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Is regional transit in Southeast Michigan dead?

In September 2017, we reported on the state of the Regional Transit Authority's efforts at funding a regional transit system after a ballot initiative in 2016 narrowly failed to pass. Unfortunately, it looks increasingly unlikely that the system will be funded anytime soon. 

In his annual State of the County speech, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said that only those voters who use the SMART bus system should be included in the millage vote. Some of the Oakland County cities that voted 'no' for the millage were Waterford, Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Keego Harbor, Rochester Hills, and Sylvan Lake.

Patterson says that the people who use the system are the ones who receive the benefits, therefore, people who don't use it shouldn't have to be a part of the plan. 

"I want you to know, I will not force those communities into a plan that will not benefit them. I can't do it, I won't do it, and I will never—ever," Patterson said, interrupted by applause and the loudest cheers of the night, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In order for partial inclusion of Oakland County in the millage proposal, the RTA charter would have to be written by the Michigan Legislature.

In a scathing rebuttal, Mayor Duggan said, "What is so hard to understand is that it was Patterson himself who lobbied for and helped pass Public Act 387 in 2012, the law that requires the RTA to have countywide transit plans."

Many transit advocates believe that a lack of a regional transit system was one of the reasons Southeast Michigan didn't make the cut as one of the final 20 cities to host Amazon's new headquarters. 

"Some day, Southeastern Michigan will join the rest of America in recognizing the critical importance of regional transit," said Duggan. "But it will take regional leaders to build a regional transportation system."

Street Court relaunches to help low-income Detroiters resolve legal obligations

When you have a warrant out for your arrest, which can be issued simply from unpaid fines, it's almost impossible to put your life back to together. That's why Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD) was founded. And it just re-launched on Jan. 31 this year. 

Commonly referred to as "Homeless Court" and facilitated by the 36th District Court, SOCD holds hearings at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen to help low-income Detroiters resolve legal obligations, like civil infractions and certain misdemeanors. It does this through the creation of "Action Plans," where the defendant must complete milestones in job training, education, drug rehabilitation or mental health treatment, after which fines or jail time is waived. 

"Street Outreach Court is a revolutionary program that helps homeless individuals turn their lives around," said Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller, the first judge to preside over the program. "We've been remarkably successful in achieving lasting results, reducing costs to taxpayers, and helping people begin, and remain, on a path forward."

"It is important that the Court demonstrates through these types of initiatives that not only is assistance available for our community's homeless, but also that humanity and compassion exists within the justice system," stated Nancy M. Blount, Chief Judge of the 36th District Court. "I am pleased that the program is resuming and look forward to its ongoing success."

SOCD was started in Detroit in 2012, but took a hiatus before starting again this year. It was the 23rd Homeless Court in the country the year it was established, and remains the only one combining criminal and civil pro bono counsel. Free legal representation is provided by Street Democracy, a nonprofit organization providing legal aid to homeless individuals and veterans.

What's happening in Detroit on almost every day of Black History Month

Looking for a way to engage with Black History Month in Detroit? We've got you covered. Here's a guide to events happening on almost every day in February this year. 

Be sure to comment below or tweet us @modeld to let us know what events we missed. 
 

Lecture by Dr. Na'im Akbar

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Tuesday, Feb. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Na'im Akbar will give a lecture about how black men and women have been affected socially, politically, psychologically, and spiritually within society. 
Admission to this event is free. 
 

The Colored Museum

Wayne State University's Hilberry Theatre
Wednesday, Feb. 7 through 18 (various times)
A performance that explores African American stereotypes and what it means to be black in America.
Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased here.
 

"The Black History of the White House" with Author Clarence Lusane

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Thursday, Feb. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. 
Author Clarence Lusane will discuss his book, "The Black History of the White House," which covers the generations of enslaved people who helped to build it to the Obamas. 
Admission to this event is free.
 

