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The insidious setback to recovery in Detroit's neighborhoods

In a 4,500-word longform piece for Next City, Detroit author and journalist Anna Clark digs deep into a setback to Detroit's recovery more insidious than high crime rates or a sluggish economy--the mortgage industry.

Clark describes a serious disconnect between prices reached between would-be home buyers and sellers and the appraisals banks conduct before they issue mortgages. In many Detroit neighborhoods, auction sales of tax-foreclosed properties for $500 or $1,000 could be the only available comparables, making it difficult to arrive at appraisals, which are based on sales of nearby homes, that reflect the actual price buyers are willing to pay.

"The result is a system where loans are not available across most of the city," writes Clark. "In Detroit, only 12 percent of home sales are financed, compared to 65 percent in Ferndale and 90 percent in Grosse Pointe. And they are not all at those infamously low price points. An $87,000 house in the Woodbridge neighborhood was recently bought with cash. So was the $1.6 million Fisher Mansion in Palmer Woods."

Clark reports that only 462 single family homes sold in Detroit in 2014 were purchased with a mortgage, and that nearly 87 percent of sales were cash deals, more than double the national average.

To learn about why the conventional mortgage system is failing Detroit and how groups like the Detroit Land Bank Authority and Talmer Bank are working to fix it, read more in Next City.

Ron Scott, Detroit peace activist, dead at 68

 
In the midst of a national epidemic of deaths of black men and women at the hands of white police officers, Detroit has lost one of its most outspoken critics of police brutality and staunchest advocates of peace.
 
Ron Scott, a founding member of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party and, later, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, passed away on Sunday, Nov. 29, after a battle with cancer.
 
"The Detroit Police Commission knew Scott's face well, as he spoke often at meetings, challenging decisions and procedures within the department," wrote MLive's Gus Burns in his Nov. 30 remembrance.
 
"Scott… dedicated his life to civil rights issues and worked up to the minute he took his last breath, his family said," write Robin Erb and Katrease Stafford in the Detroit Free Press.
 
Read more about Mr. Scott's life and legacy in the Detroit Free Press and MLive.

Washington Post examines 'unconventional' fixes for Detroit's unconventional housing market

 
From low appraisals to a dearth of conventional mortgage lending to a glut of supply (often in desperate need of renovation), Detroit's housing market faces a slew of issues that make it one of the most challenged and unusual in the country.
 
So how do you "restore a functional housing market in a city in which neighborhoods are disappearing, banks aren’t lending and property values are among the lowest in the nation?" That's the question the Washington Post asks in a recent feature story.
 
What they found in Detroit is that unusual circumstances are being met with unusual measures to prop up housing values throughout the city.
 
"Civic and business leaders are targeting eight neighborhoods that they determined have the best chance of turning around," writes the Post's Kathy Orton. "To clear out the inventory of vacant houses, the city is moving aggressively to demolish structures that are beyond repair and auction ones that are salvageable."
 
Read more about efforts to restore the weak housing market in Detroit's neighborhoods in the Washington Post.

How to do Small Business Saturday the easy way


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

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

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

To RSVP for Shop Detroit, click here.

'Give grass a chance,' says Navin Field Grounds Crew about Tiger Stadium site

Since the demolition of Tiger Stadium in 2009, a group of unpaid volunteers calling themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew have worked to maintain the site where the likes of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Hank Greenberg all played. Since then, countless people have enjoyed the historic site, from youth and vintage baseball players to Corktown residents walking their dogs to people trotting around the bases while imitating Kirk Gibson's legendary 1984 World Series home run off of Goose Gossage. A handful of couples have even gotten married at home plate.

The way people enjoy the historic site of Navin Field could soon change, however. Last summer, Detroit PAL, a sports organization serving youth in the city, was granted development rights for the site at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. The group's plans call for housing, retail, and office space around the perimeter of the playing field, which will be replaced with artificial turf for the purposes of continuous youth sports programming.

That's where the Navin Field Grounds crew takes issue.

"All we are saying is give grass a chance," says Dave Mesrey, co-founder of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, which recently printed shirts sporting the same slogan.

Mesrey and the Grounds Crew point to recent stories suggesting that artificial turf could have negative health effects on children, as well historical importance of the original field as reasons for keeping the grass.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the Navin Field Grounds Crew and the Corktown Community Organization are hosting a forum on the future of Navin Field at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local at 1358 Abbott St. in Corktown. The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will feature a public discussion on public access to the Navin Field site, artificial turf versus natural grass, retail and residential development, and more.

Representatives will be on hand from the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the Navin Field Grounds CrewDetroit PAL, and Tiger Stadium Partners.

To learn more, click here.

Detroit Experience Series returns with Oct. 24 tour of northwest Detroit

Since 2005, Model D has told stories of positive neighborhood transformation, from the development of new businesses to the redevelopment of old buildings to the perseverance of long-term residents in the face of challenges. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invite you to experience neighborhood transformation in Detroit firsthand through the Detroit Experience Series, a partnership between Model D and the Detroit Experience Factory.
 
