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Detroit to be featured on Esquire TV's "Best Bars in America"

On Wednesday, May 27, the rest of America will find out what many Detroiters already knew: that Detroit is home to some of the best bars in America. Esquire TV visited Detroit in October of last year to shoot an episode of its series "The Best Bars in America," now in its second season.
 
Among the bars featured is PJ's Lager House, a classic Corktown watering hole and rock and roll venue. According to a press release, PJ's is "throwing a big party" for the episode's debut: "Our kitchen will be open, the episode will play, and we'll party with sets from the Royal Blackbirds and Doop & the Inside Outlaws after the show. Come watch PJ's on the TVs inside PJ's."
 
The Detroit episode of "The Best Bars in America" will air at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27, and feature a number of Detroit's favorite drinking establishments.

Urban agriculture moves indoors


Back in May of 2014, we reported on Jeff Adams' plans to develop a then-unnamed indoor urban agriculture operation in an industrial park in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood. Today, that operation, which is now known as Artesian Farms, is in full production mode, growing leafy greens and other vegetables in vertically stacked hydroponic trays.
 
John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press reports on how Adams and others are introducing indoor, "vertical" farming to Detroit's urban agriculture scene. Click here to see a video of Adams' operation.

Write a House begins second chapter of literary neighborhood development


Last year, Casey Rocheteau, a poet formerly based in Brooklyn, moved into a newly rehabbed house in a Detroit neighborhood just north of Hamtramck. This wasn't some ordinary lease, however. As the winner of the inaugural Write a House prize, Rocheteau was granted that home, which she now owns free and clear.
 
A nonprofit organization, Write a House's mission is to "leverage Detroit's available housing in creative ways to bolster an emerging literary community to benefit the city of Detroit and its neighborhoods." It does so by renovating vacant homes and granting them to worthy writers who submit a simple application and writing samples that are reviewed by a jury of writers. Think of it as a permanent sort of writers residency.
 
The group purchased three homes in the 2012 through Wayne County's annual auction of tax foreclosed properties. The first of those was rehabbed and given away to Rocheteau last year. This year, a second Write a House home will be awarded to another writer. The application process is currently open.
 
After a successful inaugural process, this year's application is much the same as last year's.
 
"Honestly, in terms of judging, we're using the same process as last year," says Sarah Cox, director of Write a House and vice president of its executive board. "Our app is so simple, we're sticking with it."
 
Applications and writing samples will be judged by a jury that includes local and national writers.
 
For tips on writing a successful application, check out this blogpost from inaugural Write a House resident Casey Rocheteau.
 
Cox expects a deep pool of applicants as Write a House begins its second chapter. "I feel like we have a much wider reach this go around," she says. "I'm excited to see who applies."
 
To find out more about the Write a House application process, click here.
 

Acclaimed director Werner Herzog makes short film about Corktown's Ponyride for American Express

Werner Herzog is one of the world's most renowned movie directors. His beloved filmography ranges from collaborations with German actor Klaus Kinski on dramas like 1982's "Fitzcarraldo," the story of one man's insane quest to build an opera house in the heart of the Amazon jungle, to recent documentaries like "Grizzlyman" (2005) and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (2010).
 
Most recently, Herzog has turned his lens on Detroit for a hybrid commercial for American Express and documentary about the community that has developed inside of Corktown's Ponyride. Between cut scenes of Detroit fauna blowing in the breeze and industrial ruins, a handful of entrepreneurs and makers based out of Ponyride talk about their vision for the city.
 
To watch the video, which was produced by ad agency Rokkan, click here and scroll below the wall of mildly nauseating hyperbole about Detroit ("But in the wake of the city’s mass exodus, a few have refused to leave their dying hometown, clinging to the stubborn hope that Detroit can be resurrected from the ashes."). 
 
What do you think, does Herzog get Detroit?

Read more: "Ponyride: Growing the New Generation of Local Business"

NEIdeas challenge returns for second year of grants to Detroit businesses with ideas for growth

 
Last year, the New Economy Initiative and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation teamed up to award 32 existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park a combined total of over $500,000 for their ideas for growth.
 
Instead of focusing on startups like other Detroit business competitions, NEIdeas is designed specifically for small businesses that are at least three years old and have had a lasting impact on their neghborhoods -- established businesses like Touch of Class Restoration, a Brightmoor-based construction and remediation company that used its 2014 NEideas award to buy new equipment and hire a marketing manager, and G + C Style, a 50-year-old storefront barber shop that used its award to expand its services to repairing and sharpening clippers for other barber shops.
 
In 2014, 30 small businesses each received awards of $10,000, while two businesses with high growth potential each received $100,000.
 
This year, a whole new group of time-tested Detroit businesses will receive NEIdeas challenge grants. On Thursday, April 16, the 2015 round of the challenge opens with an event at the Bel Air 10 Theater located at 10100 E. 8 Mile Rd. Starting at 10 a.m., winners of the 2014 challenge will be on hand to answer prospective applicants' questions, as will other challenge ambassadors. At 10:30 a.m., Dave Egner, executive director of the NEI, and Rodrick Miller, president and CEO of the DEGC, will give remarks, which will be followed by an NEIdeas information session.
 