The Music of J Dilla

The Detroit Institute of Arts, Rivera Court
Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 and 8:30 p.m. 
Music from legendary Detroit hip-hop artist J Dilla has been rearranged by composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and will be performed by musicians from Rebirth. 
Admission to this event is free.
 

Reflections: Intimate Portraits of Iconic African Americans

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.
A showing of photographer and author Terrence A. Reese photography series of influential African Americans. The gallery "Reflections" is based off of Reese's book, "Reflections: Intimate Portraits of Iconic African Americans."
Admission to this event is free.
 

Black History Month Through Music

Metropolitan United Methodist Church, 8000 Woodward Ave.
Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. 
In a tribute to African American performers, local performers will be singing and tap dancing. 
Admission to this event is free.
 

Drink Detroit: Black History Month Edition - Black-Owned Bar Tour

Flood's Bar & Grille, Mix, Queen's Bar
Thursday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. 
The Detroit Experience Factory is hosting a tour of some of downtown Detroit's black-owned bars.
Participants must be 21 or older. $15 tickets can be purchased here.
 

The LEGACY Gala

Saturday, Feb. 17, from 7 p.m. to midnight
The Jam Handy
The Legacy Gala celebrates local black artists through of dance, music, and theater performances. Selections from Dreamgirls, The Wiz, The Color Purple, and Porgy & Bess will be featured in this fundraiser to support The Helping Hands Campaign for the Arts. 
$50 tickets, which include drinks and food, the reception, performances, and after party can be purchased here
 

Honoring African American Scientists

Sunday, Feb. 18, from 9 to 11 a.m.
The Masjid Wali Muhammad at 11529 Linwood St.
Mathematics and science accomplishments by African Americans will be honored during a community breakfast. 
$7 tickets can be purchased at the door.
 

A Conversation on History Education

Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Detroit Historical Museum
Brenda Tindal, the museum's new director of education, and Alycia Meriweather, deputy superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, will be discussing the history of education. A reception will follow.
Admission is free. To reserve a seat, pre-register here.
 

Jazz on the Streets of Old Detroit

Thursday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Detroit Historical Museum
Legendary Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey will perform "Jazz on the Streets of Old Detroit." The event is hosted by the Black Historic Sites Committee.
Tickets are $20 at the door, or $15 in advance here.
 

Perception vs Reality

Saturday, Feb. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m.
The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, 111 E. Kirby St.
The Caribbean Community Service Center will host a panel to discuss how the world portrays African Americans.
Admission to this event is free.
 

Oh, Ananse!

Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.
Jazz Cafe in the Music Hall, 4841 Cass Ave.
PuppetART Detroit will perform the West African story of Kwaku Ananse. 
Tickets for children and adults can be purchased here.
 

A Flame Superior to Lightning, A Sound Superior to Thunder: Haiti's Revolutionary History

Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Wayne State University Law School, 471 W. Palmer St.
Haitian culture and history will be discussed by Millery Polyné, an associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and associate professor at New York University. This event is open to students, faculty, and the community.
Admission to this event is free.

DC3 and Urban Manufacturing Alliance release report on Detroit's manufacturing potential

As we detailed in an article in December 2017 about whether Detroit can become a textile manufacturing hub, a study was in the works to help answer that very question. The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) has been partnering with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) to analyze manufacturing needs, assets, gaps, and opportunities in Detroit and five other similarly-sized cities. 

"It was important to us Detroit be included in this national study because designing and manufacturing is in our community's DNA," Olga Stella, executive director of DC3, said in a statement. "With the Detroit City of Design initiative and other efforts underway, now is the right time to focus on this sector."

That 40-page study, "The State of Urban Manufacturing," has been released to the public, and details five key findings:
 
  1. Small-scale manufacturers want to grow, but are having trouble finding technical support
  2. There is ample land in Detroit, but few options for manufacturers who want to expand their capacity
  3. More capital is needed
  4. Businesses are having trouble retaining and training skilled labor
  5. While there is a rich network of industrial suppliers in Southeast Michigan, little information is available about how to access them
The report also offers some recommendations. Much like Detroit Future City, UMA believes that, "An appropriate stakeholder agency might undertake a market study to help private sector developers to warm up to the opportunity to create clean, flexible, move-in-ready space for makers—and to identify any subsidy that might be needed."

