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City of Detroit to purchase 7.5-mile stretch of abandoned rail for use in Inner Circle Greenway

Earlier this month, Model D reported that the Detroit Greenways Coalition received a grant to develop the Inner Circle Greenway across 1.4 miles in Highland Park. Well, there's even more good news about the prospect for the 26-mile series of bike lanes and greenways connecting the city by non-motorized pathways.
 
The city of Detroit has announced that it's agreed in principle to purchased 7.5 miles of abandoned rail from Conrail for $4.3 million. While the sale still needs to be approved by the Conrail board and Detroit City Council, construction preparation could begin as early as this fall. The city will be reimbursed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation.
 
"The Inner Circle Greenway is going to connect Detroiters from every corner of the city to some of our greatest resources," said Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. "Residents will have a safe and reliable non-motorized path of greenways and bike lanes connecting them to the riverfront, Eastern Market, parks across the city, and more."
 
This stretch of rail, the largest gap in the path, would constitute nearly 30 percent of the entire Inner Circle Greenway. Other completed portions include the Dequindre Cut, Riverfront, and Southwest Detroit Greenlink. 
 
"The goal of the greenway is to connect neighborhoods previously separated by freeways and disjointed transit via pedestrian and bike paths," according to a press release fro the city. 
 
The plan has been in the works for years—Model D first reported on it in 2015. But it's never felt closer to a reality. 

Unique community of quonset huts near Woodbridge ready for residents

Of all the distinct new housing being built in the city—tiny homes, shipping containers—perhaps none is more distinct than the quonset hut. A number of these horizontal, cylindrical structures made of corrugated steel have been built in a neighborhood near Grand River and 16th that's being called True North.
 
A recent Curbed Detroit article provided details and took some photography of these minimalist huts that are 620 to 1,700 sq. ft.
 
"Some of the spaces will be dynamic and activated, while most will simply be residences," writes Robin Runyan. "They've planted 30 trees and more wild grass and a clay court is yet to come. Of the residences, all seven are occupied or will be rented shortly. One of the huts will be rented out as an Airbnb, while the largest one (the tall one with the ladder) will have a gallery space and an apartment above it."
 
Another notable feature is that each hut is distinct in size and arrangement. According to True North's website, "each unit was designed with a specific trade in mind." All except one of the structures are two stories. 

A new program teaches Detroiters how to invest in property to profit from city's real estate boom

Wealthy developers are snapping up properties left and right in Detroit, leaving many residents to wonder if they'll be left with just the scraps. But, according to a City Lab article titled, "Can Detroiters Finally Get a Stake in the City's Real-Estate Boom?", a new real estate program looks to give Detroiters the information they need to invest in property.
 
The article details "Better Buildings, Better Blocks," "a neighborhood-based real-estate class that provides education and resources to residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park," writes Andrea Penman-Lomeli.

"It was recently selected as one of the 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, which will provide three years of funding for the class. Individuals who take the course learn firsthand how to invest in properties, focusing on acquisition, financing, and project management for small-scale projects. The goal of the program is to create a network that ensures that communities can sustainably rehabilitate residential and commercial spaces and that Detroiters can finally articulate how their city is remade."
 
The program is run by Chase Cantrell, of Building Community Value, who was featured in a Model D article about combating income inequality where he talked about the course, which he was in the process of designing.
 
"Part of the model is to create a fund that'll serve a singular purpose to invest in projects that come through the cohorts," said Cantrell in November 2016. "Once you go through the program, if you have a promising project, you can get a loan or equity investment from the fund."
 
According to the City Lab article, much of those original goals are still in place. Sessions will be taught by local developers, based on a curriculum designed by University of Michigan professor Peter Allen. 

Learn more about the "Better Buildings, Better Blocks" course here.

City installs temporary plaza along Woodward near riverfront

Detroit has been testing out a variety of ways to be more pedestrian and mobility-friendly in recent years. Last year saw the closures of long stretches of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway during Open Streets Detroit. Last month, the bike share system MoGo was launched. 
 
And last week, the city closed the southernmost section of Woodward, between Larned Street and Jefferson Avenue, to create a plaza. Dubbed "The Spirit of Detroit Plaza," the three-month long installation contains food trucks, seats and tables, and artwork. It will also improve access from Campus Martius to the riverfront. 
 