Visit neideasdetroit.org for more information.

Detroit Modernism Week kicks off April 16

Eames, Yamasaki, Wright, Saarinen, and van der Rohe.
 
These are the names of just a few of the many modernist masters who have made their lasting mark on southeast Michigan in the 20th century. Next week, you have a chance to learn about and celebrate the region's modernist heritage thanks to the people at the Detroit Area Art Deco Society.
 
Starting April 16, Detroit Modernism Week, the first 10-day period "structured around events celebrating the Detroit area's 20th century modernist architecture," will salute Michigan's contributions to the Modern Movement.
 
Events range from lectures to exhibits to tours, including an April 16 bicycle tour of Palmer Park ("Detroit's most modern neighborhood") and an April 18 tour of Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park. For a full schedule of happenings, click here.
 
Learn more about Detroit Modernism Week here.

Foreign billionaires are on a Detroit real estate buying spree

 
Dan Gilbert, local billionaire and downtown's most prominent investor, famously cited a "skyscraper sale" as motivation to begin adding downtown Detroit properties his portfolio in 2007. Gilbert founded Bedrock Real Estate in 2011, and that company now owns over 70 properties accounting for over 11 million square feet of space in the city's central business district. Adding to that portfolio may not be as cheap as it once was, however, as foreign investors take interest in Detroit real estate.
 
In 2013, Fernando Palazuelo, a Peruvian billionaire of Spanish extraction, made some of the biggest headlines in Detroit real estate when he purchased the Packard Plant, an infamous, 3.5-million-square-foot industrial ruin on the city's east side that has been abandoned for half a century. He revealed some of his grand plans for the site in a February 28 feature in Crain's Detroit Business.
 
Now Crain's is reporting that one of the richest men in Mexico, Carlos Slim Helú (net worth approx. $77 billion) has purchased the Marquette Building, a 115-year-old, 164,000-square-foot vacant office building in downtown Detroit.
 
Crain's Kirk Pinho writes, "Nico Gatzaros, managing partner of Detroit-based 400 Monroe Associates LLC and son of the late Greektown Casino-Hotel developer Ted Gatzaros, whose estate sold the building to Helú, said offers from 'all over the world' were made on the building."
 
On April 7, Pinho once again broke a story of large-scale foreign investment in Detroit real estate when he tied the purchases of 31 Detroit properties to Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong tycoon.

For more breaking news on foreign investment in Detroit real estate, follow Pinho's writing for Crain's Detroit Business.

 

Is the development craze in Midtown spreading to nearby Milwaukee Junction?


In a longform piece for Bridge Magazine, veteran Detroit journalist Bill McGraw takes a deep look at Milwaukee Junction, an old industrial district that is quickly attracting the interest of local real estate developers.
 
Home to Ford Motor Co.'s original factory, The Ford Piquette Area Plant, Milwaukee Junction was one of the city's most productive industrial areas in the first half of the 20th century. "At its peak in the 1940s, some 33,000 people worked in Milwaukee Junction, and there were 33 heavy manufacturing plants," write McGraw.
 
Though its former glory as an industrial hub of Detroit has mostly faded (it's still home to a handful of industrial businesses), McGraw describes a growing interest in the neighborhood by real estate developers. Currently, the area only has a small amount of housing, but McGraw sites its proximity to other quickly gentrifying Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and New Center, as well as its closeness to the under-construction M-1 Rail line, as reasons for its imminent development.
 
Think Milwaukee Junction is Detroit's next hot neighborhood?
 
Read more in Bridge Magazine.

NPR host Michel Martin to visit Detroit for national radio series


Longtime National Public Radio personality Michel Martin is coming to Detroit on May 21, when she will lead a panel discussion at the Carr Center about the role of creatives in redefining the city. The conversation, which organizers are calling "Motor City Drive," will be a part of NPR Presents, "NPR's multiplatform national live events initiative that furthers the mission of public radio."
 
According to WDET, Detroit's local NPR affiliate, Martin's conversation will feature panelists Jessica Care Moore, CEO of Moore Black Press; "Detroit Unleaded" filmmaker Rola Nashef; fashion designer Char Glover; theater director Samantha White; executive chef for Union Woodshop restaurant Aaron Cozadd; urban farmer, Kate Daughdrill; and marketing executive, Bridget Russo.
 
Martin joins PBS's Tavis Smiley as the second national public media figure to turn their attention to Detroit in the last month.
 
For more information about Martin's visit, visit WDET's event page.

Detroit Tigers to become one of five Major League franchises to host LGBT pride night

 
Tony Paul of the Detroit News is reporting that the Detroit Tigers will host the first LGBT pride night in franchise history on June 3 when the Oakland Athletics will be in town for an inter-divisional matchup.
 
The announcement, which was made Monday (2015 Opening Day), comes on the heels of the A's announcement that they will host their own LGBT night on June 17. That announcement was met with some opposition by some season ticket holders, which prompted Eireann Dolan, girlfriend of A's pitcher Sean Doolittle, to offer to buy any unwanted tickets so they could be donated to Oakland-area LGBT youth organizations.
 
