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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.

Detroit's Bunche Academy partners with wildlife refuge to foster environmental stewardship

Did you know that Metropolitan Detroit is home to the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge? The Refuge and Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Ralph J. Bunche Academy have entered into a partnership to enhance conservation education and inspire a sense of wonder for natural resources in students. That makes Bunche Academy the first partnership school of the only international wildlife refuge in North America.

This partnership will continue for years to come. Each year, 4th, 5th and 6th graders will get multiple in-class visits from Refuge staff and a fieldtrip to the Refuge each fall and spring. All of the programs presented through the partnership are curriculum-based following the Next Generation Science Standards. Students have the opportunity to explore the natural world and all aspects of nature through hands-on educational activities. 

"The objective of this partnership is to help students to recognize that each and every one of them is a naturalist," says Jennie Braatz, park ranger at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  "We start the year off by having the students make their own nature journals that they will keep with them throughout the year. We discuss what a naturalist is and we learn about famous naturalists, both historical and modern. The point we want to drive home is that no matter what the future holds, no matter what careers the students go into as adults, they can all be naturalists."

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is unique in that it is one of only 14 priority urban refuges in the nation charged with bringing conservation to cities and helping make nature part of everyday urban life. The Refuge stretches from southwest Detroit to the Ohio-Michigan border and as far east as Point Pelee National Park in Ontario. It focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 300 species of birds and 117 species of fish. In total, over 18,800 acres of land in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario are now being cooperatively managed for conservation and outdoor recreation for nearly seven million people living in a 45-minute drive.  

We should care about this because 80 percent of all Americans and Canadians live in urban areas, and most are disconnected from the natural world. This disconnect cannot continue. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to providing the reasons and opportunities for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond.  That's why inspiring a sense of outdoor wonder in students and fostering a culture of stewardship are critical. All of this is being done to help develop the next generation of conservationists in urban areas because that is now where most North Americans live.  

The visits of Bunche students to the Refuge are made possible by travel funding from the Bruce Jones Environmental Education Fund of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance. 

John Hartig is Refuge Manager at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Crowdfunding platform ioby to host first convening in Detroit

Neighborhood initiatives, spurred by crowdfunding, have allowed Detroiters to upgrade parks, reduce blight, and install public works of art. 

One of the newer platforms in Detroit's crowdfunding scene, ioby, is having their first-ever convening in the city later this month. Called "Conversations. Connections. Impact: Making change in our backyards," the event will "bring together residents, community leaders and activists to explore placemaking and racial justice, and to share ideas and tools to build and maintain better and more equitable public spaces in Detroit," according to a press release.

First there will be a speech given by Mitchell J. Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, followed by breakout discussions lead by community leaders on topics like "preserving black spaces in Detroit" and "social justice and public safety."

The event is free and open to the public. 

ioby's Detroit convening will be held at the Downtown Boxing Gym on Saturday, April 29th from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. In order to attend this free event, you must RSVP here

Grand Circus offers scholarships to coding bootcamp valued at $8,500

Coding is an in-demand skill. It also has a high learning curve and requires a great deal of training and patience to become proficient. That often means people can't afford the initial investment of money and time to learn how to do it. 

If that sounds like you, consider applying to Grand Circus's "Develop the Mitten" coding scholarship, designed for Michigan residents interested in becoming web developers. "The scholarship is open to Michigan residents and covers the full cost of a 10-week, full-time coding bootcamp," according to a Grand Circus press release. "Two applicants will be awarded; one to attend the bootcamp at the Grand Rapids campus and one to attend at the Detroit campus."

The bootcamp takes students through a course that culminates in a "demo day," where students "present a fully functional web application to an audience of potential employers, members of the Michigan tech community, as well as friends and family."

Each scholarship is valued at $8,500. 

Apply for the "Develop the MItten" scholarship here. Applications are due May 3 by 12 p.m. and winners will be announced on May 15. The winning candidates will begin coding bootcamp on June 26.

First Capital Fund established to help Michigan's early-stage startups thrive

Young startups across Michigan will get a helping hand from a new multi-million-dollar fund managed by Invest Detroit Ventures and supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the New Economy Initiative (NEI).

 

The First Capital Fund's goal is to raise $4.2 million in two years and offer up to $150,000 in capital to tech companies in the earliest stages. MEDC has made an initial $2 million investment in the fund, which Invest Detroit aims to double by bringing private capital into the fund. NEI will support the fund with $800,000.

 

Adrian Ohmer, principal with Invest Detroit Ventures, says the fund does not require startups to bring along any additional financiers because funding for early-stage startups has become harder to find.

 

"Something we've observed in our seven years of existence is that a lot of the capital pegged as early stage has moved down the pipeline," Ohmer says. "Even angel investor groups only want to fund startups in the post-production phase."

 

Ohmer says awarding up to $150,000 to startups means they don't have to spend months on the road, raising more capital from various investors, in order to move on to the next level and then do another road trip to raise even more funds a year later.

 

"We want to make sure they have enough money to meet certain milestones that we work with them to set in order to get them to a fundraising round that makes sense for them in their industry," Ohmer says.

 

While Invest Detroit is based in Detroit, it has always had a wider focus, Ohmer says.

 

"With the rebirth of Detroit, the city is certainly central to a lot of what we care about, but our team has always had a statewide focus," Ohmer says.

 

That focus includes Ann Arbor, which Ohmer calls a "hotbed for startups."

 

"Ann Arbor companies are more than likely going to be a prominent part of our fund," Ohmer says.

 

He notes that the fund hopes to engage a broad range of Michigan startups, including those in the Upper Peninsula.

 

"Companies from the Upper Peninsula have always come down to big events that the state hosts, like the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, so we're going to find ways to establish a presence there, though it might be mostly through web-based meetings," Ohmer says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Massive Herman Kiefer development progressing

Just because no shovels have hit the dirt, that doesn't mean there hasn't been progress at the vacant Herman Kiefer Hospital complex development near Detroit's Boston Edison neighborhood. 

According to a Detroit News article, head developer Ron Castellano is set to take over the site this spring as part of a $143 million, "multi-year development agreement to rehabilitate and reuse the seven medical complex buildings and 462,605-square-foot main hospital, the former Hutchins and Crosman schools, as well as the JTPA nursing school."

The deal was approved in 2015, but because of the complicated funding package and phased development plan, it took time to transfer the properties. "Castellano explained each piece of the project should raise enough money to support itself and also help fund another piece of the development," writes Christine Ferretti. 

An important piece of the total funds will come from potential brownfield development reimbursements totalling $47.7 million to clean up waste from prior developments. 

Also noteworthy, the project may be the first in the city to operate under Detroit’s new community benefits ordinance. "The law, approved in November, lays out a process for engaging the community to negotiate job guarantees and other factors for projects worth at least $75 million. The multiphase project is expected to produce at least 1,067 jobs."

Read the full article here.
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