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Engaging with '67: Local exhibitions, writings, and movies on the rebellion

This July 23 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 riots (or rebellion) in Detroit. It's a complicated historical event that resulted in massive social and economic implications for our region. And it's prompted a great deal of commentary in media outlets, essays, exhibitions, and more. To help readers engage with the events of 1967, here's a mini-roundup of the ways it's being thought about across the city.

Model D published an excerpt from an essay by author Desiree Cooper, "It can happen here," about the complicated feelings surrounding Detroit's revival, and how to make sure it's rising for everyone. The essay appeared in a recent anthology, "Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies," published by Wayne State University Press, that covers a range of topics related to the riots from the history of colonial slavery in Detroit to reflections from schoolchildren at the time.

WSU Press also republished a book from 1969, "The Detroit Riot of 1967," written by Hubert G. Locke. It's a firsthand, sometimes minute-by-minute account of the riots as witnessed by the administrative aide to Detroit's police commissioner.

Crain's Detroit Business put out a special report on the riots that includes a timeline of the events that lead to the outbreak, an article detailing the history of the vibrant Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods (as well as the "urban renewal" project that lead to their demise), the economic consequences of the riot, and more. 

Bill McGraw wrote an article in the Detroit Free Press asking what is the most appropriate way to describe the events of 1967: riot or rebellion (or uprising or civil disturbance). "Riot" has been the mainstream way to describe it for decades, but "rebellion" has been gaining traction. "The word of choice [for certain politically-active groups] has become 'rebellion,'" writes McGraw, "reflecting the long-held belief among a number of people that black Detroiters in 1967 were fighting back against systemic racism."

"Rebellion" is how the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History describes those events, which it will explore further in its exhibition, "Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion," opening July 23, the day the rebellion started.

The Detroit Historical Museum has been getting a great deal of positive press about its exhibition. "Detroit 67: Perspectives" collected hundreds of oral histories and scholarly input to create a narrative that spans the years before, the weeks during, and years since the riots. 

There's also movies, recently or soon to be released, covering the summer of '67. One, simply called "Detroit," directed by Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, takes place during the rebellion. It comes out August 4, and you can watch it out at Cinema Detroit

A locally-produced documentary, "12th and Clairmount," premiered at the Freep Film Festival, and features archival footage, home videos, and interviews with eyewitnesses and historians. There is one more currently sold-out screening at Cinema Detroit on July 24, but the owners say there may be a few tickets available the night of the show. 

There's many more ways to read about or engage with the riots of 1967. Let us know about other local events by commenting below, tweeting us @modeld, or sending an email to feedback@modeldmedia.com.

Report on youth sports in Southeast Michigan gives region a C+

Sports are an essential part of youth development, and one of the best ways for kids to be active and healthy. But according to a new report, Michigan isn't doing enough to provide outlets for, and encourage youth engagement in, sports.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan released State of Play, "an independent assessment conducted by the Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program that examines access, quality, and participation in youth sports in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, Monroe, and St. Clair counties."

The report, which gave the Southeast Michigan region a grade of C+, contains some alarming regional deficiencies, such as the fact that only "13 percent of youth across Southeast Michigan are physically active one hour a day, the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

One interesting finding is that the lack of kids to play freely—whether in neighborhood games, on the playground, or by sampling many sports—has negatively impacted the amount of and their desire to exercise.

"Our vision is to have a Southeast Michigan community in which all children, regardless of ZIP code or ability, have the opportunity to be active through sports," said David O. Egner, President & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. "The State of Play report identifies the challenges we face as a region, but more importantly, it also shares the opportunities that all of us in the community—parents, educators, funders, and leaders—can pursue for improvement."

Some of those opportunities outlined in the report include bigger ideas like connecting stakeholder silos and bringing play spaces closer to where children live, and more specific suggestions like forming equipment exchanges or starting a youth sports blog. 

Download the full report here

Local challenge offers $100,000 for technology-based innovations to city issues

Urban centers in America are growing—fast. And cities are looking to tech companies for ways to address issues that will arise with these changes. 

That's what "NextChallenge: Smart Cities" is all about. A partnership between NextEnergy, DENSO, DTE Energy and Wells Fargo, the competition will award $100,00 in grants to winners who propose solutions in the categories of parking, mobility, infrastructure, and buildings, with an emphasis on integrated, data-driven approaches. 

"The goal is to identify new technology to address urban challenges related to safety, mobility, emissions, accessibility, and congestion while also driving economic development in the region," said Jean Redfield, president and CEO, NextEnergy. "The inaugural challenge brought talented individuals and creative solutions from around the world and we're looking forward to another great year of innovative ideas and advancement in Smart City technology."

Last year's winner, Calida Energy, created an app which optimizes energy use in commercial buildings. "The Occupant App software uses real-time data collected from occupants via a comfort survey to empower building operators to more efficiently heat and cool buildings based on occupants' comfort and presence."

An informational webinar will be held on July 27 to learn more about the application process and what sponsors are looking for. 