To help in this effort, the partnership also created a Detroit manufacturing ecosystem map. 

There's clearly a lot to do, but this study helps provide a roadmap for how to create longterm, sustainable manufacturing in Detroit. 

Read the full report here

City of Detroit lays out plan to bring every rental property up to code

The city of Detroit has issued itself an important, albeit monumental task: make sure every rental property in the city is up to code. Starting Feb. 1, an initiative will begin to have landlords renovate their rental properties to make them follow all of the city's regulations and safety standards.

The initiative starts in the 48215 zip code near the Grosse Pointe border, which will undergo a six-month compliance period. Landlords have until May 1 to register their rental properties.

Properties will then be inspected to assess renovation plans and receive a certificate to confirm the compliance period, which begins Aug. 1.

The city plans to add a new zip code approximately every month for inspection. After the zip code 48215 launch begins, the next will be 48224 (March 1), 48223 (May 1), 48219 (June 1), 48209 (July 1) and 49210 (Aug. 1). Information about the rental property repairs will be sent out to residents as the start date nears.

The city will also safeguard renters from a variety of outcomes. For example, landlords will not receive payment from renters if the property has not been registered for the compliance period. If the landlord does not register the property, renters will be granted their money back without being evicted.

And if landlords meet all the guidelines, there will be fewer inspections on their properties. 

Public records will be posted on a website to show what properties have been registered and certified. Registration of a rental property can be completed here.

Kresge Foundation to support neighborhood projects with an additional $6M over three years

From 2015 through 2017, the Kresge Foundation helped fund 40 neighborhood projects in Detroit through $5 million in grants. And the foundation just announced that they will commit an additional $6 million over the next three years.

The funds will go towards projects that make their neighborhoods safer, healthier, and more equitable.

There are a few changes for this three-year funding cycle. Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) will streamline the application process, provide greater project flexibility by elongating the time period of project completion to 24 months, and more technical assistance through a $500,000 yearly commitment.

In a press statement, Bryan Hogle, Kresge Detroit program officer, says that they are looking for projects that advance health, art, and education.

Examples of previous winners and projects of KIP:D grants include Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., which created a community hub on Grand River Avenue, Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition, which built a multipurpose art and performance pavilion in the North End, and much more. 

To be eligible to apply, organizations in Detroit must be two years old and either a non-profit or affiliated with a college.

The Kresge Foundation is hosting an information session for interested organizations on Jan. 31 from 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at TechTown Detroit located at 440 Burroughs St.

New online publication to highlight Southeast Michigan's mobility assets

Driven, a new online publication devoted to telling the story of Southeast Michigan's mobility economy, has launched in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber, and local economic development organizations and businesses.

"Realizing the next-generation mobility story and our leadership in the industry was not one that was actively being told in a singular place, we came together collectively to highlight our strengths as a region," says Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction at the Detroit Regional Chamber. "We are working together to engage our local partners and the region's mobility leaders to advance the narrative through the lens of how metro Detroit is leading the global race towards next-generation mobility."

 

With Issue Media Group (IMG) as the editorial partner, the Detroit Regional Chamber, along with its automotive initiative MICHauto, and a network of regional stakeholders have come together to identify and capture the story of companies, talent, investment, innovation, and emerging assets that are shaping the region's mobility future. Stakeholders are engaged to uncover, capture and promote stories relating to mobility-led economic transformation in the Detroit region.
The site will also curate national and global news that add to the narrative of Detroit's continued leadership in the space of connected, autonomous, shared, and electric vehicles.

