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Census: Detroit incomes up, poverty down, but results still mixed

The U.S. Census' American Community Survey was released Sept. 14, and the numbers overall are very encouraging for Detroit. 

According to an analysis in the Detroit News, from 2016 to 2017 poverty is down 4 percent to 35.7 percent. Median income rose 7.5 percent from $28,099 last year, "the first significant income increase recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau in the city since the 2000 census," write Christine MacDonald and Nicquel Terry. 

But it's hard to tell if much or any of those gains have made their way out to the neighborhoods. "Overall it's a great story for Detroit," Kurt Metzger, demographer and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, said in the article. "But when you look beneath the surface, we still have a lot of issues. There is a constant narrative out there: Are all boats rising together?"

Detroit is still the poorest big city in the nation, and Mayor Mike Duggan says there's still much more work to be done. The article also cites job programs and opportunities that have had a city-wide benefit, like Detroit At Work job training program. 

Numbers for the state overall were positive, with income rising and poverty decreasing. Though those rates were still below the national average. 

Read the full Detroit News article here

Stephen Ross, Ford Foundation to invest millions in Detroit neighborhood housing projects

Earlier this year, we covered The Platform, a development firm that's investing millions of dollars outside the 7.2 square miles of greater downtown, and trying to be inclusive at the same time. 

Two major backers have clearly been encouraged by the work, and are inventing huge sums of money in the project. According to Crain's Detroit Business, billionaire Stephen Ross and the Ford Foundation have pledged $7.5 million and $10 million respectively towards The Platform Neighborhood Initiative. The Platform itself has pledged an additional $10 million, bringing the total to $27.5 million. 

"Each of the three investors bring something," write Kirk Pinho and Sherri Welch. "The Platform with the neighborhood development plan, the Ford Foundation with its mission-related investment and broader strategy to support equitable revitalization in Detroit, and Ross with a connection to his hometown and the ability to influence future investment."

Echoing statements made by The Platform executives about equitable development, Xav Briggs, vice president of economic opportunity for the Ford Foundation, said that "investments that displace people from a place they call home are anything but positive."

The Platform has development projects in the works throughout the city. While its most notable purchase was the Fisher Building in New Center, The Platform also does work in Islandview, North End, Live6, and more. They're also one of the development leads, along with Century Partners, on The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a massive housing project in northwest Detroit. 

Read the full Crain's article here

Downtown architecture exhibit to showcase the future of design in Detroit

September is filled with dozens of events relating to design in Detroit. We detailed many of the ways the city is celebrating its history of design, plus current and future efforts, which are all part of the Detroit Design Festival spurred by UNESCO endowing Detroit with its prestigious "City of Design" designation.

Much of this work is to determine what Detroit's urban environment will look like and how design can contribute to it. And that's exactly what an architecture exhibit opening downtown hopes to showcase. 

Called "Detroit Design 139," the exhibit will highlight 38 development projects throughout Detroit's 139 square miles. It is presented by Bedrock and the city of Detroit. The architectural designs on display include a mix of redevelopment efforts, like the David Whitney Building downtown, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project in northwest Detroit, and the redesign of the East Riverfront. 

The exhibition also put forth "10 Design Principles" to demonstrate what kinds of designs will lead to a healthy, attractive city. They're interesting and worth listing in full:
 
  1. Advance design as a means to improve the quality-of-life for all people
  2. Balance function and beauty
  3. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement
  4. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues
  5. Honor context and history through contemporary design
  6. Activate the public realm
  7. Balance community cohesion with aesthetic diversity
  8. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion
  9. Explore new ways to live, work, and play together in the 21st century city
  10. Celebrate Detroit's design legacy, while contributing to the city's design future
"Detroit Design 139" will be on display at the ground floor of 1001 Woodward in Campus Martius starting Sept. 14. It is free and open to the public from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Detroit installs hidden cameras around city to catch illegal dumpers

Illegal dumping is a major problem in some Detroit neighborhoods, almost all of which are poor. According to the city of Detroit, "Each week, workers from the city's Public Works Department remove more than 500 tons of illegally dumped material across the city."

[Model D covered Detroit Re-tread, a company that has been collecting and recycling dumped tires since 2012, in an article about the city's reuse economy]

The residents of these neighborhoods are fed up with having trash disrespectfully thrown near their homes. And the city has responded with a new initiative to catch these illegal dumpers by installing over a dozen hidden cameras at popular dumping sites.

According to the city of Detroit, the new initiative has already led to 22 charges based on video evidence from the cameras. The city even posted a video of one such incident.

"For too long, people have used our neighborhoods as dumping grounds because they could get away with it," said Mayor Duggan, in a press release. "We are going to charge them, and whenever we can we are going to use existing laws to seize the vehicle they used in this criminal activity."

