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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."

Midtown program seeks to prevent residents from being priced out of neighborhood

Gentrification is an issue being talked about a great deal in Detroit. It's a problem that's especially acute in neighborhoods like Midtown, where rents are rising so fast even tenants with steady jobs are having trouble keeping up.
 
That's one reason why Midtown, Inc. has launched their "Stay Midtown" cash assistance program.
 
According to a Detroit Free Press article written by John Gallagher, "The pilot program is aimed at residents of Midtown with annual household incomes that are 50 to 80 percent of area median income levels, or as low as $23,450 for a single person or $30,150 for a single parent with two children. Residents qualifying for help would receive up to $4,500 over a three-year period to bring their total housing expenses down to 30 percent of their income, a level considered normal under federal guidelines."
 
Funding for the program comes from the Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation, and "the specialized lender Capital Impact Partners, which also helped design the program."
 
Midtown, Inc. hopes to help 100 households with the initial round of fund disbursements. 

U.S. cities, Detroit included, are rethinking the alley

An article in The Atlantic's City Lab begins on a poetic note:

"The alley is dark no longer.

"In the United States, these almost-accidental spaces between buildings have existed in a sort of limbo: not quite streets, but still thoroughfares; not private, but not public enough to feel protected; backdrops to crime, or filled with trash heaps."

The article continues by detailing the way cities, including Detroit, are creatively rethinking use of these "almost accidental" spaces. For years, writes Eillie Anzilotti, "[alleys] were a place to conduct activities considered unfit for the main street," like big deliveries or trash collection.

But urban planners are beginning to recognize how much untapped space exists in alleys. One of these new approaches was adopted by Detroit's own Tom and Peggy Brennan. The Green Alley, adjacent to their business-incubator and coworking space the Green Garage (profiled in Model D), is a prototype for the green alley movement being adopted by many U.S. cities.

The Green Alley, writes Anzilotti, "incorporates permeable surfaces and gardening space, and has transformed a space once filled with mattresses and hypodermic needles into a community gathering place."

There's many other interesting cases mentioned in the article, and one wonders which alleys in Detroit would make for promising redevelopment opportunities. 

Demand still far outstripping supply in Detroit's greater downtown rental market

In an analysis of greater downtown Detroit's rental market, the Detroit Free Press estimates that for 2016, 700 new units are set to open by the end of the summer. And the ones that have already opened are at or near 100 percent capacity. 

"It is also giving landlords reason to continue raising rents, although the size of the year-to-year jumps could subside as more new apartments hit the market," writes JC Reindl.

The article cites several recently-opened apartment buildings in the area that have already leased out their units. One case, profiled by Model D, is the Forest Arms Apartments. Rehabbed after a devastating fire in 2008, the Forest Arms rented out all 70 of its units the first month they became available, with rents for one-bedroom units going for around $1,000 per month.

The very high end units and those reserved for low-income tenants aren't going at quite the same rate. The Waters Edge at Harbortown, also profiled by Model D, whose two-bedrooms rent for about $1,700 per month, still has 42 of its 134 units unleased. 

The Strathmore in Midtown has leased out all of its market-rate apartments, but only a handful of its lower-income ones. In the article, the building's property manager, Derrell Jackson, explains that the reason for the difference is due to the difficulty in proving one's income. 

Who are these renters? "Those filling the new Detroit apartments are typically young professionals as well as some empty nesters, leasing agents say," writes Reindl.

These cases suggest that demand is far outstripping supply. The market is obviously still adjusting, so renters should expect fairly dramatic increases in rental rates (10 to 20 percent) in the near future. 

Biking institution celebrates coming of spring with annual open house

On April 23, Back Alley Bikes and the Hub of Detroit will be hosting their annual spring slate of events promoting the shop's programs and services, as well as cycling generally in Detroit. It's a great opportunity to support a biking institution in the city, and get access to the shop's singular collection of bikes and bike parts.

Festivities begin at 2 p.m. with a youth bike ride (parents welcome) led by Back Alley Bike staff and volunteers. 

An open house at the shop follows around 3 p.m. where attendees can take a tour of Back Alley's workshop. There will also be a garage sale on shop's bottom floor, which "is a great opportunity to purchase affordable bikes and bike parts and to help clear out old inventory to make room for the new," according to a Back Alley Bikes press release.

Snacks and games will also be available. The event is free and open to the public.

Those who want to ride must meet in the alley off MLK behind 3611 Cass Avenue at 1:30 p.m. "All riders are required to wear a helmet and have a signed permission slip and waiver. A small amount of bikes and helmets are available to borrow."

Back Alley Bikes is a nonprofit community bike shop, which has been operating in the Cass Corridor for 15 years. 

