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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.
 

A deep dive into the roots of Detroit techno

Little attention has been given to the music created in Detroit throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s -- between the Motown era and the rise of techno. Ashley Zlatopolsky traces the origins of Detroit techno in a longform feature for Red Bull Music Academy Magazine and celebrates the city's disco and post-disco scenes that gave birth to the techno movement.

"Memories of teenagers throwing thousand-strong disco parties; rampant after hours clubs, with authorities turning a blind-eye under the rule of Mayor Coleman Young; a short-lived New Wave boom that brought the likes of The B-52’s to party in Detroit – all of it has basically been forgotten in the techno surge that followed."

Zlatopolsky interviews many of the producers, musicians, and DJs responsible for creating the culture in which Detroit techno would thrive.

Read more in Red Bull Music Academy Magazine.

New site will help Detroiters recover stolen bikes

If your bicycle "goes missing," a new resource now exists to help you get it back. It will also help you be certain that the used bike you are about to buy was not stolen from its previous owner. The Detroit Bike Blacklist is a website where local cyclists can post profiles of their missing bikes (including photos, descriptions, dates when bikes disappeared, and contact information) in the hopes that people who come across them will return them to their rightful owners.

According to Detroit Bike Blacklist's founder, the site was inspired by a personal experience of purchasing a stolen bike:

"So, in October of 2013 I found out that the bike I was riding around on was stolen property.

It had been stolen from Eastern Market, donated to a local bike shop (by a parent maybe?), and I ended up buying it.

I pieced this together by meeting the former bike owner, and then talking with people at the bike shop. It was no one's fault - it just ended up that way.

But what if there was a way to check if the bike you were buying had been stolen?

Thus, the Detroit Bike Blacklist was born."


Have a look. Maybe you can help a fellow Detroiter get his or her bike back.

Source: Detroit Bike Blacklist
 

Relax! It's okay if suburbanites rep Detroit

"Where are you from?" asks a stranger on an airplane. It's a common first step in getting to know someone, especially when you're travelling.

"Detroit," you answer.

"Oh, Detroit, you say? Whereabouts, exactly? I love Detroit and know all of its neighborhoods."

"Well...er...I'm from Grosse Pointe Park, actually. It's an east side suburb of Detroit."

"Oh, I see..." says the stranger, putting on her headphones and raising her IPad, effectively ending all communication between you and her for the rest of your flight together.


But it doesn't have to be this way! Or at least that's what a recent article from CityLab entilted "Why You Shouldn't Mock Suburbanites Who Say They're From the City" argues.

"We need to allow for more wiggle room," write CityLab's Laura Bliss and Sam Sturgis. "Why? First, it no longer makes sense to generalize the experience of the 'actual city' as radically more heterogeneous than, or separate from, life in a suburb or exurb."

This of course raises the question, "Are all of us who live in this metropolis 'from Detroit?' And what does it mean when we build a barn between one municipality and another?" 

Read more in CityLab.

Midtown Inc. closes in on $50K fundraising goal for green alley project

Midtown Detroit Inc. is seeking to raise a total of $50,000 towards the development of the district's second green alleyway. If the organization succeeds in raising the funds through its Patronicity campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the funds. At the time of this writing, donors have pledged just over $30,000 to the campaign.

The project is planned for an alley right-of-way bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley, and Alexandrine. According to the project's Patronicity page, "the project will "transform the 415 foot long alley with the purpose of connecting future developments, promoting walk-ability and community connectivity - opening up business for restaurants like the Selden Standard."

For more details, visit the green alley project's Patronicity page.

Social Club Grooming Co.'s "Shop Talks" not your average panel discussions

The Social Club Grooming Company hosts panel discussion that are wholly unique in Detroit. During the Social Club's "Shop Talks," panelists have an intimate conversation with an audience about the future of Detroit -- while sitting in a barber chair and getting their hair cut.

