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Detroit's Venture for America Fellows compete for Innovation Fund startup capital

In recent years, several talent attraction and development fellowship programs have sprung up in Detroit, each pairing young and mid-career professionals with jobs in public, private, and non-profit organizations based in the city.

Venture for America is one such program that began operating in Detroit in 2012. Modeled as a private sector version of Teach for America, VFA, a two year program, pairs recent college grads with startups in cities around the country. Currently 28 VFA fellows are based in Detroit.

"Venture for America 
focuses on entrepreneurship. It's kind of a career accelerator for individuals interested in entrepreneurship and doing creative things in their cities," says VFA fellow Eleanor Meegoda, who works at Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that backs and seeds early-stage technology companies based in Detroit.

As a part of the fellowship program, VFA fellows are eligible to participate in the semi-annual Innovation Challenge in which they are tasked with crowdfunding for side ventures that solve a problem or satisfy a need that fellows have identified. The ventures that raise the most money will receive additional support from the VFA Innovation Fund, with prizes ranging from $4,000 to $10,000.

This year, Detroit is well represented in VFA's Innovation Challenge. Ventures include Compass, a service that empowers small businesses to better navigate the complicated digital landscape by connecting them with people who know technology; Assembly of Commerce, a new, online-based “chamber of commerce” helping small businesses band together to create “economies of scale” and compete with the giants; Motor City Machine, an effort inviting all Detroiters -- artists, students, businesses, non-profits, faith organizations, Detroit City and Metro Detroiters -- to join in building a giant Rube-Goldberg Machine; Yumness, a platform for restaurateurs & aspiring chefs to connect and collaborate; and Zapenda, an e-commerce platform that connects artisans from the developing world to a global market.

The Detroit ventures and other proposals from VFA fellows around the country can be found at http://www.rockethub.com/projects/partner/vfa.

Detroit VFA fellow Eleanor Meegoda is part of the team behind the Motor City Machine project, which hopes to bring Detroiters together to build a giant Rube Goldberg machine collaboratively.

"The reason I'm doing this is because Detroit is a city of builders and makers," says Meegoda. "It's got a history that's linked with industrialization and the machine. What better way then is there to bring all sorts of Detroiters together?"

You can try your hand at building a Rube Goldberg machine by visiting the Motor City Machine team at Eastern Market's Sunday marketplace.

Source: Eleanor Meegoda, VFA fellow
 

Detroit City FC and Opportunity Detroit team up to screen U.S. soccer in Cadillac Square

Last week, Model D published a brief (and admittedly incomplete) guide to the best spots to watch World Cup matches in the city of Detroit. Somewhat flippantly, we challenged "Uncle Dan" (use your imagination) to pony up for a public screening of a U.S. soccer match. We felt that either Campus Martius or New Center Park would be an adequate location.

To our pleasant surprise, it appears that our friends at Detroit City FC and Opportunity Detroit have teamed up to meet our challenge. On Thursday, June 26 at noon, they will host a public screening of the U.S. vs Germany match in Cadillac Square (adjacent to Campus Martius Park). The event is free and open to the public.

Can you think of a better way to spend your lunch hour (well, more like 90 minutes with the potential for extra time)? There will be plenty of food options in the Detroit Street Eats area in Cadillac Square, including Mediterranean fare from Qais Food Truck, ice cream and smoothies from Eskimo Jacks, soul food from Heart to Soul, kosher options from Chef Cari Kosher, and more.

See you Thursday at noon!

Check out event details on Facebook.

New tool helps Detroiters document the condition of city parks

There are nearly 300 parks in Detroit. They range in size from 1,300-acre Rouge Park to block-sized neighborhood parks. They also vary dramatically in condition.

Earlier this year, Mayor Mike Duggan pledged that the city would maintain 250 city parks, a considerable improvement from the 20 or so it maintained last year.

To ensure that parks are being maintained, WDET 101.9 FM has created a tool called Detroit Parks Watch that empowers residents to track the maintenance of the parks they use or encounter on a day-to-day basis.

"We want to track Detroit park maintenance throughout the summer," says WDET's Terry Paris, Jr. in a recent blog post. "We will use reports from the city, WDET, and you out there in the community."

WDET has created two ways to do this. If you go to a park, or live near a park, or recently visited a park and remember its condition, you can go to DetroitParkWatch and submit your information, or you can text "Parks" to 313-334-4132 and receive a short four-question survey on the park you are at or reporting on.

WDET will map the collected information on its community parks information map.

To learn more about Detroit Parks Watch and view the map, visit http://detroitparkwatch.tumblr.com/

Vacant land in Detroit could help reduce airborne allergens

Researchers may have discovered a way to greatly reduce the level of ragweed that floats through the air every summer and plagues allergy sufferers. Their sollution: do nothing -- at least to vacant lots.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan studied conditions in 62 vacant lots all over Detroit.

