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U-M conducts city-wide survey of Detroit to discover what matters to residents

A good deal of reporting about Detroit takes the perspective of an individual and extrapolates that as representative of the city at large. But what do Detroiters really think about the impact of investments, the state of transportation and public safety, and much more?

That's what the University of Michigan, with support from the Knight Foundation, sought to learn with the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), a city-wide survey that's actually representative of the demographics and geography of Detroit. 

Researchers asked nearly 1,000 Detroiters a variety of questions and came away with some interesting findings. For example, even among Detroit homeowners whose property value has increased, a majority feel conflicted about the city's housing market. Or that while 63 percent of respondents felt that race relations are "very bad or somewhat bad" in the U.S., only 15 percent felt that way about their own neighborhood. 39 percent felt "very good or somewhat good" about race relations in their neighborhood.

The hope is that these findings will drive public policy and other local decisions. All the information and methodology from the surveys will be publicly available. 

"Credible and reliable public opinion information is essential to local decision-making that reflects community needs," said Katy Locker, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit, in a press release. "This effort will provide leaders with a view into what people value in their communities, opening avenues to build consensus, spark democratic engagement, and ensure that all resident voices get fair representation in public debates."

The DMACS survey is still ongoing. Nine more will follow over the next three years with more respondents, refined questions, and hopefully deeper findings. 

Design Core Detroit outlines inclusive design action plan for city

One of the topics discussed in a recent Q&A we did with Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit (DCD), was her organization's soon to be released action plan. The goal of the plan, she said, would be to outline how Detroit can drive growth through the practice of inclusive design.

"If you can do that," Stella said, "not only will it have a positive impact on the city, but it will also bring to the forefront something of global relevance."

That action plan was released this week. And while the 75-page plan makes many recommendations, it's evident that inclusive design is at the forefront of its efforts. According to DCD, "inclusive design takes into consideration the spectrum of human diversity and the individual experiences of each person to create solutions who have a broader social impact."

Since being named an UNESCO "City of Design," DCD has shepherded Detroit's efforts to build on that significance of that designation. Two other focus areas include attracting talent that's representative of the city and investing to advance design-driven initiatives. 

The report engaged over 1,000 stakeholders and analyzed Detroit's design ecosystem, identifying the number of jobs and salaries for employees in various industries, which sectors have the greatest potential for job growth, the city's advantages and disadvantages, and more. 

Lastly, DCD outlined its vision for inclusive growth, which included such recommendations as providing training for people of all skill levels and creating an Inclusive Design Certification program that educates designers in culturally competent design practices.

Important housing nonprofit loses HUD funding, launches emergency crowdfunding campaign

The United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), an organization we've covered several times in the past, does essential work for those facing housing insecurity. It's been especially important in the fight against tax foreclosure, offering assistance, both financial and technical, and conducting outreach to residents whose home may be in danger of foreclosure. 

But UCHC received some devastating news this week: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will cut $1.1 million from its budget. According to a Detroit Free Press article, that amounts to 40 percent of its overall budget and 90 percent of its housing placement capital, which went towards finding housing for the homeless and those living in shelters. 

"In a city with a 40 percent poverty rate, unreliable public transportation, a tangled education system and a limited supply of truly low-income housing options, UCHC's placement program had been a life raft," writes Allie Gross. She adds that "the program helped more than 1,000 Detroiters last year." 

To combat this budget loss, UCHC launched an emergency Patronicity campaign, hoping to raise $60,000 by April 30. According to the campaign, the funds will go towards "critical services" that prevent families from being evicted. 

It's official: Enrollment in Detroit schools grew for the first time in over a decade

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Sam Park and Amanda Rahn on April 2, 2018

What Detroit district leaders have been saying for months is true: After many years of losing students, enrollment in the Detroit district grew this year while charter enrollment fell.

State data released last month show that district enrollment is up about 2 percent over the last five years while Wayne County charter enrollment is down about 2 percent. It's the first time in over a decade that the district has gained students.

The data are final audited enrollment numbers that the state uses to determine how much money it pays out to schools.

Detroit district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti boasted at a press conference last fall that the district's enrollment had exceeded the gains from the newly absorbed students in the dissolved state-run Education Achievement Authority schools. He said the district had added more than a thousand former charter students.

Months later, the final audited enrollment numbers show the gains were modest. The district picked up about 450 more students beyond the schools that were in the EAA, bringing total enrollment to 50,875.

The numbers Vitti referenced weren't wrong, exactly. Enrollment is a snapshot in time, and Detroit students tend to move from school to school with some frequency.

The district gained 5,155 students from last year, with about 4,700 students coming from the state-run schools. Meanwhile, six charters across the county, with about 2,800 students in total, closed.