Our tours will re-introduce (or simply introduce) you to the small businesses and people in the following neighborhoods:
  
Northwest Detroit (Saturday, October 24, 10 a.m.-noon) – Includes Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, University District, and the Avenue of Fashion. (Get tickets)

Jefferson East (Saturday, November 14, 10 a.m.-noon) – Includes the Villages, the East Riverfront, and Jefferson-Chalmers. (Get tickets)
 
Tours cost $25 for early bird tickets and $30 for general tickets and last approximately 2 hours.
 
Whether you're a long-term resident wanting to learn more about your neighborhood or a complete newbie, you'll discover something new through the Detroit Experience Series. Sign up today!

Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit activist and philosopher, dies at 100

 
Democracy Now! and the Metro Times are reporting that one of Detroit's most well-known and best-loved activists, Grace Lee Boggs, has passed away at age 100.
 
Ms. Boggs was known for her work in the civil rights, labor, and black power movements. She inspired generations of leaders in the world of social justice activism. She founded the Detroit Summer youth program in 1992. Her live and work were documented in the 2014 PBS film "American Revolutionary" by director Grace Lee.
 
The James and Grace Lee Boggs School, named in honor of Ms. Boggs and her late husband, also a beloved local activist, issued the following statement on its Facebook page:
 
"With heavy hearts, we want to share the passing of Grace Lee Boggs today. She was 100 years old. We want to give families a chance to talk about it with children before we talk about it here. We will be talking about it as a school tomorrow at our all-school morning meeting. Our school community will miss her deeply."
 
Read more: Democracy Now!, Metro Times

Knight Cities Challenge returns, wants your ideas to help Detroit succeed

 
For the second year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is accepting applications for "the best ideas for cities to succeed" as a part of its Knight Cities Challenge. The application period is open now through Oct. 27 for anyone living in one of the 26 communities where the Knight Foundation invests, Detroit included.
 
According to a release from the Knight Foundation, "winners will receive a share of $5 million and become part of a network of civic innovators; funding will be granted at all levels from small to large amounts." Last year, 32 Knight Cities Challenge winners were selected from over 7,200 applications. Five of those winners were located in Detroit. For descriptions of those projects, click here.
 
One of the hallmarks of the challenge is its openness with regard to who can apply. "The challenge is open to anyone from anywhere: neighbors, architects, activists, artists, city planners, entrepreneurs, students, educators, city officials, as well as governments and organizations," writes the Knight Foundation.
 
If you have questions about the challenge, the Detroit office of the Knight Foundation invites you to virtual office hours or in-person events to learn more. Two public information sessions will be held at TechTown (440 Burroughs, Detroit):
• Tuesday, Oct. 6, 6 – 8 p.m. Limited seating. RSVP here.
• Monday, Oct. 19, 6-8 p.m. Limited seating. RSVPhere.
The schedule of all in-person and virtual office hours, which is regularly updated, can be accessed here.
 
Learn more and apply to the Knight Cities Challenge at knightcities.org.

What will Detroit look like in the next 25-50 years?

If we think of the city as a platform, how can we make sure Detroit is ready for the next 25 or 50 years and beyond? What changes should happen in the world of technology and city infrastructure? We want to hear your thoughts at a discussion taking place on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. at Bamboo Detroit.

Join us for food and the following: 

5:30 p.m – 6 p.m. - Meet and greet 
6 p.m. – 7 p.m. - Panel discussion 
7 p.m. – 8 p.m. - Mingling and networking

Joining us on this panel is April Boyle, executive director of Build Institute; Marc Hudson, co-founder of Rocket Fiber; Eric Williams, head of entrepreneurship at WSU; and Steve Baker, director of IT strategy and innovation at DTE Energy. This discussion will be moderated by Matt Lewis, managing editor of Model D.

This event will be hosted at Bamboo Detroit, a co-working space on the second floor of 1442 Brush street. Parking is located in lots off of Gratiot and Brush, and nearby at the Opera House and Z Lot.

Learn more: Facebook

Stunning short film showcases design in Detroit

Detroit filmmaker Stephen McGee has put together one of the most impressive short films we've ever seen on Detroit.
 
Clocking in at just under 4 minutes, "Detroit: City of Design" depicts the city's architecture, people, and products in stunning detail. The film was commissioned by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center to showcase the city's design talent and aesthetic. It is set to a soundtrack of compositions by Detroit artists that was curated by Assemble Sound.
 
"I hope it compels more people outside of our circles to support our city," writes McGee in a Facebook message to Model D.
 
The montage of Detroit scenes is composed of long tracking shots, drone footage, hyper lapse shots, and detailed zooms.
 
"The film has many creative camera angles," writes McGee. "Hyper lapse is one creative technique. It's traveling a traditional time lapse over a variable distance, which can be by foot, car or boat -- or plane even. The fluidity of shooting across many scenes took a fair amount of planning and the payoff could only really be realized in the edit. Every camera movement was made to inspire the next to integrate with the work happening at each location."
 
McGee, who has been shooting footage in Detroit for the last nine years, recently announced on Facebook his intention to create a feature documentary film about the city. "I think this film will stand as a visual bookmark of our past decade," he writes.
 