According to a recent story in Citylab, "in the ones that were mowed every one-to-two years, between 63 and 70 percent had ragweed plants, each one capable of releasing a billion pollen grains in a single season. These grains can travel hundreds of miles, but the vast majority stay within the neighborhood, creating for allergy sufferers a highly localized plague of sneezing, itchy eyes and throats, and noses that run like busted faucets."

However, only 28 percent of the lots that were never mowed contained ragweed plants because ragweed was forced to compete with other plants for space over the longer term.

"Although allowing vacant lots to reforest is controversial, it is already happening in many places across Detroit. Woody plants are establishing in vacant lots and reclaiming large chunks of Detroit," says U of M researcher Daniel Katz. "Regardless of whether people think that reforestation of vacant lots is a good or bad thing overall, it will have the benefit of reducing ragweed pollen exposure."

Source: Citylab
 

Aging Together: Photo essay chronicles faces and lives of seniors at St. Patrick Center in Detroit

St. Patrick Senior Center has been serving seniors in the heart of Midtown Detroit since 1973. The largest senior-centered activity center in the area, St. Pat's offers a daily meal, programs such as hustle dancing, yoga and fitness classes, a health clinic and an advocacy center. Serving more than 2,000 seniors in Metro Detroit, St. Pat's has an open and accepting environment, drawing all kinds of people to the former Catholic school building on Parsons Street.

As a part of Aging Together, a collaborative project of MLive Detroit, WDET 101.9 FM Detroit, and Model D, the following photos show just some of the hundreds of different faces that stream through the center everyday. Each portrait sits next to the subjects' responses to a short questionnaire about their lives and experiences aging in Detroit.

This is the first installment of the faces and lives of seniors at St. Pat's. Continue following the Aging Together project for more stories about seniors in the city.

Click here to view the photo essay.

Source: MLive Detroit

Second Avenue reconfigured for two-way traffic, gets bike lanes

Starting today, when we look out of the bay window of Model D's office at 4470 Second Ave. and see a car traveling southbound, we will no longer have cause for concern.

That's because Second Avenue is being reconfigured as a two-way street for the first time in decades. Sorry folks, but the pastime of watching cars going the wrong way down Second from the porch of the Bronx Bar is a thing of the past.

Second Avenue will now feature bike lanes, two-way traffic, and parallel parking (replacing angle parking on the west side of the street) between Cass Park (Temple Street) and the campus of Wayne State University (Warren Avenue). It's a similar transformation to those which occurred in recent years on Third Avenue and the portion of Second Avenue between Palmer Street and West Grand Boulevard just north of Wayne State's campus.

The conversion of two-way streets to one-ways became a trend in American cities after World War II as a means of relieving traffic congestion. In recent decades, as traffic counts have declined, a movement to convert one-way streets back to two-ways has emerged with the goal of calming traffic and spurring economic development along two-way corridors.

Source: Curbed Detroit

 

Finalists for Knight Arts Challenge grants named

On June 16, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation named the finalists for the second annual Detroit Knight Arts Challenge.

A group of 88 finalists was culled from a field of nearly 1,000 applicants who each submitted their best ideas for the arts in Detroit.

According to Knight Arts' press release, "The finalists propose a range of ideas -- from art and performance in viaducts, gardens and living rooms, to Javanese theater puppetry and Mexican dance, a “Story Census” and celebrations of opera, gospel, DJs, drumlines and ragtime. The majority of the finalists are grassroots efforts led by small organizations and individual artists."

Applicants were asked to follow three simple rules:

1) The idea must be about the arts
2) The project must take place in or benefit Detroit
3) The grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment

Last year, 56 proposals were awarded Knight Arts grants totaling $2.1 million. Winners of this year's Knight Arts Challenge will be announced in October.

For more information and a complete listing of 2014 Knight Arts Challenge finalists, visit the Knight Arts website.

D:Hive Build expands with Build Bazaar, a roving pop-up marketplace

If you read Model D's Startup News section or follow small business development in Detroit, you're likely familiar with several D:Hive Build graduates and their businesses. Since Build launched in 2012, roughly 350 entrepreneurs have graduated from the 8-week business and project planning class designed for aspiring and established entrepreneurs in Detroit. 

This summer, Build is finding ways to venture outside of D:Hive's downtown offices. On June 3, Build began holding summer classes in the Livernois Community Storefront on Detroit's Avenue of Fashion. Build also launched the Build Bazaar, a rotating pop-up marketplace celebrating emerging entrepreneurs from the Build program. The first bazaar was held on June 15 in Eastern Market. Future bazaars are planned for the Concert of Colors on July 12-13, as well as the Livernois Community Storefront August 21-24.

For more information, visit ?http://dhivedetroit.org/build/bazaar/.