An article in the Detroit News has more details, as well as rationale of the planners. "Janet Attarian, deputy director for planning and development for the city, said the decision to transform the roadway into a gathering space ties into a larger city initiative to create a 'green necklace of public spaces' along Woodward and to the riverfront," writes Jennifer Chambers.

"We see this plaza as a pivotal place in connecting those two. It's right in front of city hall and it's the people's plaza," Attarian said in the Detroit News article.

The installation connects with the recently construction esplanade just south of Campus Martius.
 
Also check out Curbed Detroit's write-up, which contains photography of the plaza.

84-unit, mixed-use development coming to Sugar Hill district in Midtown

Another day, another announcement about new construction in Detroit. 
 
On Friday, June 9 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan and a team of developers and designers announced a big development project to be built right around the corner in the Sugar Hill district of Midtown. 
 
The Sugar Hill Mixed-use development will contain 84 apartment units, 25 percent of which will be set aside for low-income residents, along with 7,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, a 300-car parking garage, and green alleyways. The development, sitting on nearly one acre of vacant land, will cost an estimated $32 million and is expected to break ground in September 2018. 
 
The development and design teams contains an impressive collection of talent and experience. The head designer will be Phil Freelon, an architect of international renown who designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Freelon will work with the Detroit-based firm McIntosh Poris Associates.
 
Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc., two organizations committed to low-income housing, will lead the development. 
 
"Plans for this project go beyond building high-quality, mixed income housing options for Detroiters," said Sonya Mays, CEO of Develop Detroit, in a press release. "We will work hand-in-hand with residents and stakeholders within the existing community to ensure the development is an equitable one; one that creates a walkable environment anchored by commercial and retail spaces, pedestrian streets and alleyways, all of which are accessible to all and ensure continued investment in the arts and culture, education and wellness assets that already call the Sugar Hill district home."

Detroit Future City lays out framework for dealing with city's abandoned manufacturing sites

The next great challenge the city of Detroit might face? What to do with all its abandoned manufacturing sites. 
 
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, that's what the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office will focus on in a new report. 
 
"The numbers alone can stagger," writes John Gallagher. "Detroit contains nearly 900 vacant and mostly abandoned manufacturing sites. They include behemoths such as the old Packard Plant, now in line for a multi-year, multi-million-dollar remake. But more than two-thirds of the vacant factory sites measure less than 10,000 square feet—small tool-and-die shops mostly scattered through the city's neighborhoods."
 
The report, released June 2, notes that, "Many of these buildings abut residential neighborhoods in some of the city's most disadvantaged areas. Without a strategic approach to repurposing these properties, they will remain fallow for years to come, posing threats to public health and safety, and undermining Detroit's recovery."
 
While many challenges remain, the report also notes many successes in repurposing industrial buildings, both local and international. "One example of a recent success was the groundbreaking for automotive parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate’s 350,000-square-foot, $95-million-dollar plant on 30-acres of vacant land on Detroit’s east side. The new facility will generate up to 750 new jobs, 51 percent of which are guaranteed to go to city residents."
 
Read the Detroit Free Press article here. Read the DFC Implementation Office report here

GM and Focus: HOPE partner to train local women in STEM jobs

For years, there's been a lot of talk about narrowing the STEM gap in education and the workforce. To help address this issue in Detroit, a potent corporate and nonprofit pairing is going to train women for jobs in STEM. 
 
According to a press release, "Focus: HOPE and General Motors have joined forces to create the Women In Manufacturing & Technology (WIM Tech) program, a new Manufacturing and Information Technology job preparedness and training program for 60 local women. The program is made possible by a $370,000 grant and $338,000 in laptops and network infrastructure donation from GM."
 
The release goes on to cite statistics about how poverty rates drops significantly with educational attainment of a family's primary income earner. 
 
"The key to a successful career is opportunities, something that GM has given our graduates and individuals we serve for decades," said Jason D. Lee, CEO of Focus: HOPE, in the press release. "We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with GM and working together to eliminate racism, poverty and injustice."

City of Detroit creates Office of Sustainability, names first director

Another in a series of firsts for the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan, the city of Detroit has established an Office of Sustainability, and named Joel Howrani Heeres as its director. 
 
According to a press release, the new department and director will "guide the city's efforts to strengthen the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the city's residents, neighborhoods and businesses."
 