According to the city, the total cost of the cameras is about $75,000, plus a little more each month for electricity and maintenance. Much of that will likely be recouped through fines from blight citations. 

Ponyride becomes first Detroit coworking space to offer on-site childcare

In today's gig economy, where an estimated 35 percent of the workforce are freelancers, coworking spaces have become increasingly important. Model D has covered these development over time, from when co-lab week first started in 2014 as a way for Detroit freelancers to experience the various coworking spaces available, to the opening of new coworking spaces like SpaceLab and the expansion of Bamboo Detroit earlier this year. 

But parents who freelance are often left out of this equation, as there hasn't been a coworking space that's integrated daycare into its model. Until now. 

Detroit Mama Hub, a support organization for new and expectant mothers, is teaming up with business incubator Ponyride to offer Detroit's first coworking with childcare. Called "Cowork + Coplay," the monthly popup series will offer access to the Ponyride's facilities, as well as on-site childcare provided by Detroit Radical Childcare Collective.

"We are thrilled to be able to offer this series to families in Detroit," said Jalyn Spencer-Harris, co-founder of Detroit Mama Hub, in a press release. "For many parents, finding quality, affordable childcare with a flexible schedule is a huge challenge, and we hope this is a step in the direction of finding new and innovative ways to support Detroit's working families, especially our working mamas."

The pop-up events will be held on Sept. 11, Oct. 2, Nov. 6, and Dec. 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

"Cowork + Coplay" costs $25 per day and includes coworking space for one adult and care for one child ages 6-months to six years old. Register for the coworking pop-up here

City of Detroit sends message to speculators, issues 700 lawsuits

One common concern amidst Detroit's economic resurgence is the way speculators, many from outside the city, have acquired swaths of land only to sit on it. One WDET segment on Detroit Today estimated that speculators own 20 percent of all parcels in Detroit, but "have no real obligation to insure that land is well kept or fits into an overall neighborhood community."

That is, until recently. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, the city of Detroit will be filing 700 lawsuits against negligent speculators. Writer Chad Livingood estimates that the number of individuals and companies affected by the lawsuits may climb to 1,500 by November. 

"The lawsuits target banks, land speculators, limited liability corporations and individuals with three or more rental properties in Detroit who typically buy the homes for cheap at a Wayne County auction and then eventually stop paying property tax bills and lose the home in foreclosure."

[For more information on the tax auction and foreclosures, check out Model D's two-part series on the topic]

Speculators swallowed up this land because it was sold, in some cases, for hundreds of dollars. The city had already filed nearly 70 lawsuits in August for owners who had more than $25,000 in unpaid property taxes. 

The article also states that, "the lawsuits do seek to establish a legal means for going after investors who buy cheap homes at auction and either rent them out and not pay the taxes or walk away from the house because it's damaged beyond repair, [attorney Andrew] Munro said.

"'That's the kind of behavior the city is trying to change,' he said."

Accelerate Michigan pitch competition once again to award over $1M in prizes

If you're a Michigan startup, there's one pitch competition you absolutely have to know about. It's called the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, and the grand prize winner receives $500,000. Even the first and second runners up receive $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. 

The competition is seeking applicants from "high-growth, high-tech," early stage Michigan companies that have received less than $2 million in investment to date. After the first application round, 36 companies are chosen to pitch on-site in front of judges. Of those, 10 will get a chance at a longer presentation at the event's gala dinner on November 16 at the Masonic Temple. 

There's also a competition for Michigan student entrepreneurs. Semi-finalists and finalists will be given a chance to pitch during the same day as the companies for a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000. 

According to Accelerate Michigan, "previous prize winners have fueled over 1000 jobs and raised more than $550 million in additional financing." Past winners of the competition include, SPLT, Banza, SkySpecs, and others dating back to 2010. 

If you're a company or student, you can apply for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition here. The deadline is Friday, Sept. 1 at midnight. 

With big push from city gov't, protected bike lanes spread across Detroit

"The city is on a path to making biking safer, even if it takes motorists a little time to get used to."

That's the opening sentence of a recent Detroit News article that neatly summarizes the benefits and challenges of new bike lanes in a city so dependent on automobiles. 

The city of Detroit is clearly committed to increasing bike access and infrastructure. Whether it's accumulating land for the Inner Circle Greenway, support for bike share program MoGo, or now, increasing the amount of protected bike lanes. 

"Brightly painted green and white, new 'protected' bike lanes—those with a separation between bike and parking lanes—are popping up in the city, at the cost of nearly $150,000 per mile," writes Shawn D. Lewis. 