To learn more about his upcoming documentary project, visit http://www.thedetroitfilm.com/.
 
Watch "Detroit: City of Design" below:


NAACP branch in the works for the Grosse Pointes

 
Historically the Grosse Pointes have been closed to people of color, but that has begun to change in recent years, particularly in Grosse Pointe Park, where now over 10 percent of residents are black. Yet the Pointes have a long way to go before they are seen as welcoming communities. That's why two Grosse Pointe residents, Greg Bowens of the city of Grosse Pointe and Elaine Flowers of Grosse Pointe Park, have decided to organize a new chapter of the NAACP representing the five Pointes and neighboring Harper Woods.
 
According to Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press:
 
"Flowers wants the group to produce fine arts programs such as plays and concerts, organize discussion groups, arrange integrated youth activities and more. Bowens wants it to foster community-wide conversations about such local, pragmatic issues as whether the school district would benefit from having more black teachers — in fact, any black teachers, he said."
 
A meeting to discuss the potential for forming a Grosse Pointe NAACP chapter will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. at Rockefellers Oyster Bar & Grill in Grosse Pointe Park.
 
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Get down with Banglatown at Oct. 3 block party

 
In recent years, Detroit's Banglatown neighborhood (located just north of Hamtramck) has become known as much for resident artists and community-based art projects as its sizeable Bangladeshi population. Community arts organization Power House Productions, performance art group The Hinterlands, the Bangla School of Music, and winners of Write a House (a permanent artist residency giving away homes to writers) all call Banglatown home, resulting in a neighborhood with many cultural assets.
 
That cultural richness will be on display on Saturday, Oct. 3, during the Banglatown Block Party. According to its Facebook event page, the party will feature arts and culture programming the showcases various project sites Power House Productions has been working on over the past 5 years. Events and activities are planned for houses on Moran, Lawley and Klinger streets, including a workshop with The Hinterlands, music by Bangla School of Music, screenprinting with One Custom City, badminton matches at Sqaush House, and exhibitions by poet Casey Rocheteau and photographer Corine Vermeulen. Later in the day, hip hop duo Passalacqua will emcee a neighborhood talent show and food will be available at Ride It Sculpture Park.
 
Learn more: Facebook

What new Census data reveal about demographic changes in Detroit

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Census released new data that tell us a lot about demographic trends in the city of Detroit. In a series of insightful reports, the Detroit News breaks down those data. Here is what they found:
 
- Detroit's population is still declining, but at a much slower rate than in recent decades. "Detroit’s population was at 680,281 in 2014, down an estimated 8,459 residents from 2013, according to the data. That’s a smaller loss than the previous year’s drop of 12,784," write Louis Aguilar and Christine MacDonald for the Detroit News.

- For the first time in over half a century, Detroit is showing statistically significant gains in the number of white residents. "The new data, paired with the recent estimates of small gains, suggests an increase of more than 14,000 whites since 2010," reports The News. The city's white population is now at 10.2 percent, increasing by 1.3 percentage points from 2013 to 2014. The city's black population (79.1 percent) and Latino population (7.2 percent) both showed small, statistically insignificant declines in 2014. The data suggest that the influx of whites has helped slow the overall decline in the city's population.

- Detroit is the poorest big city in the U.S. The median household income for a family of four in the city is a paltry $25,769, and 39.3 percent of all Detroiters live below the poverty line.
 
Read more in the Detroit News:

"Detroit's white population up after decades of decline"

"Census bureau: Detroit is poorest big city in U.S."

Slows Bar B Q turns 10

Model D's not the only Detroit institution celebrating its 10th birthday this year. Corktown's Slows Bar B Q turns 10 on Wednesday, September 16, and you're invited to celebrate.

According to Susan Selasky of the Detroit Free Press, Slows will be "giving away 200 free limited edition commemorative 10-Year T-shirts from the Dirt Label, which is donating its fee to charity (while supplies last)"; "donating money from all purchases of The Reason sandwich and mac & cheese to D-Town Farms, the urban agriculture initiative of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network;" and "charging $2 for all Michigan draft beer."

Want to learn more about the Slows story? Check out this Model D special report about the growth of this iconic Detroit business and its impact on its neighborhood.

Slows' 10th anniversary party takes place this Wednesday, September 16, from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Read more: Detroit Free Press

Parking enforcement ramps up this week

You may have noticed that parking enforcement in Detroit has been lax over the last few months. That's because the Municipal Parking Department has been allowing local motorists to get acquainted with its new $3.5 million parking system that replaces antiquated meters with state-of-the-art parking technology.
 
Starting Tuesday, however, the free ride (er, park) is over, and "parking enforcement officers…will resume writing tickets citywide for violators of Detroit’s new parking regulations," reports the Detroit News.
 
In addition to having a new way to pay for parking, motorists also have a new way to contest tickets they think are undeserved. "[T]he city has also established a new process of contesting tickets through the website www.ParkDetroit.us, eliminating the need for motorists to physically appear," officials told the Detroit News.
 
Read more: Detroit New
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