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Write A House selects first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn


Last week, Write A House, a group awarding free houses in Detroit to writers, selected its first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn.

Rocheteau was selected from a field of hundreds of applicants from around the country by a panel of judges that included former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and local writers dream hampton and Toby Barlow.

According to Write A House's blog:

"Rocheteau is a writer, historian, and performing artist. She has attended the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, Cave Canem, and Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and she has released two albums on the Whitehaus Family Record. Her book, Knocked Up On Yes, was released on Sargent Press in 2012, and her second collection, The Dozen, will be published in March 2016 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Rocheteau can be found online at www.caseyrocheteau.org and @CaseyRocheteau."

Write A House purchased a house in Wayne County's annual auction of tax-foreclosed properties last year and partnered with Young Detroit Builders, a 10-month training program that helps 18-24 year old students working towards their GEDs develop skills in the building trades, to renovate it. Rocheteau will move into the house in November.

In the mean time, Write A House will install a house sitter at the home.

Write A House opens a new round of applications in early 2015 for its next set of houses, which are located in the same neighborhood where Rocheteau will reside. Until then, the organization will continue to raise funds to purchase and renovate Detroit homes for its residency program. Donations can be made through Fundly.

Source: Write A House
 

The New York Times wants to hear from real Detroiters like you


Detroiters often criticize non-Detroit media organizations for failing to dig deep for sources when they cover the city. Case in point: a story entitled "A Gleam of Renewal in Struggling Detroit" that The New York Times ran in June. Aaron Foley of Jalopnik Detroit took The Times to task for its lazy coverage that excluded minorities and used the same sources it had in two previous stories.

Noted Foley, "There used to be a time in Detroit when the city's populace would be giddy about getting coverage in The New York Times, especially if the paper wrote something flowery about how things are slowly improving. These days, not so much."

Well, it looks as if The Times is making a real effort to deepen its coverage of Detroit. The Old Gray Lady has issued a call for Detroiters -- current, former, and new residents -- to share their experiences living in the city. The paper will use these submissions to inform its coverage of the city's emergence from bankruptcy.

According to the New York Times:

"As part of our reporting on Detroit and the city's emergence from bankruptcy -- the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history -- New York Times journalists would like to hear from current, former and new residents. Did you leave because of the bankruptcy? Or did you stay? Perhaps you moved there recently because of cheaper housing prices or an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Your name and comments may be published, but your contact information will not. A reporter or editor from The Times may contact you to learn more about your story."


Detroiters can submit there stories here.

Source: The New York Times

Park(ing) day comes to Detroit on Sept. 19

On Friday, September 19, Park(ing) Day comes to Detroit. 

A one-day, global event where "artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks," Park(ing) Day happens annually on the third Friday in September. The tradition began in San Francisco in 2005 and has since spread to cities around the world. The idea is to reclaim, if only for a day, a small amount of precious urban space that we have sacrificed to the automobile.

This year, Wayne State University will be facilitating the temporary conversion of three parking spaces on Cass Avenue at Putnam into mini-parks. For a schedule of activities, click here.

 

Got what it takes to make a whizbang website for Hamtramck?

The city of Hamtramck, Michigan's densest city, is requesting quotes for the redevelopment of its website.

According to an Request for Quotes, "The City of Hamtramck seeks qualified vendors to provide professional Internet web site design, development and implementation services for the redesign of the Cities [sic] current Website located at http://www.hamtramckcity.com. The city is seeking a redesigned modern work product with an enhanced graphic identity, value added features to provide capabilities and functions not currently available and capabilities to encompass emerging technologies such as GIS and streaming video for future enhancement.

Quotes must be submitted to:

City of Hamtramck
Clerk’s Office
3401 Evaline
Hamtramck, Michigan 48212

Quotes are due by September 23, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Local governments in metro Detroit don't have a great track record of building great websites -- anyone who's spent time on Detroit or Hamtramck's sites can attest to that. This is an opportunity to help a local government enter the 21st century.

Finally! A biergarten on Belle Isle

Since the state took control of Belle Isle, police officers have begun to enforce the city's rules banning alcohol on the majestic island park. On Saturday, September 20, however, you can enjoy a tasty brew on the island with complete impunity.

The Belle Isle Conservancy Emerging Patrons Council is creating a pop-up beer garden to raise funds for the installation of bike racks on the island. The beer garden will be located on the grounds of the White House, the oldest building on the island, built in 1863.