Sustainability has been a priority for this administration. There have been efforts to improve green infrastructure in Detroit, clean up air quality, and promote urban farming, among other initiatives. More were touted in the press release:
 
"Detroit has achieved several sustainability-related milestones in recent years, including the launch of the QLine streetcar, conversion of the city's 59,000 streetlights to LEDs, adoption of green demolition practices for vacant home demolitions, securing $9 million in Federal funding to enhance the city's resiliency, opening a 10-acre solar array at O'Shea Park, and $11.7 million in investments to renovate 40 city parks and playgrounds. Howrani Heeres' appointment and the creation of a sustainability office will support and accelerate these types of projects."
 
Howrani Heeres has lived in Detroit for 13 years and worked in a variety of fields related to sustainability, including as a staff member for EcoWorks Detroit and as managing director of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

Details of Free Press Building redevelopment emerge

Among the numerous downtown redevelopments taking place in Detroit, perhaps none is more exciting than the old Detroit Free Press Building. 
 
The architecture and interior design firm Kraemer Design Group (KDG), in a newsletter, released some of the details of its renovation. There will be "structural updates, complete masonry restoration, new energy-efficient windows and a fresh interior design." The final result, which seeks to preserve the historic elements of the building, will be a mixed-use retail, office, and residential. 

Bedrock owns the building, which is expected to reopen in 2020 at a cost of nearly $70 million. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, "Asbestos and lead abatement, demolition and hazardous material removal will earn Bedrock about $7 million in brownfield tax abatements."
 
The Free Press Building is one of the more iconic structures in downtown Detroit. Designed by Albert Kahn, it has some impressive limestone carvings, statues, and reliefs done by Ulysses Ricci. It was constructed in 1925 and has been abandoned since 1998. (Source: Historic Detroit)

Artist Charles McGee, 92, paints 11-story-tall mural and opens exhibition

One of Detroit's most accomplished contemporary artists, at 92 years old, is still searching. 

That's the theme for his latest exhibition, "Charles McGee: Still Searching," which is presented by the Library Street Collective and opens on June 1. According to a press release, the exhibition "traces McGee's 70-year-long career through an array of works that encapsulate two of the artist's most enduring themes: chronicles of the black experience and a love of nature. The retrospective also reflects McGee's evolution across mediums, with works ranging from charcoal drawings and photography to avant-garde three-dimensional and multimedia pieces."

One block from the gallery, coinciding with the exhibition, McGee's 11-story-tall mural "Unity" will also be unveiled at 28Grand, a new micro-loft apartment building constructed by Bedrock. 

McGee has accomplished much over his 70-year career in art. His work is on permanent display at the Detroit Institute of Art and Museum of African American History. He's also one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. 

"Charles McGee: Still Searching" opens June 1 at 1505 Woodward Avenue, a pop-up gallery, with an artist reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

News and observations from QLine's opening weekend

The QLine's first weekend came and went. And Model D is here to recap opinions, observations, news, and more on the first streetcar to drive along Detroit's streets in over 60 years. 

Crain's Detroit Business put together a useful primer on the QLine in one of the publication's Special Editions. Check out articles on potential expansion, construction timeline, and safety, which has been a concern amongst transit experts.

There's even a safety video on the QLine's own website (see below). 

Riders could take the QLine as much as they wanted on opening weekend. They rode so much, in fact, that the system saw some delays, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press. Because of a few issues on opening weekend, the QLine will continue to be free all week, according to the Detroit News. 

During normal traffic hours, it will take around 20-25 minutes to ride the length of the 3.3-mile track. The QLine does not have right of way, must obey traffic lights, and cannot exceed Woodward Avenue's 30 MPH speed limit. 

Also, check out this blog post on all the destinations riders can visit along each of the QLine's 12 stations.

QLINE Detroit - Driver Safety from M-1 RAIL Detroit on Vimeo.


For fourth consecutive year, NEIdeas Challenge to award $400,000 in grants for small businesses

Attention small business owners: the New Economy Initiative (NEI) is now accepting applications for its NEIdeas Challenge. For the fourth consecutive year, NEI will award 20 already existing small businesses with $400,000. 

To apply, a business must have been founded at least three years ago and have a demonstrated need for capital in order to grow. There are two tiers to the program, $10,000 and $100,000, depending on how much a business grosses.