The next Shop Talk is scheduled for Thursday, July 24 from 6-8 p.m. The Social Club will host a Duke and Harvard student-moderated panel discussion on the social-entrepreneurial climate and business innovation happening in Detroit. Panelists include designer Rick Williams, fashion photographer Piper Carter, chief talent officer for the city of Detroit Bryan Barnhill, and Crain’s Detroit Business's director of audience development Eric Cedo. The panelists will receive haircuts while speaking so the shop can collect the trimmed hair and use its nitrogen content to help grow vegetation in Detroit.

The Social Club’s Shop Talk series is designed to provide a monthly opportunity for the Detroit community to hear from a diverse group of community leaders, artists, business leaders, and activists about specific issues. The objective is to help young people develop thoughtful positions on topics being discussed in Detroit, as well as increase their understanding of the positions of others.

“There’s so much positive energy in Detroit right now,” said The Social Club founder Sebastian Jackson. “It’s wonderful to see tomorrow's leaders at Harvard and Duke take notice. The fact that these students are here to experience a firsthand account of what’s going on means we are beginning to change the narrative of Detroit. Thursday’s panel discussion gives these students an opportunity to interact and learn from the individuals influencing the future of Detroit.” 

Other panelists may be added.

The Social Club Grooming Company provides environmentally friendly grooming services to the Detroit community through socially responsible practices. The Social Club prides itself in catering to all who enter, regardless of race or gender. The shop is located at 5272 Anthony Wayne Dr. on the campus of Wayne State University.

For updates, visit the Social Club's Facebook page.
 

Essayist reflects on growing up in Detroit's North Rosedale neighborhood in piece for The New Yorker

In an essay published on June 17 in The New Yorker, native Detroiter and writer Rollo Romig reflects back on his time growing up in North Rosedale Park on Detroit's northwest side. Throughout the essay, entitled "When You've Had Detroit," Romig waxes nostalgically about the things that made his childhood neighborhood special while acknowledging the cruel realities of living in the heart of a city during a period of rapid decline.

My parents had no idea what a paradise North Rosedale could be until they moved in. All they knew was that they could buy a gorgeous house there for only thirty thousand dollars, and that was good enough. It was a big yellow-brick colonial, built solid in 1928 and clearly designed for a family with means: a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, a leaded-glass window on the stair...

It was good enough that there was a lot we were willing to ignore. Five months after we moved to North Rosedale, three men with guns took my mother’s purse while she chatted outside a friend’s house on a perfect May evening. When a cop arrived, my dad pointed out that the muggers now had our home address and our house keys. What to do?


Despite its challenges, Romig celebrates his neighborhood as a great place to be from.

"We’ve never wished we grew up anywhere else," he ends his essay.

The essay is slated to be published in the forthcoming Wildsam Field Guid to Detroit.

Re-examining the $500 house: You get what you pay for

Good Magazine makes a compelling argument with which many who have bought "cheap" homes in Detroit might agee: When it comes to the $500 house, you often get what you pay for. In fact, these houses often carry a negative value.

"Here’s why very cheap can mean very big trouble," writes Good's Angie Schmit. "Houses, in addition to the land they occupy, are the sum of their parts. That key threshold where "affordability" turns into market collapse is when housing becomes so cheap that the cost to repair the structure is more than someone is willing to pay for the house. Just because houses might sell for peanuts in Detroit, doesn’t make, say, roofing materials or lumber any less costly. In other words, if your home is worth less than it costs to fix the roof, there’s strong incentive to walk away. And that’s what thousands of people have done in cities like Detroit, Youngstown, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York."

In other words, cheap houses generally require large investments of time and money, which Good Magazine's Angie Schmitt argues is a big problem, especially for the working poor who inhabit cities where this is the case. She suggests that the solution to this problem is actually the addition of more expensive housing to weak markets like Detroit, as well as an overall a reduction of the supply of housing.

Source: Good Magazine
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