Charters are still leading in overall enrollment. Detroit already has one of the largest charter school enrollments in the nation, with more than half of its roughly 100,000 students attending charters in the city and surrounding suburbs.
 

But charters have taken a public relations beating in Detroit in recent years, notably during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing when critics linked the poor quality of schools in Detroit to pro-charter laws that were pushed in Michigan by DeVos and her political advocacy organization.

But the public criticism of the charters hasn't significantly their hurt enrollment in Detroit.

Some of the city's biggest charter districts—Cesar Chavez Academy, University Preparatory Academy, and the Detroit Service Learning Academy—have all seen a rise in enrollment over the past five years, and they are largely stable this year.  

Four out of five charters in the city have grown over the past five years. Three out of five grew from last year
 

The Detroit district's main competitors are those in the same neighborhoods, which means the increase in city charter enrollment could be a problem, especially since new charters like Cornerstone Jefferson-Douglass Academy are popping up in the city.

Over the past five years, charters in Oakland and Macomb counties have grown 7 and 3 percent respectively. Many Detroit students—more than 30,000—leave the city every day to attend schools in surrounding cities.

Grabbing the students leaving for charters in Detroit and surrounding cities is an important fight for Vitti. Per-pupil state funding is how schools pay for the majority of their programs and staff, and the $7,631 minimum for every student adds up quickly. Vitti announced last month that in part because of increased enrollment, the district can now pay for gym teachers, guidance counselors, and many other positions its schools have been missing for years.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


Third Man to release rare Motown single with a compelling backstory as part of Record Store Day

In the last few years, Record Store Day has become a kind of national holiday for vinyl enthusiasts. Taking place on the third Saturday of April—this year, April 21—record stores around the country often offer deep discounts and specialty records. (Have you seen our own guide to Record Store Day?)

Jack White's Third Man Records in Detroit is offering its own special release of the Frank Wilson single "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)." You'd be forgiven if you've never heard of Wilson. After writing and performing this song for Motown Records, Berry Gordy asked him if he'd prefer to be an artist or producer. When Wilson said producer, this label buried the single. 

Only several pressings of it have ever been discovered, but the 7-inch single is a collector's item for soul music enthusiasts. According to Third Man, "this song became a staple of the British Northern Soul scene after one of the two previously known copies of the record was stolen from Motown in the 1970's. A third pristine test pressing appeared in the recent past at Melodies & Memories in Eastpointe, Michigan, and was subsequently sold by record owners Denise and Dan Zieja to Jack White."

[Read Model D's article on how Detroit is poised to be one of the country's premier manufacturers of vinyl records]

The Third Man release will be pressed in purple vinyl and sold exclusively on Record Store Day. It's also planning several other events for the day, including live shows by DJs and bands from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Challenge supporting Detroit's youth of color to award winning ideas $50,000

Do you have an idea, project, or organization that's working to improve the lives of Detroit's youth of color? Then you should apply to the MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge

Started by the Skillman Foundation and Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the challenge offers up to $50,000 for winning ideas. Prospective teams, which must apply by midnight on April 30, should fit one of the five program goals, which ensure that all youth of color are...
 
  • ready for school
  • engaged and progressing in school
  • prepared for career success
  • participating in the new economy
  • supported in our community
After submitting an idea, applicants who make the second round get to test out their idea with $5,000 in pilot funds, then pitch to a panel about scaling with $50,000. Winners will also attend skill-building workshops and get technical assistance for their project. 

Apply to the MBK Detroit Innovation Challenge here

Detroit Historical Museum exhibit on 1968 World Series opens in April, wants your photos

An unbelievable number of world-changing events took place in 1968. Widespread protests against the Vietnam War after the Tet Offensive. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. 

Amidst all this turmoil, Detroit also celebrated a little bit after the Tigers won the World Series.

As part of the 50th anniversary of that monumental year and the Tigers' win, the Detroit Historical Museum will be opening an exhibit, "The Year of the Tiger: 1968," on April 21. An opening reception will be held on April 20 along with a panel discussion featuring '68 Tigers Willie Horton and Mickey Lolich.

According to the museum, "The exhibit weaves together stories about the players, the manager, the stadium, and the events that paved a path toward a World Series victory and ultimately changed the mood and spirit of the city."

The museum is also asking Detroiters to contribute their photography. If you have a photograph of a game at Tiger Stadium during the 1968 season, it may be featured in the exhibition. 

"The Year of the Tiger: 1968" opens at the Detroit Historical Museum on April 21, with an opening reception on April 20. For more information about submitting a photograph, go here

Traveling exhibitition featuring Star Wars costumes comes to DIA

Are you a Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) member and a fan of Star Wars? If so, there's great news: you get exclusive access to an exhibition featuring iconic costumes from that far away galaxy. 