The News reports that no such opposition has been voiced by Tigers season ticket holders.
 
Four other major league franchises are scheduled to host LGBT pride nights this year: the Oakland A's, the LA Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, and the Chicago Cubs. Like the Tigers, this year marks the first that the A's, Dodgers, and Giants will host pride nights. The Cubs have hosted them since 2001.
 
The Tigers become the second professional sports franchise in Detroit to recognize Detroit's LGBT communities. Last year, the Detroit City Football Club sported limited edition jerseys bearing an equal sign to promote marriage equality in Michigan. The jerseys were later auctioned to benefit the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park organization that provides support services to runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBT youth. To date, the soccer club is the only professional sports organization in Michigan to take a stance in support of marriage equality.
 
Read more in the Detroit News.

WDET to produce its first podcast, 'The Beginning of the End"

 
The era of the podcast is upon us. In reality, it has been for some time. Independently produced podcasts like WTF, Hardcore History, and 99 Percent Invisible are more popular than ever, while Public radio stations around the country have gained national renown thanks to the popularity of their downloadable productions. These days, WBEZ's "This American Life" and WNYC's "Radio Lab" are practically household names.
 
Now Detroit's own WDET 101.9 FM is joining the podcast craze with "The Beginning of the End," a bi-weekly production hosted by Alex Trajano "featuring people who feel the winds of change blowing (and messing with their lives)." According to WDET's website, the show is "coming soon."
 
The show's producers are currently soliciting stories about the endings of the following things:
 
A Secret
A Career
A Winning Streak
A Grudge
A Fear
A Value System
Living at Home
The Old You
 
You can contribute a story by recording of a voice memo on your smartphone and sending it to beginningoftheend@wdet.org.
 
Learn more about "The Beginning of the End" here.

Slow Roll to require paid memberships in 2015

 
The Metro Times is reporting that Detroit's favorite weekly bicycle ride, Slow Roll, is requiring its participants to purchase memberships if they want to keep riding with the large group that meets every Monday.
 
Slow Roll co-founder Mike MacKool sites the fact that the ride's parent organization, Detroit Bike City Inc., is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, as well as its deepening partnership with the city of Detroit, as reasons why Slow Roll now needs to have waivers and weekly check-ins at each ride.
 
According to the Metro Times, memberships will cost $10 or $50. Those who pay $50 will receive a T-shirt among other non-specified benefits. For those who can't afford memberships, ride organizers promise to waive fees, no questions asked.
 
In just a few short years, Slow Roll has grown from humble grass roots ride to a massive weekly event that has been featured in a national Apple iPad commercial.

The first Slow Roll of 2015 departs from Eastern Market's Shed 2 on Sunday, March 29 at 11 a.m. Cyclists can become members of Slow Roll by visiting the event's membership page.
 
For more information, visit the Metro Times.

Take a tour of the hidden collections of the Detroit Public Library


This week, the Detroit Public Library kicks off the celebration of its 150th anniversary. (Click here for details about a March 25 anniversary event at DPL.) In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the stacks of DPL's Burton Historical Collection, which are normally hidden from public view. Click here to explore the stacks with the help of a cool feature by the Detroit Free Press and discover some of the city's hidden history.
 

Knight Arts Challenge launches for third year


What's your best idea for the arts in Detroit?
 
It's a simple question, and your simple answer could land you some money to help make your idea a reality.



On March 16, the application period for the third annual Knight Arts Challenge opened. In this round of the challenge, Detroiters have until April 13 to apply for a share of $3 million. To date, the Knight Arts Challenge has award 114 winners in Detroit about $5 million.
 
Knight Foundation will host a launch party and a series of community Q&A sessions throughout Detroit to answer applicants' questions. The launch party will be held at Bert’s Marketplace in Eastern Market on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. At the launch event, applicants can get to know Knight staff and past winners. The community Q&As will offer tips to applicants on creating standout applications and provide information on the challenge timeline and more.
 
The following are the dates and times of upcoming community Q&A sessions:
 
-March 23, 6 p.m. at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn
-March 24, noon at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (light lunch provided)
-March 25, 6 p.m. at the Mexicantown Mercado in Southwest Detroit
 
For more information about the Knight Arts Challenge in Detroit, click here.

Tavis Smiley, late night king of PBS, to tape five episodes in Detroit

Tavis Smiley, the king of late night television on PBS, is coming to Detroit. 

On March 23, 24, and 25, Smiley, will tape five episodes of his show in front of live audiences at the Community Arts Auditorium on the campus of Wayne State University. Each episode will focus on the city and its rebirth, including examinations of the city’s Downtown resurgence, the challenges facing long-time residents of the city, the Arab American community in Dearborn, the arts community, and education. The week will conclude with a Detroit town hall meeting.
 
Detroit Public Television (DPTV) will provide the crew and state-of-the-art facilities to help produce the shows in conjunction with Wayne State University.
 
You are invited to be part of the live audience. Sign up by visiting www.dptv.org/tavissmiley.
 
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