 

More than a century ago, the Detroit region put the world on wheels and changed the transportation landscape forever. Our community built the modern automotive industry and in this process evolved into the densest cluster of automotive assets on the planet. Today, this world-class ecosystem of automakers, suppliers, and innovators are not sitting on the sidelines as the industry evolves towards a connected, shared, electric and autonomous future. In fact, it is leading this revolution.
Driven is the story of how the Detroit region and our world class companies and institutions will shape the way people, goods, and services move for the next 100 years.

 

"Driven is meant to be a collaborative representation of the region," says Brian Boyle, CEO of Issue Media Group. "We are encouraging those who are interested in sharing their mobility stories with the editor—whether it be of talent, economic development, or innovation—to be a part of this bigger narrative."

 

The first full issue of Driven was published on Jan. 9 with new issues to be published monthly. The website will be updated weekly with curated stories from across the media. The publication will feature the work of local writers, journalists and photographers. Stories will also appear in Issue Media Group's Southeast Michigan publications, including Model D, Concentrate (Ann Arbor), and Metromode (Metro Detroit).


Duggan lays out plans for second term as Detroit mayor

In a recent interview with The Detroit News, Mayor Mike Duggan talked about plans and goals for his second term. 

Duggan began by touting Detroit's economic growth and improved crime numbers—the unemployment rate is now at 8.4 percent and there are fewer homicides per year. The city also completed a federally-funded project to demolish 13,300 houses in.

But he says he's going to continue to prioritize efforts at neighborhood growth. "We've got great advocates for downtown and Midtown in the private sector. We need to have great advocates for businesses in neighborhoods," Duggan said. "And that's going to be the next big push."

Duggan's administration plans to renovate empty lots and storefronts in strategic neighborhoods, and as the first month of the year finishes, a new team of deputy district managers are going to be hired to implement these plans.

In the next five years, roads and sidewalks throughout the districts will be fixed by using $125 million in funds from a bond program. 

Other small business programs—Motor City Match, Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, Detroit at Work—will be expanded to give greater opportunities to for regular Detroiters to grow their business, get jobs, or bid on large development projects. 

A problem that the mayor also wants to increase the number of citizens with car insurance. He described rates in the city as "unconscionable."

After his proposal to the state House to create affordable car insurance was defeated, he vowed to continue the fight and hopes the bill will pass this year.

Detroit City FC to open indoor sports facility in 2018

Whether it's donating proceeds from ticket sales to a charity or giving fans the opportunity to invest in the club, Detroit City FC, the city's popular amateur soccer team, has continually found ways to engage the community. And it will continue doing so with a new development project.

In September 2018, the Detroit City Fieldhouse will open its doors, taking the place of the former practice arena of the Detroit Red Wings. 

The 75,000 sq. ft. space will consist of two fields, one open and one boarded, to host more than one game at a time. Both recreational and professional soccer will be allowed in the facility.

[Read Model D's article on how Detroit City FC is exploring becoming a pro club]

Detroit City FC has signed a five-year lease, according to Crain's Detroit Business

The club has been extremely popular with its fans, attracted up to 5,000 attendees to games. With this new facility, they hope to create lifelong fans of the sport and team. Adults and children will be able to use the facility to hold leagues and practices. Flag football and lacrosse can also be played.  

DCFC owners plan to keep prices to rent or play affordable. 

There will be spaces for sports-related small businesses to open, allowing people to purchase what they need at the facility. There will be a kitchen and bar as well, so that people can eat during their activities.

The facility will also use energy-efficient lighting and new additions to beautify the former Red Wings ice rink.

The Detroit City Fieldhouse will be located at 3401 E. Lafayette St.

New, faster bus routes for metro Detroit unveiled

Metro Detroit's regional transit system, SMART, recently released plans for a new express system to get citizens to their destinations faster than the typical bus route. Dubbed the FAST system, it will now be possible to board the bus at one point and not get off until the final location with no stops in-between. 

Even more impressive, these limited-stop routes will provide better access better access from residential areas to the inner city, seven days a week, still for the same fare of $2. 

SMART and DDOT buses act as transportation to these FAST bus stops as well, which gives citizens the chance to reach their destination when there is not a FAST stop near them.