Atwater Brewery will be serving a variety of beers at $5 a pop. Tickets for the event cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. All proceeds will go to the island's "Bike Rack Fund." Purchase beer garden tickets via EventBrite.

Detroit Food Academy is raising funds to support young food entrepreneurs

A non-profit organization that partners with Detroit high schools, the Detroit Food Academy is in the midst of a $12,500 Patronicity crowdfunding campaign to raise money to fund its operations. 

According to Detroit Food Academy's Patronicity campaign page:

"The Academy is a 25-week program during the school year. Participants graduate with a polished values-based food product, a certificate in food entrepreneurship, a network of potential employers, and an opportunity to enter our summer employment program.

Small Batch Entrepreneurship Camp is a 6-week summer program that puts Academy graduates in the driver's seat of their food business. They are paid a stipend and employed 25 hours per week to launch, operate, and perfect their triple-bottom-line food business at farmers' markets and retail outlets across the City. The summer culminates in the 'Summer Finale Event’, where DFA’s young leaders pitch their businesses and leadership stories for a chance to win endorsements from the DFA Mentorship Board, scholarships, internship opportunities, and the addition of their handcrafted product to our emerging line, Small Batch Detroit."


Money donated to DFA will support these programs.

Bus rapid transit comes to Michigan

Last month, Grand Rapids became to first Michigan City to complete construction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line.

The $40 million Silver Line connects Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Wyoming, mainly serving the Division Avenue corridor.

Rapid Growth's Tommy Allen had this to say about riding the Silver Line for the first time:

"As I rode the bus on Monday with others who sat in the seats for the first time, a new chapter began. And I loved how people conversed with one another (those who did not engage were often caught eavesdropping, as a slight smile would emerge, giving away their hidden giddiness).
 
"At the Central Station launch of the Silver Line, Michigan Department of Transportation's Director Kirk Steudle shared that being first comes with many eyes watching what we do here, while we're hoping to replicate the successes of other cities in the U.S. who have seen a positive benefit as a result of the BRT lines."


Bus rapid transit, a less expensive alternative to fixed-rail rapid transit systems, features buses with signal priority traveling in dedicated lanes.

Read more about the Silver Line in Rapid Growth Media.
 

Senior housing at risk in revitalization of downtown and Midtown Detroit

Downtown and Midtown Detroit are in full-tilt development mode as rental occupancy hovers just below 100 percent and rent prices near the magical $2-per-square-foot over which housing developers and landlords drool.

While these numbers are welcome news to many, they come at a cost to some of the most vulnerable residents of downtown and Midtown Detroit: senior citizens. According to a story by MLive Detroit's David Muller, senior housing complexes in those neighborhoods are threatened by the desire of developers to convert them into market rate apartments.

A group of Metro Detroit housing experts called the Senior Housing Displacement-Preservation Coalition recently issued a report saying, among other things, that "at least a dozen senior apartment buildings in Detroit's Midtown and downtown areas could convert to market rate apartments in the next 10 years, forcing thousands of seniors to find new homes."

The coalition formed in response to the of the death of a senior in his apartment at 1214 Griswold after he and other tenants received eviction notices so that construction could begin to convert the building from senior housing to market rate apartments. 1214 Griswold's developers, Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc., are renaming the building "The Albert" and marketing its redeveloped apartments towards young professionals who want to live in downtown Detroit.

The MLive story (a part of Aging Together, a collaborative effort of MLive Detroit, WDET FM, and Model D that examines issues around aging in metro Detroit) raises questions about what measures can be taken to ensure the inclusion of seniors and other vulnerable residents in visions for a revitalizing greater downtown Detroit.

Read more on MLive Detroit.

Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice vote ends August 29

While four small business vie for $50,000 in startup funding in the Hatch Detroit contest, five arts organizations are vyeing for a $20,000 People's Choice Award in the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge.

As a way to shine the spotlight on smaller groups, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is asking the public to vote by text for their favorite of the five nominees to determine the People’s Choice Award winner. To vote, the public can text the nominees individual code to 22333 in the U.S. or 747-444-3548 toll-free, through Friday, Aug. 29. The effort is part of the Knight Arts Challenge, now in its second year funding the best ideas for the arts in Detroit.

The Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice nominees are:

A Host of People: a theater group celebrating the do-it-yourself movement in both food and the arts by creating a site-specific piece to be performed in community gardens around the city; (Text Detroit1 to 22333)

African Bead Museum: a center for African culture that wants to renovate its facilities and create more exhibition and programming space; (Text Detroit2 to 22333)

ARTLAB J: a troupe strengthening Detroit’s dance community by presenting Detroit Dance City Festival, a three-day celebration highlighting both local and national artists; (Text Detroit3 to 22333)

Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel: a dance group that wants to bring the traditional dances of Mexico’s La Huasteca region to Detroit by teaching the choreography locally; (Text Detroit4 to 22333) 

Detroit Drumline Academy: a group of former drummers from Detroit-area schools that wants to prepare the next generation of percussionists by teaching and mentoring middle and high school students. (Text Detroit5 to 22333)

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit www.KnightArts.org. Connect on the Knight Arts Facebook page here and via @knightfdn and @knightarts on Twitter.

'I Was Here' event to highlight experiences of homegrown Detroiters

In recent years, certain Detroit neighborhoods have experienced significant investment and succeeded in attracting new residents -- all in the face of a citywide trend of population decline that has persisted for over half a century. The development of these neighborhoods and the experience of new Detroiters who move into them have been well-documented in the media -- from stories found in Model D to national stories in the New York Times -- yet narratives of long-time Detroiters are often overlooked.

A new conversation forum, however, will attempt to remedy that by exploring narratives of homegrown Detroiters who were raised in the city and choose to remain there.

On Tuesday, August 26, "I Was Here," a new series of speaker events, kicks off at 1515 Broadway at 7 p.m.

Detroiters Ryan Barrett and Lauren Hood, both of whom grew up in the city, decided to launch "I Was Here" in order to create a safe space for long-time Detroiters to share their experiences.

"Lifelong Detroiters have these conversations all the time," says Barrett. "Now we can take them to a wider audience."

"People are dying for this kind of conversation," says Hood.

In addition to monthly events, "I Was Here" organizers are in the process of launching a blog that will feature transcribed interviews with lifelong Detroiters. So far, the blog promises to be a rich resource of Detroit oral history.


"So far I've completed 24 interviews," says Barrett.

The first "I Was Here" panel will feature three women raised and currently residing in Detroit who will share their personal histories and current relationships with the city.

They are:

Allison Kriger, LaRene & Kriger, PLC
Angelique Robinson, Treats by Angelique
Sara Aldridge, Our/Detroit Vodka & Nothing Elegant)

The event on the 26th is intended to be the first of many. Follow the "I Was Here" Facebook page for updates.

Changing speeds: Detroit Bait Car is now Bait Bike

Local entrepreneur and idea man Andy Didorosi, founder of the Detroit Bus Company (DBC) and Eight & Sand, announced last week the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to build Detroit's first ever bait car. (For the uninitiated, a bait car is a vehicle modified with GPS tracking technology that is deployed in areas with high auto theft rates and is used to catch car thieves.)

On Friday, Jalopnik Detroit reported that the DBC and Didorosi have pivoted. Instead of raising money to build a bait car, they are now raising money to build a bait bike. The campaign seeks to raise a total of $7,340.

According to the Let's Build a Bait Bike Tilt campaign page, there was more to building a bait car than originally anticipated. Here are three reasons for the shift from cars to bikes:

1) A bait car is "a concentrated sting effort that really should be led only by the police because it's dangerous, complicated and full of risks."
2) It's not the DBC's goal to send people to prison, which is where those caught stealing a bait car would invariably end up. DBC's goal is deter crime, not punish people.
3) Bait cars are really expensive!

DBC now hopes to deter bike theft in the city of Detroit by teaming with several cyclists and outfitting their bikes with GPS tracking technology. In the event that one of these bikes is stolen, the GPS will help DBC and the owner find it easily.

The real goal of the campaign, however, is to make would-be thieves think twice about taking bikes in the first place. To that end, DBC will distribute free stickers at local bike shops and bike events that read, "Is this a bait bike?" According to DBC, "Through a public awareness campaign, it'll be known that it's much riskier to steal a bike now than ever before.

If the project is funded, Detroit Bait Bike will join another technology, the Detroit Bike Blacklist (which we reported on in July), in the fight against bicycle theft in the city.

If you are interested in donating to Detroit Bait Bike, visit the project's Tilt campaign.