Model D, MLive Detroit, and WDET announce collaborative series about aging in Detroit

It's no secret: as the Baby Boom generation grows older, the share of the United States' population that is elderly will increase dramatically. Detroit and Southeast Michigan are no exceptions to this demographic shift. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments forecasts that nearly a quarter of the region's population will be 65 or older by 2040.

Yet despite these forecasts, far too little of our public discourse has been devoted to issues related to planning for an increasingly older population. That's why Model D has joined MLive Detroit and WDET 101.9FM Detroit in a project we are calling "Aging Together."

Over the course of the summer, we plan on exploring issues facing older adults in Detroit -- from transit to housing to safety to placemaking.

While the challenges facing our city's elderly residents are great, we believe the opportunities to provide for their needs are equally great. We intend to use this series to also explore how Detroit can position itself to be a city of choice for those who will grow old here.

After all, if we can work toward building places in our city that create a high quality of life for seniors, won't we in turn be creating a high quality of life for all residents?

Please follow the "Aging Together" blog for new stories from Model D, MLive Detroit, and WDET.

You can read Model D's first feature in this series here.

Aging Together is a summer-long project between MLive DetroitWDET 101.9FM Detroit and Model D Media that explores the issues of older adults in Detroit, Southeast Michigan and the state.

DesignLAB Detroit to host mobile conference on the People Mover

On Friday, June 13, a group of Detroit designers and architects will board downtown's elevated monorail, the People Mover, and present a 30-minute mini-conference to the public about the future of architecture in Detroit. The presentations will last for two circuits around the People Mover's 2.9 mile loop.

Presenters will include:

Shel Kimen, Collision Works 
Shel left a career as senior vice president with Saatchi & Saatchi advertising in NYC to develop Collision Works in Detroit. The community development project– focused on sustainable design, community growth, and storytelling while providing collaborative work space and mentoring programs– is in the planning stages of designing a 46-room hotel development in Eastern Market made of recycled shipping containers. www.detroitcollisionworks.com

Brian Hurttienne, Villages CDC
Brian Hurttienne is a community architect with a long resume of important Detroit redevelopment projects in Detroit including the Kales Building, Slows BBQ, The Carlton and Grinnell buildings. As the ED of the Villages CDC, Brian is helping to accelerate economic development through community advocacy, urban design, and planning. http://thevillagesofdetroit.com

Amy Swift, Building Hugger
Amy swift is an architectural writer, professor, preservationist, and designer. As the principal at Building Hugger L3C, Amy focuses on finding reinvigorated purposes for underutilized structures in Detroit’s downtown neighborhoods, that help add intangible value to the community in ways that are financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable. www.buildinghugger.org

Justin Mast, Practice Space
As the founder of Practice Space, Justin helps to incubate new business enterprise while providing event space, residency programs, and community-centered co-working opportunities in Detroit’s North Corktown neighborhood. Justin mixes architecture and development with a team of creatives to cultivate emerging business and grow a new community of practitioners in Detroit. www.practicespace.org

Victoria Byrd Olivier, Detroit Future City
Victoria Olivier is a Detroit Revitalization Fellow serving as program manager for the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office. She works on city systems, neighborhood, and civic capacity initiatives with a focus on creative placemaking, community arts and culture initiatives, and historic preservation. www.detroitfuturecity.com

Frank Arvan, FX Architecture
Frank Arvan is the principal of FX Architecture working as an architect on residential, office, institutional, and urban design. He is an avid supporter of the Detroit creative community as an architectural writer, board member for the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, past president and Executive Committee member of AIA Detroit, curator with D’lectricity, and exhibit designer at the Detroit Institute of Arts. www.fxarchitecture.com

More information is available at http://designlabdetroit.tumblr.com/

Attendees must register in advance of the event on Eventbrite.

Weigh in on the idea you like best to replace downtown's I-375

Local planners have unveiled six options for transforming I-375, a downtown freeway that divides Detroit's central business district from near east side neighborhoods including Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is inviting members of the public to learn about and comment on these six design alternatives at a community forum on Thursday, June 12, 2014.  The open house event will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Detroit Eastern Market Shed 5 (2934 Russell St.).

I-375 was built in 1964. Black Bottom, the neighborhood that served as the one-time center of economic and cultural life for Detroit's black community, was razed to make way for the freeway and urban renewal housing projects adjacent to it. In recent decades, the efficacy and overall usefullness of the freeway have been brought into question as traffic counts along the route have declined.

The six options for removing the freeway and replacing it with more pedestrian and environmentally friendly alternatives vary in cost from $40 million to $80 million.

To learn more about the proposals, visit http://i375detroit.com/.