The main routes are FAST Gratiot, FAST Woodward, FAST Michigan, and several stops in the Downtown area. The maps provided are easy to follow and travel straight into the center of the city.

FAST provides transportation to and from main landmarks such as the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Detroit Zoo, Phoenix Center, Troy Civic Center, St. Joseph Hospital, Midtown and the Dearborn Transit Center. 

FAST Woodward extends to areas as far as Pontiac and Troy, leading people to their jobs, entertainment opportunities, food and shopping with just one stop.

Free Wi-Fi will also be provided.

More information about the bus routes is available here.

Northeast Detroit residents showcase early results in efforts to restore District 3

Spanning Woodward Avenue to Kelley Road along Eight Mile, District 3 is undergoing a project to present the region in a new light.

Restore Northeast Detroit (Restore NED) and Allied Media Projects have collaborated for the past 18 months through a project named Create Northeast Detroit (Create NED) where residents have taken it upon themselves to renovate the under-resourced areas of District 3.

ArtPlace America, a nationwide organization that helps plan communities, gave a $500,000 grant to the project. From this larger grant, 20 smaller ones were distributed to various projects. 

There has been an effort to restore vacant parcels into greenspace. Computer classes will be offered. In the warmer months, festivals, mural paintings, and farmers markets will be organized in the new and improved green areas. With the help of residents, a newspaper was created, a website, and a logo to publicize their projects and keep the city updated on these positive developments.

[Read our feature on the efforts of Restore NED]

To give people the chance to see the positive side of Detroit, a bus tour was led to not only show area's history, but to let people see how it has been beautified.

According to the project, these are just initial steps. The work of Restore NED will likely continue for years to come. 

Watch the video below for more information on the project. 


Detroit inventor, Eastern Market look to raise funds to install windmills

Carl Nielbock is a metalsmithing wizard. As detailed in this Model D article about metro Detroit's inventors, he has big visions for his creations. 

"[His windmills] are built with reused 'upcycled' parts and able to operate in low-wind conditions; he sees them being applied towards stormwater mitigation, urban farming applications, and electricity generation. He hopes to one day use them to establish wind-energy farms on vacant land, which could help create tax revenue to maintain local schools, roads, and other infrastructure."

With a little fundraising, Nielbock might be able to bring about some of these ideas.

His organization, C.A.N. Art Handworks, is looking to raise $25,000 in matching grants as part of a partnership with the Eastern Market Corporation. The other $25,000 would be provided by the Knight Foundation. 

According to the press release, the project will...
 
  • Create groundbreaking new windmills that generate energy for a device charging station and reuse stormwater to irrigate crops at Detroit's Eastern Market
  • Create functional public art that helps visitors to the Eastern Market visualize the potential of upcycling and green energy production in Detroit
  • Engage Detroiters, students, urban gardeners, and others in the fabrication and installation processes and inspire them to further innovate the windmills
  • Be a step towards our bigger vision of generating green energy in Detroit on a large scale using materials and people already within the city to design, build and innovate green energy technology
Nielbock hopes to install the windmills by summer 2018. Find out more information about the project here

A campaign kickoff event takes place on Saturday, Jan. 13th from 10:30 a.m. to noon AND 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at CAN Art Handworks at 2264 Wilkins St. You can donate to the campaign when it goes live here.

MDOT announces plan to tear down America's silliest interstate, I-375

In 2015, we called I-375 "America's silliest interstate," and advocated for its removal in a three-part series that reimagined possible uses of the land. [Read part one, two, and three in that series]

And at long last, the city and state will get to put those ideas into practice. Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced that it would be demolishing the I-375 freeway. 

"The commitment to remove I-375 and restore surface streets puts Detroit firmly in the ranks of cities trying to undo the damage done a half-century ago by ramming high-speed freeways through urban neighborhoods," writes John Gallagher for the Detroit Free Press.