There have been protected bike lanes in Detroit since they were first installed in 2015 along Jefferson Avenue on the far east side. Since then, they've been popping up along Livernois Avenue, Michigan Avenue, and various parts of the city. Newer ones along Cass Avenue and Grand River Avenue are more elaborate, with green strips in the lanes and in front of where cars stop at intersections. 

"There are 212 miles of bike lanes in Detroit but only nine miles of them are protected," according to the article. "With current construction on Cass and on East Jefferson from Rivard to Lakewood, 10 more miles will be added. The city has requested that a $1.5 million road project on Grand River include protected bike lanes." 

Most of the funding will come from federal dollars. 

Read the full Detroit News article here

Grand Circus to host pitch competition for minority-led startups

Rates of minority-led startups are regrettably low. According to a 2010 study by CB Insights, less than 1 percent of venture capital-backed startups were black, and latino-owned startups weren't even mentioned. 

That's where Pitch 313 comes in. Taking place on September 7 at Grand Circus Detroit, this pitch competition will give minority-led businesses the chance to sell their businesses to inventors for funding and in-kind services. The exact prizes and amounts have not been determined.

The competition is exclusively for companies led by black & latinx founders. 

According to Pitch 313's website, "The event provides an opportunity for these underrepresented groups to receive some foundational resources to get their idea, concept, or business off of the ground."

The competition is sponsored by Code2040, Google for Entrepreneurs, and Grand Circus.

Deadline for application is August 23 at midnight. Apply for Pitch 313 here

September in Detroit means Design: 2017 Detroit Design Festival kicks off

In Detroit, you might as well call September "Design Month." Thanks to the efforts of Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), a variety of design-themed events have been planned for the month as part of the Detroit Design Festival (DDF). 

The month kicks off with the Detroit City of Design Summit from Sept. 8 through 15 (last year's inaugural summit was covered by Model D). The event was spurred by UNESCO endowing Detroit with its prestigious "City of Design" designation—the first city in the United States to receive one. It will explore how Detroit can harness the designation and the efforts made towards that goal in the last year.

From Sept. 9 through Oct. 7, guests can view "Footwork," an exhibition put on by a series of partners on the future of work. Model D covered the group that went to St. Etienne, France where the exhibition was originally on display. 

The "festival" portion unofficially begins with a Drinks x Design on Sept. 14, where attendees can grab a program guide and tour some design-centric businesses and organizations. 

As usual, DC3 has helped organize the wondrous Eastern Market After Dark and Light Up Livernois events—annual displays of the ways art and business and historic public spaces can enliven each other. 

The 2017 Detroit Design Festival is taking place throughout most of September and some of October. Most of the events are free. View the whole DDF schedule here

For second year, Open Streets to make parts of Michigan Ave and Vernor Hwy pedestrian-only

Last year, for two days, parts of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway became free of vehicular traffic. The event, called Open Streets Detroit, encouraged pedestrians to reimagine the use of roads through the use of vendors, performances, and interactive street art. 

"Ultimately, over 10,000 people came each day, most of them from Detroit," wrote Jessica Meyer, in a piece for Model D about the event. "There were no major injuries besides an occasional bee sting and there was no violence or fighting. Residents from both Corktown and Southwest expressed pride in showcasing their neighborhoods. … Through events like Open Streets Detroit, we can empower Detroiters to think critically about their surroundings and advocate for their right to public space."

The event was such a success, that it's happening once again. Organized by The Downtown Detroit Partnership, the free event will take place on Sunday, October 1, from noon to 5 p.m. There will be an addition to the route this year, beginning at the newly created Beacon Park downtown and connecting to Michigan Avenue. 



"We received a lot of positive feedback from participants and business owners from last year's events, and we're looking forward to working with the Corktown and Southwest Detroit communities to further build off that momentum," said Lisa Nuszkowski, project lead for Open Streets Detroit, in a press release. "We found that there is a real desire for a program like Open Streets, which helps connect communities, support local businesses, and encourages people to get out and get active."

The organizers are also seeking program sponsors, "who can create family-friendly participatory activities focused on health, wellness, arts and culture." 

[Open Streets Detroit was also featured in a Model D piece about the future of Michigan Avenue]

Open Streets Detroit takes place on Sunday, October 1, from noon to 5 p.m. Apply to be a program sponsor here

Pure Detroit offers public walking tours of Packard Plant

For years, the Packard Plant has been a kind of mecca for urban explorers. It's no wonder—the 3.5 million square foot ruin has been abandoned for decades and is a marvel of might and blight. 

But soon, you won't have to be a trespassing explorer to see in inside of the Packard Plant. Pure Detroit, in partnership with Arte Express Detroit, will offer public walking tours of the historic Packard Plant on Saturdays, beginning August 12. 