For more information, visit bikealleybikes.org or email meg@thehubofdetroit.org.

Third annual Freep Film Festival kicks off

On Thursday, March 31, the Freep Film Festival (FFF) begins its third year of showcasing documentary film relevant to Detroit and Michigan. 

The festival is building on its success and expanding its scope. This year there will be nearly double the number of screenings, including 18 premiers, shown at six venues in Detroit plus Emagine Theater in Royal Oak. 

“The Freep Film Festival’s emphasis on films that have a strong tie to Michigan and/or Detroit set the Festival apart from others in Michigan and throughout the country," said Steve Byrne, executive director of the FFF, in a press release. "The films will showcase the best and most intriguing elements of our residents, our city or our state."

Opening night of the FFF starts Thursday, March 31 at the Filmore in downtown Detroit with a live recording of Kevin Smith's podcast "Fatman on Batman," who's best known for directing such films as Chasing Amy and Clerks. This will be followed by a live screening of T-Rex, a documentary about a 17-year girl from Flint, Michigan pursuing a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

Other highlights of the festival include films on the controversial Hantz Woodlands project in Detroit and a double feature about Belle Isle. The festival comes to a close April 3.

For more information on tickets and screenings, visit freepfilmfestival.com.

Enjoy vintage video games and cocktails at Michigan Science Center After Dark

We got excited last month when the Michigan Science Center opened its doors one evening for After Dark, a happy hour that invited adults ages 21 and over to explore the science of mixology ("I wasn't just out drinking, I swear. I was learning chemistry!"). Over 170 people attended.

We're even more excited for the return of After Dark on Thursday, Jan. 21, when the Science Center will add vintage video games to its monthly happy hour. Attendees will be able to play some arcade favorites and classic console games like Duck Hunt and Super Smash Bros, all while enjoying a cash bar. It's all in conjunction with the Science Center's latest exhibit, Toytopia, which explores the science of play through multiple eras of games.

After Dark events take place on the third Thursday of every month. This month's event starts at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21. Admission is $10 and includes a complimentary drink. Attendees must be 21 or over to attend.

Tickets are available here.

Disclosure: Michigan Science Center provides funding for Model D's "STEM Hub" series documenting the importance of STEM education in southeast Michigan.

MiSci After Dark, the thinking person's happy hour, comes to Michigan Science Center


There's no shortage of great places to grab a cocktail after work in Midtown these days, but if you're looking for a change of pace that's more intellectually stimulating than your average trip to the bar, the Michigan Science Center has something special for you. On the third Thursday of every month, MiSci is hosting After Dark, a happy hour that allows adults to experience the museum after hours while enjoying adult beverages.

According to a statement, "After Dark will feature demos with a mixologist, vintage video competitions, extreme dot-to-dot challenges and more." Admission is $10 and includes a drink.

The next After Dark happy hour is happening Thursday, Dec. 17, from 5-8 p.m. Click here for details.

How to do Small Business Saturday the easy way


With the holiday season (and all of the shopping it entails) upon us, there's good reason to feel stressed. Thankfully, several Detroit nonprofits are teaming up to make shopping easy and enjoyable, all while promoting city-based small businesses.

This Saturday, Nov. 28, the Downtown Detroit Partnership is hosting its 12th annual Shop Detroit event in conjunction with American Express's Small Business Saturday. Participants will be able to hop on busses at any of nine pickup locations around the city and be shuttled to a handful of retail districts, including the Cass and Canfield district, the shops at the Park Shelton, the Fisher Building, the Livernois Avenue of Fashion, and downtown. Along the way, the good folks at the Detroit Experience Factory will provide background on the shopping options, as well as historical tidbits about the city. The best part? The tours and shuttles are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with Shop Detroit, the Build Institute will be hosting a Build Bazaar in the atrium of One Campus Martius. Build Bazaar is a rotating pop-up marketplace celebrating emerging entrepreneurs from Build Institute's small business development program. To learn more about Build Institute's Shop Detroit Build Bazaar, click here. Can't make it this Saturday? Check out one of the other Build Bazaars happening between now and Christmas.

To RSVP for Shop Detroit, click here.

Is the development craze in Midtown spreading to nearby Milwaukee Junction?


In a longform piece for Bridge Magazine, veteran Detroit journalist Bill McGraw takes a deep look at Milwaukee Junction, an old industrial district that is quickly attracting the interest of local real estate developers.
 
Home to Ford Motor Co.'s original factory, The Ford Piquette Area Plant, Milwaukee Junction was one of the city's most productive industrial areas in the first half of the 20th century. "At its peak in the 1940s, some 33,000 people worked in Milwaukee Junction, and there were 33 heavy manufacturing plants," write McGraw.
 