Applications must be submitted by midnight on Aug. 18. Register for the webinar here.

American cities, including Detroit, invest heavily in autonomous vehicle tech

A huge race is underway. It's not a car race, but it does involve cars. 

American cities are vying to be the country's hub for autonomous vehicles, according to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. And they're doing so by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in testing facilities, research institutions, car companies, and more. 

Some of the cities trying to seize this potentially world-shifting technology include well-known tech hubs like Austin and Boston. But the list also includes cities like Reno, where Telsa built a factory and Google purchased 1,210 acres, many suspect, to build an autonomous vehicle testing facility. 

Detroit and Michigan are as well-poised as any place. In addition to major research institutions committed to this technology, like the University of Michigan, there's also the under-construction American Center for Mobility, an enormous autonomous vehicle test facility located in Ypsilanti that's expected to open later this year.  

[For more information on the American Center for Mobility, check out this Model D article on the future of Michigan Avenue]

"What we're going to create is ... a lifelike proving ground so we can really exercise these (driverless) vehicles," said John Maddox, CEO of the American Center for Mobility, in the Free Press article. "No one will have the full scope of what we will have."

There's also, of course, the major auto companies still in the state, all of which are investing in autonomous vehicles. 

City of Detroit to purchase 7.5-mile stretch of abandoned rail for use in Inner Circle Greenway

Earlier this month, Model D reported that the Detroit Greenways Coalition received a grant to develop the Inner Circle Greenway across 1.4 miles in Highland Park. Well, there's even more good news about the prospect for the 26-mile series of bike lanes and greenways connecting the city by non-motorized pathways.
 
The city of Detroit has announced that it's agreed in principle to purchased 7.5 miles of abandoned rail from Conrail for $4.3 million. While the sale still needs to be approved by the Conrail board and Detroit City Council, construction preparation could begin as early as this fall. The city will be reimbursed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation.
 
"The Inner Circle Greenway is going to connect Detroiters from every corner of the city to some of our greatest resources," said Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. "Residents will have a safe and reliable non-motorized path of greenways and bike lanes connecting them to the riverfront, Eastern Market, parks across the city, and more."
 
This stretch of rail, the largest gap in the path, would constitute nearly 30 percent of the entire Inner Circle Greenway. Other completed portions include the Dequindre Cut, Riverfront, and Southwest Detroit Greenlink. 
 
"The goal of the greenway is to connect neighborhoods previously separated by freeways and disjointed transit via pedestrian and bike paths," according to a press release fro the city. 
 
The plan has been in the works for years—Model D first reported on it in 2015. But it's never felt closer to a reality. 

Unique community of quonset huts near Woodbridge ready for residents

Of all the distinct new housing being built in the city—tiny homes, shipping containers—perhaps none is more distinct than the quonset hut. A number of these horizontal, cylindrical structures made of corrugated steel have been built in a neighborhood near Grand River and 16th that's being called True North.
 
A recent Curbed Detroit article provided details and took some photography of these minimalist huts that are 620 to 1,700 sq. ft.
 
"Some of the spaces will be dynamic and activated, while most will simply be residences," writes Robin Runyan. "They've planted 30 trees and more wild grass and a clay court is yet to come. Of the residences, all seven are occupied or will be rented shortly. One of the huts will be rented out as an Airbnb, while the largest one (the tall one with the ladder) will have a gallery space and an apartment above it."
 
Another notable feature is that each hut is distinct in size and arrangement. According to True North's website, "each unit was designed with a specific trade in mind." All except one of the structures are two stories. 

A new program teaches Detroiters how to invest in property to profit from city's real estate boom

Wealthy developers are snapping up properties left and right in Detroit, leaving many residents to wonder if they'll be left with just the scraps. But, according to a City Lab article titled, "Can Detroiters Finally Get a Stake in the City's Real-Estate Boom?", a new real estate program looks to give Detroiters the information they need to invest in property.
 
The article details "Better Buildings, Better Blocks," "a neighborhood-based real-estate class that provides education and resources to residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park," writes Andrea Penman-Lomeli.

"It was recently selected as one of the 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, which will provide three years of funding for the class. Individuals who take the course learn firsthand how to invest in properties, focusing on acquisition, financing, and project management for small-scale projects. The goal of the program is to create a network that ensures that communities can sustainably rehabilitate residential and commercial spaces and that Detroiters can finally articulate how their city is remade."
 
The program is run by Chase Cantrell, of Building Community Value, who was featured in a Model D article about combating income inequality where he talked about the course, which he was in the process of designing.
 
"Part of the model is to create a fund that'll serve a singular purpose to invest in projects that come through the cohorts," said Cantrell in November 2016. "Once you go through the program, if you have a promising project, you can get a loan or equity investment from the fund."
 
According to the City Lab article, much of those original goals are still in place. Sessions will be taught by local developers, based on a curriculum designed by University of Michigan professor Peter Allen. 

Learn more about the "Better Buildings, Better Blocks" course here.