According to a press release: "Since its launch in 2014, NEIdeas has awarded 96 local businesses a total of $1.5 million to help them realize their ideas for growth, as well as connected hundreds of others to technical assistance opportunities. Nearly 70 percent of past NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and 65 percent are woman-owned businesses."

As they do every year, NEI is holding a series of information sessions for prospective applicants. There are still three more remaining at the following dates and locations:
  • May 18, 6 to 8 p.m. at Grand River Workplace (19120 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48223)
  • May 22, 6 to 8 p.m. at SER Metro Detroit (9301 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48210) – bilingual session in Spanish and English.
  • May 30, 6 to 8 p.m. at TechTown (440 Burroughs St., Detroit, MI 48202)
Learn more about or apply to the NEIdeas Challenge here

Detroit's new bike-sharing system, MoGo, to launch this month

Bike-sharing is finally here. Detroit Bike Share released more information about its program, dubbed MoGo, launching later this month. The "Mo" in MoGo comes from Motown and Detroit's nickname as the Motor City.

The system will have 430 bikes at 43 stations throughout the city. Passes, which range from daily ($8) to annual ($80), can be purchased online, through the Transit App, or at stations. Users can also pay in cash at 7-Eleven, CVS, or Family Dollar with the app. 

After buying a pass, users can ride a bike for up to 30 minutes with no additional charge. Bikes can be returned to any station. 

"We are thrilled to introduce Detroit to MoGo," said Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share, in a press release. "Today's announcement continues the city's mobility evolution, providing Detroiters and visitors alike with more accessible options to move around the city."

Detroit Bike Share is a collaboration between the city of Detroit, Henry Ford Health System, and Health Alliance Plan.

Detroit Bike Share was recently featured in a Model D article about the present state of Michigan Avenue. 

Get more information about the Detroit Bike Share system here

Local media outlet to explore impact of neighborhood redevelopments

The city of Detroit, foundations, and major developers have been increasingly active in neighborhoods outside the city's urban core. The impact of all this new investment on residents hasn't come close to being grasped. Some organizations and media outlets are trying.

Last month, TheHUB Detroit, a magazine that focuses on Detroit's neighborhoods, launched a "year-long in-depth report on neighborhood-specific investments." In an article outlining the aims of its investigation, editor Jackie Berg writes, "We'll take an in-depth look at the size and scope of neighborhood redevelopment efforts and examine commitments being made by developers to build or preserve affordable housing for low-income families and seniors, explore whether gentrification without displacement is a threat or boon to Detroit, and we'll examine the impact of minority contractor awards associated with related construction efforts."

The series, called "Living In and Loving Detroit," will begin with District 5, which covers wide swaths of midtown, downtown, and the east riverfront. "We discovered half a billion dollars in neighborhood investments underway in District 5 alone. These include residential developments and mixed-use projects that combine housing and retail or office spaces, renovations of historic industrial spaces to a modern healthcare facility."

While few specifics were laid out in how the investigation will proceed, or how deep it will go, Model D will certainly be paying attention. 

City partners with Detroit hospitals to train and provide jobs to 240 Detroiters

One strong industry in Detroit is healthcare. With three hospitals in the city limits, there's plenty of jobs available, and more in demand. It's also a sector Mayor Mike Duggan knows well, as he was CEO of the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) for eight years prior to running for mayor. 

As part of Duggan's Detroit at Work initiative, the city's three hospitals—DMC, Henry Ford Health System, and St. John Providence—have partnered with the city to provide job training for entry-level positions to 240 Detroiters in the healthcare industry. 

According to a City of Detroit press release, "All of the trainees will be identified through the Detroit at Work website or DESC One-Stop Service Centers and receive their instruction through a single program. Once the workers are trained, all three of participating health care systems will recruit from the same pool of talent."

The training will be three to eight weeks depending on the position and conducted by Focus: HOPE and the Oakland University School of Nursing Continuing Education. 

"The need to fill healthcare jobs continues to increase, especially the need for patient care associates," said Focus: HOPE CEO Jason Lee, in the press release.

Enrollment for the program is open through the first week of May. Register online here, and then visit one of three career centers located at 5555 Conner, 9301 Michigan Avenue and 18100 Meyers.
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