The tours will last 90 minutes and cost $40. With space limited to 30 adults per tour, you'll have to reserve your spot in advance.

"Pure Detroit is excited to help highlight the extraordinary history of the Packard Plant with our partners Arte Express Detroit and the Packard Plant Project," said Kevin Borsay, owner of Pure Detroit, in a press release. "Our walking tours will offer a unique and enriching experience that focuses on the plant's past, present, and future contribution to the vitality of the city."

There have been rumors floating around about redeveloping the Packard Plant for years. Developer Fernando Palazuelo had said he plans to invest $500 million into the project. According to an article in Curbed Detroit, the first phase, a $16 million renovation of the Administration Building, will be completed by the end of 2018. "The building will be renovated for offices, with restaurant, gallery, and event space on the first floor."

Register for a tour of the Packard Plant here

Grand Circus partners with Facebook to offer tuition-free coding bootcamp

We at Model D have been covering Detroit's efforts to grow its tech-ready workforce, whether it's investing in autonomous vehicle technology, giving grants for technology-based solutions to the city's issues, or offering scholarships and free courses for coding. 

There's even more on the way. Just this week, Allied Media Projects announced its NextGen App program, which will train youth in app development and coding in connection with its Equitable Internet Initiative. (You can read more about it in this article on the initiative, which was a unique collaboration between the nonprofit, Rocket Fiber, and the New Economy Initiative.)

Grand Circus, a downtown technology learning institute, is continuing to train Detroiters with its Facebook Bootcamp. The eight-week, tuition-free course is sponsored by Facebook and will teach students a variety of coding languages, like HTML5/CSS3 and JavaSript. They'll also get job assistance training and "guaranteed first-round interviews at Michigan technology firms, including Accenture, a global professional services company."

"Partnering with Facebook allows us to continue to position Grand Circus graduates as leaders in the technology field," said Damien Rocchi, CEO of Grand Circus, in a press release. "The specialized training that this bootcamp offers in React prepares students with the necessary skillset to thrive in today's digital environment and fill a shortage of computer coding professionals."

25 students will be accepted into the bootcamp, which takes place from Oct. 16 through Dec. 8 of this year. Grand Circus is accepting applications on a rolling basis. 

For more information or to apply for Grand Circus's Facebook Bootcamp go here.

WWII-era themed party to benefit at-risk women veterans in Detroit

The creators of Detroit Gastby, a bi-annual 1920s themed party, are organizing another historically-themed event. And once again, a portion of the proceeds are going to charity. 

Pin-Ups and Privates will be a 1940s USO-style swing dance event to support homeless women veterans through Activate Detroit Potential (ADP), a nonprofit that supports at-risk women in Detroit. 

The event will take place at the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle featuring music played by the Rhythm Society Orchestra, "a 15-piece dance band specializing in 1940s Big Band music." Tickets will also get you a WWII-era cocktails and beverages, and a dinner from chef Jeffrey Tatum. 

Attendees are encouraged to dress in era-appropriate attire, "ranging from pin-up looks to zoot suits and 1940's military wear."

Pin-Ups and Privates takes place on August 24 from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. You can purchase tickets here

Nine tours offered at the 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Farms and Gardens

Detroit has an impressive number of urban farms -- over 1,500 according to Keep Growing Detroit -- a number that has grown significantly in recent years. But the the urban farm "movement" has been alive in the city for some time, as demonstrated by the fact that the 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms takes place August 2. 

Presented by Keep Growing Detroit, patrons can take one of nine bus and bike tours organized by theme and location. For example, a west side bus tour, called "Making Institutional Change," will swing by D-Town Farm, Detroit Public School's Charles R. Drew Transition Center, and Knagg's Creek Farm to demonstrate "how farms are inspiring systemic changes in our community."

Other tours will highlight black-led farms, farms with a focus on youth development, the history of urban farming in Detroit, and more. 

All the tours will begin in Eastern Market at 6:00 p.m. and last approximately two hours. Afterwards, there will be a reception with local produce cooked by local chefs. 

Keep Growing Detroit, an urban agriculture organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Detroit, hopes to not only showcase these farms, but educate attendees about Detroit's food system.

"We demand healthy, green, affordable, fair, and culturally appropriate food that is grown and made by Detroiters for Detroiters," writes the organization in a press release. "Transforming our broken food system begins with ensuring there are places to grow food in every neighborhood in the city. Places where residents can dig their hands in the soil to cultivate a healthy relationship to food, learn healthy habits from family and neighbors, and nurture an economically viable city where residents are strong and thrive."

The 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms takes place August 2 at 6:00 p.m. Purchase tickets at the Eventbrite page
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