Built in 1964 as an accommodation to suburbanites working downtown at a cost of $50 million, I-375 displaced thousands of African American Detroiters and wiped out the city's historic and vibrant Black Bottom neighborhood. All for a 1.067-miles-long interstate. 

"At the mid-20th Century, urban planners believed that high-speed freeways were essential to creating efficient, modern urban areas," writes Gallagher. "Cities everywhere pushed expressways through their older street grids. But, in hindsight, expressways did incalculable damage to cities like Detroit, destroying viable neighborhoods and facilitating the flight of residents to the suburbs."

The current plan, which likely won't begin until 2022, would be to restore surface streets with medians and bike lanes. 

City of Detroit puts out RFP for Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments, totaling 250 units

The Lee Plaza, an Art Deco apartment building built in 1927 on W. Grand Boulevard, was perhaps the most ornate of its kind in Detroit. According to Historic Detroit, "The Lee was decked out in extravagance by sculptor Corrado Parducci. The first floor was filled with marble, expensive woods, and elaborate plasterwork; its ornamental ceilings craned necks."

But after the Lee closed in 1997, scrappers ravaged it, even stealing the 50 terra cotta lion heads on the building's exterior. Dreams of redevelopment seemed doomed. No longer. 

The thirst for historic redevelopment in Detroit is so great that the city is seeking requests for proposals to redevelop Lee Plaza, as well as the Woodland Apartments on Woodland Street just east of Woodward. 

According to a press release, the two projects would total nearly 250 mixed-income units, 20 percent of which must be set aside for individuals making $38,000 a year or less.

"For years these buildings have been seen as a symbol of our city's decline. In partnership with developers in the community, they will become examples of the city's resurgence that is now reaching into more neighborhoods and becoming more accessible to people of all income levels," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "We've seen progress in the areas around both Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments. While these are challenging projects, these buildings can become major anchors in these communities."

The development of Lee Plaza, which is expected to take several years, would also include the adjacent land. As for the Woodland, "the city is also encouraging developers to consider the site for permanent supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness."

Ann Arbor's Midwestern Consulting opens first satellite office in Detroit

Midwestern Consulting, an Ann Arbor engineering services firm, has opened a satellite office at 1420 Washington Blvd., suite 301 in Detroit.

 

Established in 1967, the Ann Arbor office offers consulting services for civil, environmental, and transportation engineering projects along with surveying, planning, and landscape architecture.

 

The firm has a total staff of 48 between the Ann Arbor and Detroit locations. Brandon Walker, Midwestern's project manager and laser scanning expert, will split his time between the two offices and serve as manager of the Detroit office. Two other employees are currently staffing the Detroit office along with Walker.

 

Walker says the firm has serviced Detroit-based clients including Verizon Wireless and Neumann Smith for many years, and it was time that the company established an office in Detroit.

 

"We've experienced great success in Washtenaw County, and we were looking to expand organically, and the Metro Detroit area was a natural fit," Walker says. "We've done 35 projects in the last two years in or around the city of Detroit, and we're following up with a few more."

 

Walker says he thinks it's possible to serve Detroit customers from Ann Arbor, but a presence in the city of Detroit will make it easier for Midwestern to do projects with the city of Detroit and other nearby municipal clients.

 

"We felt we really need a presence in Detroit, and after a few discussions, we decided it was something we wanted to make happen," he says. "I love the feel of Detroit already. We've received a very warm welcome."

 

Walker says the time between deciding to open an office in Detroit and opening for business on Washington Boulevard was about three months, helped by the fact that Midwestern chose a location that had "ready-made" office space.

 

The Detroit office will be doing a lot of the same things as the Ann Arbor office, but will focus largely on wireless communication, laser scanning, and land development, while the Ann Arbor office will handle more traffic engineering and other specialities.

 

"We're excited about this," Walker says. "We still call Ann Arbor home, but great things are going on in Detroit, and we hope to make it a great extension of the Ann Arbor office."

This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Sara Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Midwestern Consulting.

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