Two national urban experts criticize Detroit's demolition plans

Two national figures widely considered experts on urban issues have weighed in on a local taskforce's recommendation to spend $850 million to demolish blighted structures in the city of Detroit. Stephanie Meeks, president and chief executive of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Andres Duany, an architect and founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, both wrote short letters to the editor of the New York Times suggesting that Detroit think beyond demolition when addressing its blight problem.

Meeks suggests that preservation ought to play an important role in Detroit's attempt to reinvent itself.

"Preservationists understand that demolition must be part of the strategy for Detroit's future," she says, "but we need to ensure that the city's most important historic buildings are spared so they can become building blocks for the future."

Duany sees more value in funding young entrepreneurs than he does in spending $850 million on demolition.

"At $50,000 each there would be 17,000 loans or grants possible. Detroit would explode with activity and success. Its emerging reputation as the 'next Broolyn' would be fullfilled, even more quickly," he says.

Read both op-eds in the New York Times.
 

Local professor: To stop blight, first stop suburban sprawl

George Galster, a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, is encouraging policy makers to stop taking a myopic view of Detroit's blight problem. He contends that blight in Detroit is not a problem the city can solve in isolation because it is the result of regional economic forces related to excessive housing development on the suburban fringe of the metropolis.

Says Galster:

"Since 1950, two-thirds of the city’s population has systematically been siphoned off by the region’s housing 'disassembly line.' In the tri-county metro area, developers have in every decade since 1950 built many more dwellings -- an average of more than 10,000 per year -- than the net growth in households required. Developers figured that their new suburban subdivisions could successfully compete against the older housing stock. They were right. As households filled these new dwellings they vacated their previous homes, which other households decided to occupy because they were viewed as superior options to where they were previously living."

Galster recommends the region establish a "a metropolitan growth boundary" to limit suburban development and stem the tide of blight in Detroit.

Read Galster's op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit City FC to promote LGBTQ inclusion in sports

Detroit City FC will partner with the national You Can Play project for its June 6th match against the Erie Admirals. You Can Play is a nationwide endeavor founded to ensure that athletes are judged solely on talent, heart, desire and work ethic -- and not on the basis of sexual orientation or other discriminatory factors. Players and teams from all levels of athletics -- amateur to professional -- have created videos in support of You Can Play. Detroit City FC is proud to be a partner in this cause.

On Friday, June 6th at 7:30pm at Cass Tech High School in downtown Detroit, Detroit City FC will take to the pitch in special commemorative jerseys designed to promote LGBTQ equality and inclusion in sports.

After the match, each participating player's jersey will be auctioned off to the highest bidder in a silent auction held at the stadium. Additionally, a limited number of jerseys will be sold online at detcityfc.com. The funds earned in the auction and a portion of the proceeds of the jerseys sold online will go to support the Ruth Ellis Center (REC) in Highland Park, MI.

DCFC believes that this will be the first time an American sports team will take to the field and play a regulation game in a uniform that promotes LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

The Ruth Ellis Center is a youth social services agency that serves the needs of runaway, homeless and at-risk youth. They are one of the nation's leading experts on vulnerable youth who are experiencing residential instability. The mission of the Center is to "provide short and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning youth."

The REC is the only organization in the country that has a Residential program for LGBTQ youth in the foster care and juvenile justice system, and is mission-specific to LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. While the Center emphasizes serving LGBTQ youth who are often ostracized, shamed, and denied services by other agencies, no youth, regardless of gender identity and/or sexual orientation is turned away or denied services.

Le Rouge will be "kicking off" Motor City Pride weekend, which is being held in Hart Plaza on June 7 and 8. Motor City Pride is a project of Equality Michigan. Equality Michigan is Michigan's statewide organization serving the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and allied communities.

Tickets for all DCFC games are $10 at the gate and $8 online. The most recent home match, held on May 23, drew over 3000 people and was the first sellout in team history. A large crowd is once again expected, and it is recommended that tickets be bought in advance.

To order tickets, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/622530

Detroit Future City to host "Blight Bootcamp"

On the heels of the release of the most comprehensive data set ever on blight in the city of Detroit, Detroit Future City (DFC) is hosting its first ever "Blight Bootcamp."

This Saturday at Wayne County Community College District's Downtown Campus (1001 W. Fort St.), DFC is putting on a series of free workshops that will equip ordinary citizens with tools to address blight in their neighborhoods. Sessions include:

Transforming Blight into Gardens and Farms
Securing Vacant Properties
Community Art to Fight Blight
Green Space Solutions
Blight Mitigation Resources
Data Driven Decision Making
Blight and Public Health
Resident Led Neighborhood Safety
Deconstruction vs. Demolition
Repurposing Commercial Vacancies
Youth Engagement in Blight Mitigation
Advocating for your Neighborhood

Those interested in attending Blight Bootcamp can register here.

Visit Detroit Future City's website for more information.
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