally, the two organizations were just going to co-locate in Inside Detroit’s space, D:Hive Director of Community Relations (and Inside Detroit founder) Jeannette Pierce told me. But because Inside Detroit was already "trying to do some of the things D:Hive wanted to do, it didn’t make sense to have two separate entities with two separate boards. We need more collaboration in the region," Pierce said, and the two organizations decided to model that principle by merging.

So what exactly do they do all day in their freshly refurbished and reorganized space on Woodward? Let’s break it down by looking at the three prongs of their mission: living, working, and engaging in the city.

Live

Whether you’re a current resident looking for a new place to stay, or someone who wants to move here from as close as a suburb or as far as another country, D:Hive wants to make it easier for you. As anyone who has relocated to Detroit from out of town can attest, it can be hard to play the real estate game remotely.

"Craigslist doesn’t work as well in Detroit as it does in other places," Pierce explained. "In most of the big developments, people are on top of filling vacancies and putting stuff online. But for the landlord who owns just four units, say, whether he doesn’t know about Craigslist, doesn’t have time for it, or doesn’t care, odds are, his stuff isn’t going to be there."

Add to that the issue of rental properties in greater Downtown getting harder and harder to come by, and it’s clear that people could use a hand finding and deciding on a place to live. To help, D:Hive has launched a few different initiatives (with more on the way). Originally, they researched and disseminated via social networking ten available properties a week. That wasn’t enough to keep up with the high rental turnover, though, so late last month, they launched @DHiveLive, a constantly updated Twitter feed whose sole purpose is to spread the word about available units and connect potential residents to them.

Then there’s Come Be My Neighbor, a brand-new project through which enthusiastic residents can work with D:Hive to create videos encouraging people to move to their neighborhoods. ("If landlords aren’t always interested in spreading the word about their neighborhoods, neighbors are," Pierce said.)

In the long term, D:Hive is also developing a comprehensive map of Detroit neighborhoods and the amenities available in them. A impressive 6' x 6' version of the map (in progress) is on display above the facility’s welcome desk.

Work

"Another thing we want to do," Pierce continued, "is dispel the myth that there are no jobs in Detroit. An HR person will come to us and say that they have tons of jobs and that they can’t find people to fill them. Then the next day, someone walks in and shows us a resume and they’re exactly right for the job that the HR person couldn’t fill."

To connect job seekers with employers, D:Hive maintains several web pages with professional job postings and local employment resources. But more than that, D:Hive staff is happy to review a resume and contact local HR staff on job seekers’ behalf. There’s no guarantee that this free service will result in a job, but there’s a good chance that prospective employees will at least get a meeting.

Additionally, Come Be My Coworker, much like Come Be My Neighbor, gives professionals the opportunity to showcase what they love about working where they do, and encourage others to pursue careers at the same places.

For entrepreneurs, D:Hive hosts BUILD, an eight-week small business and project planning class that focuses on initiatives’ sustainability, durability, scale, and replicability. Thirty graduates have already completed the program, business plans in hand, and a current round of classes is underway (and full to capacity). The next one is scheduled to take place in the Fall.

Engage

D:Hive understands that it’s more than the nightlife that compels people to choose Detroit. They’re drawn to being part of growing, active communities, and to live a life that’s more about giving back than getting ahead. (Thus "engage," not "play.") To that end, D:Hive’s growing Engage web page offers voter education and registration information, and includes some suggestions for organizations that could use your help.

The variety of tours that Inside Detroit became known for are still available at D:Hive, and in fact, public tours have grown in number and are now free. There are fourteen different public tours each month, including two walking tours a week and one bus tour a month. The tours are intended to deepen participants understanding of and connection to the city and its residents. Even the "bar tours" are explicitly not called "pub crawls," because, in Pierce’s words, "They’re more about going into small businesses and meeting the owners and employees than drinking."

Pay a visit to the D:Hive and you’ll find a bustling space that starts off public (you can relax on the couch by the window or bring your laptop, sit at the counter, and get some work done) and becomes more private as you work your way in. (All the way in back is a meeting room that local organizations can rent for free.) Along the way you’ll find D:Pop, a storefront within a storefront opened by pop-up retailer Margarita Barry. It carries a variety of merchandise created by local artists, craftworkers and entrepreneurs, and will showcase individual artists’ work with regular, rotating pop-up shows. (The shop’s launch party is on June 30.)

There’s a lot going on at the D:Hive, and much more to come: "We’ve been building the airplane as we’ve been flying it," Pierce remarked. "Now that we’ve finished the construction of the space, and hired and gotten a lot of great people in place, we’re excited to be moving full-steam ahead."

At this point, they’re just waiting for you to get involved. Whether you want to make a video about why you love your neighborhood, tweet about a property opening up near you, or attend (or lend your expertise to) the next BUILD session, "What we need from people is interaction. D:Hive really is like a bee hive, with constant information in and constant information out. If anybody wants to know anything about living, working, or engaging in Detroit, we’re here to help. And at the same time, if we can help spread the word about their project, we want to"

Photos by Marvin Shaouni

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