Source: Jalopnik Detroit

M-1 Rail update: First shipment of rails arrives in Detroit (with pictures!)

After years of planning, debates, meetings, and reconfigurations, construction finally began on M-1 Rail earlier this summer. When completed, M-1 will be the first streetcar operating in Detroit since 1956. Lane closures and construction trenches in Woodward Avenue signal what was once almost unbelievable: M-1 Rail is actually happening.

This week, things got even more real as the first shipments of steel rails (atop which the streetcars will run) have begun to arrive in Detroit on flatbed trucks. The shipment consists of dozens of 80-foot-long pieces of rail from Indiana weighing over 3,000 pounds each. Approximately one third of the rail needed for the 3.3-mile-long project will arrive in Detroit over the course of this week and next, while the rest will be shipped next year.

We will continue to update you on the progress of M-1 Rail's construction until the project is completed.

To see remnants of old Department of Street Railways streetcar rails, simply walk into the middle of Michigan Avenue in Corktown, where the steel rails are re-emerging as the asphalt pavement covering the center lane deteriorates.

Detroit's floating post office

Detroit Free Press writer Jim Schaefer and videographer Eric Seals give us an inside look at one of the city's most eccentric institutions, the J.W. Westcott II, a floating post office that delivers mail to Great Lakes maritime trade vessels. The U.S. Postal Service has provided mail services to ships passing through the Detroit River since 1874. Today, those ships receive everything from letters to packages from Amazon.com. Watch a video to see how floating mail service actually works and read a brief interview with Sam Buchanan, the captain of the mailboat on the Detroit River, on the Detroit Free Press website.

Grist: Is Detroit making the Model T of bicycles?

Taking a page from Henry Ford, Detroit Bikes is manufacturing a simple product with what it hopes will have mass appeal. Its three-speed Model A is a simple, durable bicycle inspired in part by Henry Ford's Model T, a one-size-fits all car that revolutionized the auto industry. Grist, a self-proclaimed "source of intelligent, irreverent environmental news and commentary" had this to say about Detroit Bikes and its founder Zak Pashak:

"The bicycles that Pashak makes are simple. Not fixie simple; practical simple. Three speeds, fenders, and a chain guard, with a frame made of lightweight chromoly steel. The first one was named the Model A – a riff on Ford Motor Company’s Model T. Like the Model T, it only comes in one size, and you can buy it in any color, as long as that color is black. (A second model, the Model B, comes only in white.) The plan is to keep the selling price under $700 (spendy, but about as low as you can get when buying a new bike with decent components), and appeal to the same type of person who would buy the European commuter-style bikes made by Linus or Public (neither of which makes their bikes in the U.S.)."

Read more about Detroit Bikes and other Detroit bicycle manufacturers on Grist.

Car thieves beware! A bait car is coming to Detroit

The people at the Detroit Bus Company (DBC) are looking to demonstrate that crime doesn't pay, especially auto theft, an all too common occurence in Detroit. That's why they have created a crowdfunding campaign to raise money set up Detroit's first ever bait car, a car that's booby-trapped with video and tracking technology.

DBC explains its intentions:

"Picture this: A thief spots a hot product on the streets. They pick the lock, hop inside and start working on the steering column. Meanwhile, tiny cameras all throughout the car are recording his every move. One points right at his face to get a crystal-clear picture. He hotwires the car and proceeds down the road in your vehicle. About five miles down the street, the car shuts off and the doors lock. He tries to run out but the doors aren't opening. All of a sudden, law enforcement swoops in, unlocks the car and arrests the thief. With video evidence, they'll have no problem getting a conviction. Another jerkwad off the streets of Detroit."

We want to build and deploy at least one Bait Car. We'll construct it at our facility and work with local law enforcement to deploy the car in a meaningful way. With local officers informed, they'll be able to use the car most effectively to catch criminals right in the middle of the crime. We can also allow the car to be driven to the chop shop and possibly break up large theft operations with just one sting."


To build out a functioning bait car, the DBC needs to raise $5,000 to buy a late model car, $2,500 for an integrated bait car surveillance and tracking system, and $500 for miscellaneous expenses. DBC will pay for the installation of the tracking system, as well as maintenance and deployment of the bait car.

For more information, visit the Detroit Bait Car tilt campaign page.

For an example of how a bait car works, watch this video.
 
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