"Star Wars and the Power of Costume," is a traveling exhibition that features more than 60 hand-crafted costumes from the Star Wars films, including Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca, Han Solo, C-3PO, and more. In addition to showcasing the costumes, the exhibition explores both the challenges in dressing the actors, as well as the connection between character and costume. 

"This exhibition allows visitors to explore the creative processes behind the art of costume design, while discovering the unexpected ways in which these works relate to art from the DIA's collection," said Salvador-Salort-Pons, DIA director, in a press release. "It also connects directly with our Detroit Film Theatre program, which has shared the art of film with hundreds of thousands of visitors over its 42-year history."

The DIA is the last stop on the exhibition's tour, which runs from May 20 through Sept. 30. If you're a DIA member, you can attend a members-only preview on May 18 and 19. 

City of Detroit launches $250 million initiative to preserve and build affordable housing

Last week, we wrote about the potential effects of Detroit's inclusionary housing ordinance on development and low-income residents' ability to afford housing in the densest parts of the city. One aspect of the ordinance that was less clear, however, was the The Detroit Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund, which was supposed to set aside $2 million a year to use towards housing projects affecting people at 50 percent AMI or lower.

Well it appears that the city of Detroit will massively increase the amount of money set aside for projects like that. In his State of the City address, Mayor Mike Duggan announced plans to establish a $250 million multifamily affordable housing fund, and the city has just released more details about it. 

The city hopes to accomplish two goals by 2023: preserve the affordability of 10,000 units of multifamily housing, and build 2,000 new affordable multifamily housing units. It plans to do so in targeted areas along existing commercial corridors such as Gratiot Avenue, Vernor Highway, Mack Avenue, and others.

Money for the fund, called The Affordable Housing Leverage Fund, will come from grants, low-interest loans, federal subsidies, and the city's budget. 

"The preservation and creation of affordable housing is the cornerstone of our growth strategy," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "Affordable housing offers stability for the city's low-income residents and provides options to households at a range of incomes in all neighborhoods. This is what we are talking about when we say that we are building one city for all of us."

Part of that strategy will include shoring up existing affordable housing through enhanced oversight and assistance, addressing chronic homelessness by improving supportive housing, and much more. 

Read the city's plan for the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund here

Retail-design executive says look to Detroit for future of retail

The future of retail will be in Detroit, said Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA Inc., during a presentation at the National Retail Federation's Big Show in Manhattan. According to an article in the Detroit News, the large crowd included major international retail executives and experts who wanted to understand how to best integrate online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores. 

Despite the fact that upscale shopping has not been central to Detroit for 40 years, few national vendors opened stores in the city, and shopping malls have never had a place here, Detroit is well positioned in retail. Shopping malls are beginning to die out, after all, and Nisch thinks Detroit is well-positioned to thrive.

Todd Sachse, vice president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate, agrees with Nisch. He says that about $5.2 billion has went towards development projects downtown Detroit, and that more retail will follow. 

Louis Aguilar writes, "Detroit's emerging scene of DIY retailers is full of unique customer experiences, Nisch contends. They include Detroit is the New Black, an apparel and accessories shop focusing on local designers; and the Peacock Room, a women's apparel and accessories store with a vintage bent. And it's attracting more unique retailers such as City Bakery, a New York cafe and bakery with locations in Manhattan, Tokyo and now, the Fisher Building in New Center."

Nisch thinks it's possible national chains like Target might locate in Detroit in the coming years, but the stores would be smaller and offer products that coincide with the city and its people.

Have thoughts about downtown Detroit? The Downtown Detroit Partnership wants to know them

Do you go to downtown Detroit often? Do you live, work, play there? And if you don't, why not?

No matter your level of engagement with downtown, The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) and the Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) want your input. And your thoughts will help shape, and hopefully improve, services and future planning downtown.

DDP and BIZ have put together a survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, that includes questions about the activities you engage in downtown, whether you think there's a good mix of retail, if it's easy to access, and more. Your answers are completely confidential. 

By providing feedback, you're eligible to win one of four prizes: two tickets to the Tigers 2018 Home Opener, a MoGo Detroit's bike share Annual Pass, People Mover Annual Pass, and QLINE Annual Pass.

Take the Downtown Detroit Perception Survey here

EcoWorks sustainable neighborhood initiative now accepting applications

We've heard a lot about green infrastructure and green building design in Detroit. But what about green neighborhoods? That's what Eco-D wants to help build.

An initiative run through Eco Works, a Detroit-based sustainable development nonprofit, Eco-D provides neighborhood groups with technical assistance to carry out local sustainability projects. Working with The Greening of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, and Detroit Department of Transportation, Eco-D can provide assistance in community engagement practices, tree planting, conservation workshops, and much more. 