Though its former glory as an industrial hub of Detroit has mostly faded (it's still home to a handful of industrial businesses), McGraw describes a growing interest in the neighborhood by real estate developers. Currently, the area only has a small amount of housing, but McGraw sites its proximity to other quickly gentrifying Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and New Center, as well as its closeness to the under-construction M-1 Rail line, as reasons for its imminent development.
 
Think Milwaukee Junction is Detroit's next hot neighborhood?
 
Read more in Bridge Magazine.

Take a tour of the hidden collections of the Detroit Public Library


This week, the Detroit Public Library kicks off the celebration of its 150th anniversary. (Click here for details about a March 25 anniversary event at DPL.) In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the stacks of DPL's Burton Historical Collection, which are normally hidden from public view. Click here to explore the stacks with the help of a cool feature by the Detroit Free Press and discover some of the city's hidden history.
 

Tavis Smiley, late night king of PBS, to tape five episodes in Detroit

Tavis Smiley, the king of late night television on PBS, is coming to Detroit. 

On March 23, 24, and 25, Smiley, will tape five episodes of his show in front of live audiences at the Community Arts Auditorium on the campus of Wayne State University. Each episode will focus on the city and its rebirth, including examinations of the city’s Downtown resurgence, the challenges facing long-time residents of the city, the Arab American community in Dearborn, the arts community, and education. The week will conclude with a Detroit town hall meeting.
 
Detroit Public Television (DPTV) will provide the crew and state-of-the-art facilities to help produce the shows in conjunction with Wayne State University.
 
You are invited to be part of the live audience. Sign up by visiting www.dptv.org/tavissmiley.
 

Marche du Nain Rouge seeks businesses to host parade parties


According to a press release, organizers of the Marche du Nain Rouge are seeking local businesses to serve as "Preparer le Nain." In other words, they want Detroit businesses will to host parties and events before, during, and after the parade, which is scheduled for Sunday, March 22 from 1 to 3 p.m.
 
Preparer le Nain events will take place starting Monday, March 16, concluding on Sunday, March 22 after the Marche. Prepare le Nain events may be for only one day or the entire week. They can include art events, performances, parties, specials, discounts, or whatever creative ideas you have. After parties, a.k.a. Apres le Nain festivities, are also welcome.
 
To be included on the Marche du Nain Rouge's list of Preparer and Apres events and offers, submit your ideas to marchedunainrouge@gmail.com with the subject line "Preparer le Nain" by Friday, March 6, 2015.

Celebrate Detroit's world-class Hackley Collection at 71st annual concert


One of the lesser-heralded treasures of the city of Detroit is the E. Azalia Hackley Collection at the Detroit Public Library. Established in 1943, the collection features items related to the history of African Americans in the performing arts, including "many rare books, manuscripts and archives of performing artists," as well as a wealth of photographic and print materials.
 
On Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 7:00 p.m., the Hackley Collection will host its 71st annual concert at the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library, which is located at 5201 Woodward Ave. in Midtown across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
 
The concert, "an evening inspired by the collection," will feature performances by Alvin Hill, a technology-based artist; Masters of Harmony featuring Mr. Kelly Thomas, Detroit's oldest performing musician who was born in Alabama in 1913; and Pamela Wise featuring Wendell Harrison.
 
The event is free and open to the public.
 
For more information, visit the event's Facebook page or call 313-481-1339. 

Marche du Nain Rouge seeks neighborhood floats


On March 22, the fifth-annual Marche du Naine Rouge will wend its way through the Cass Corridor, chasing a little red dwarf, the harbinger of destruction in Detroit folklore, out of the city before he can do any harm.
 
Will the Nain appear again this year to try to wreak havoc on our city? We can only hope not. But if he does, Marche du Nain Rouge organizers hope that he will be met with displays of pride from communities all across town.
 
That's why they asking groups from all neighborhoods — representing the heart and soul of the city — to band together to build floats and processions for the Marche.
 
To help community groups bring out their best game, Caribbean Mardi Gras Productions is offering two free Neighborhood Float-Building Workshops in partnership with OmniCorp Detroit. These workshops will offer tips, ideas, and brainstorming sessions to help participants be Marche-ready by March 22.
 
“We will show folks how easy it can be to express themselves creatively,” says Ralph Taylor, President of Caribbean Mardi Gras Productions. “You can make a stunning visual display with simple materials and a little know-how.”
 
Got an idea for a float that might help fend off the evil dwarf? For the love of all that is good, please make it happen! The free float-building workshops will be held:
  • 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 at the Caribbean Mardi Gras Productions studio, 6911 East Lafayette on the Eastside.
  • 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, at OmniCorp Detroit,1501 Division St. in Eastern Market.
545 Midtown Articles | Page: | Show All
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