There's also a peer learning component to the program, in which neighborhood groups will have access "exchange opportunities," like workshops and events, where people can learn from each other and connect to service providers. 

The goal of Eco-D is to make Detroit "a 21st century model for urban sustainability."

Current neighborhoods in the program include HOPE Village and West Village, and EcoWorks is currently accepting applications for two more. Eligible neighborhood groups include those based in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, are "guided by a community-driven green plan that seeks to improve the financial, social, and environmental health of the community," and have a vision for a sustainable project. 

If you are part of a neighborhood organization that has a sustainability project, apply to the Eco-D program here. The deadline for applications is March 26. 

An inside look at the bailout of Marygrove College

Last year, when Marygrove College announced that it would become graduate-only, many wondered about the future viability of the college. While that's still somewhat of an open question, it's been stabilized for the near future thanks to a big boost from the Kresge Foundation.

But it's not simply a matter of shoring up Marygrove's finances. A lengthy article in the Detroit News details the restructuring that will take place at the institution "thanks to an ongoing multimillion-dollar rescue by the Kresge Foundation and $10 million in loans and guarantees from the IHM, its founding order," writes Daniel Howes.

Marygrove reached out to Kresge in February 2016, detailing all of its ongoing issues. The school was in a dire financial situation, even after receiving an emergency loan back in 2015, because its undergraduate enrollment fell by 50 percent between 2013 and 2016. 

As a result, they ended their undergraduate program, and cut faculty by 75 percent. 

But there won't be only cuts. Plans are in place to improve programs and services, such as benefits for employees, utilities, and payroll. Academics will receive special attention as well to improve the programs that the college has to offer.

The funds were also used to establish a nonprofit, the Marygrove Conservancy, "that would be responsible for maintaining the campus and relieving the school of a pressing financial burden." The Student Transition Fund also offered $1.2 million to distribute to students to aid in transferring to other colleges or universities.

Marygrove College was a women's-only college when it was first established in 1905. After the Detroit 1967 uprising, education at Marygrove expanded its opportunities to minority women. The college has always been involved in the social change of the community.

Can government stop tax foreclosures? Model D contributor says yes

Why have there been so many tax foreclosures in Detroit over the past decade? As we covered in our two-part series on the topic, it's a complicated issues with numerous causes. We also learned that there are viable solutions that many in government are overlooking. 

That's what regular Model D contributor Michele Oberholtzer argues in a column she wrote for the Detroit Free Press titled "Government can stop tax foreclosure."

The lowest hanging fruit is the "Step Forward" program created by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Because of strict rules and standards in the application process, every year the program "denies assistance to hundreds of applicants."

Similar issues plague applying for the poverty tax exemption. "A retroactive poverty exemption could annul foreclosures for hundreds or thousands of at-risk Detroit homeowners who are losing their houses for taxes that they could have had waived," Oberholtzer writes.

She also thinks pro-ownership programs like Right of Refusal are being underutilized. In 2017, this program saved 80 homes from the tax auction, allowing homeowners to buy them back for $2,000 to $5,000. 

"If this program was expanded to include all occupied foreclosed homes, this would mean that 2,000 homes might be diverted from the grips of foreclosure onto a common-sense affordable path to homeownership."

Oberholtzer also wrote a column for Model D last year proposing that city-owned homes be sold back to their occupants. 

New award to recognize exceptional Detroit craftsmanship

It used to be, in Detroit and elsewhere, that exceptional craftsmanship was recognized and appreciated. The Parducci Society, a nonprofit named after the famed Detroit sculpture Corrado Parducci, and dedicated to the preservation and promotion of architectural craft, is hoping to change that.

The society has announced its first presentation of the Craftsman Award, which "will recognize a craftsman, tradesperson, or design professional who has made a lasting contribution to the vibrancy of architecture and the built environment in metro Detroit."

"The need for an award grew from our Detroit Design Festival panel discussion in September where we had a really rich conversation based on craftsmanship, preservation, and Detroit's revitalization," said Jennifer Baross, president of the Parducci Society, in a statement. "It was apparent that there is a void of such a recognition in Detroit—and Michigan."

[Read our interview with Baross about Parducci's legacy in Detroit]

Nominations are being accepted between now and Feb. 23. The award will be presented at the Parducci Society's 5th Annual Tribute Party at Meadow Brook Hall on Thursday, March 22nd. 

Eligible nominees must have made "architectural ornamentation projects both new and restorations, that show outstanding skill and merit and that have been completed within the past two to three years."

Nominate a project for the Craftsman Award here. Tickets to the Parducci Society's annual tribute can be purchase here.
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