City installs temporary plaza along Woodward near riverfront

Detroit has been testing out a variety of ways to be more pedestrian and mobility-friendly in recent years. Last year saw the closures of long stretches of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway during Open Streets Detroit. Last month, the bike share system MoGo was launched. 
 
And last week, the city closed the southernmost section of Woodward, between Larned Street and Jefferson Avenue, to create a plaza. Dubbed "The Spirit of Detroit Plaza," the three-month long installation contains food trucks, seats and tables, and artwork. It will also improve access from Campus Martius to the riverfront. 
 
An article in the Detroit News has more details, as well as rationale of the planners. "Janet Attarian, deputy director for planning and development for the city, said the decision to transform the roadway into a gathering space ties into a larger city initiative to create a 'green necklace of public spaces' along Woodward and to the riverfront," writes Jennifer Chambers.

"We see this plaza as a pivotal place in connecting those two. It's right in front of city hall and it's the people's plaza," Attarian said in the Detroit News article.

The installation connects with the recently construction esplanade just south of Campus Martius.
 
Also check out Curbed Detroit's write-up, which contains photography of the plaza.

84-unit, mixed-use development coming to Sugar Hill district in Midtown

Another day, another announcement about new construction in Detroit. 
 
On Friday, June 9 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan and a team of developers and designers announced a big development project to be built right around the corner in the Sugar Hill district of Midtown. 
 
The Sugar Hill Mixed-use development will contain 84 apartment units, 25 percent of which will be set aside for low-income residents, along with 7,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, a 300-car parking garage, and green alleyways. The development, sitting on nearly one acre of vacant land, will cost an estimated $32 million and is expected to break ground in September 2018. 
 
The development and design teams contains an impressive collection of talent and experience. The head designer will be Phil Freelon, an architect of international renown who designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Freelon will work with the Detroit-based firm McIntosh Poris Associates.
 
Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc., two organizations committed to low-income housing, will lead the development. 
 
"Plans for this project go beyond building high-quality, mixed income housing options for Detroiters," said Sonya Mays, CEO of Develop Detroit, in a press release. "We will work hand-in-hand with residents and stakeholders within the existing community to ensure the development is an equitable one; one that creates a walkable environment anchored by commercial and retail spaces, pedestrian streets and alleyways, all of which are accessible to all and ensure continued investment in the arts and culture, education and wellness assets that already call the Sugar Hill district home."

Detroit Future City lays out framework for dealing with city's abandoned manufacturing sites

The next great challenge the city of Detroit might face? What to do with all its abandoned manufacturing sites. 
 
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, that's what the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office will focus on in a new report. 
 
"The numbers alone can stagger," writes John Gallagher. "Detroit contains nearly 900 vacant and mostly abandoned manufacturing sites. They include behemoths such as the old Packard Plant, now in line for a multi-year, multi-million-dollar remake. But more than two-thirds of the vacant factory sites measure less than 10,000 square feet—small tool-and-die shops mostly scattered through the city's neighborhoods."
 
The report, released June 2, notes that, "Many of these buildings abut residential neighborhoods in some of the city's most disadvantaged areas. Without a strategic approach to repurposing these properties, they will remain fallow for years to come, posing threats to public health and safety, and undermining Detroit's recovery."
 
While many challenges remain, the report also notes many successes in repurposing industrial buildings, both local and international. "One example of a recent success was the groundbreaking for automotive parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate’s 350,000-square-foot, $95-million-dollar plant on 30-acres of vacant land on Detroit’s east side. The new facility will generate up to 750 new jobs, 51 percent of which are guaranteed to go to city residents."
 
Read the Detroit Free Press article here. Read the DFC Implementation Office report here

GM and Focus: HOPE partner to train local women in STEM jobs

For years, there's been a lot of talk about narrowing the STEM gap in education and the workforce. To help address this issue in Detroit, a potent corporate and nonprofit pairing is going to train women for jobs in STEM. 
 
According to a press release, "Focus: HOPE and General Motors have joined forces to create the Women In Manufacturing & Technology (WIM Tech) program, a new Manufacturing and Information Technology job preparedness and training program for 60 local women. The program is made possible by a $370,000 grant and $338,000 in laptops and network infrastructure donation from GM."
 
The release goes on to cite statistics about how poverty rates drops significantly with educational attainment of a family's primary income earner. 
 
"The key to a successful career is opportunities, something that GM has given our graduates and individuals we serve for decades," said Jason D. Lee, CEO of Focus: HOPE, in the press release. "We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with GM and working together to eliminate racism, poverty and injustice."

City of Detroit creates Office of Sustainability, names first director

Another in a series of firsts for the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan, the city of Detroit has established an Office of Sustainability, and named Joel Howrani Heeres as its director. 
 
According to a press release, the new department and director will "guide the city's efforts to strengthen the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the city's residents, neighborhoods and businesses."
 
Sustainability has been a priority for this administration. There have been efforts to improve green infrastructure in Detroit, clean up air quality, and promote urban farming, among other initiatives. More were touted in the press release:
 
"Detroit has achieved several sustainability-related milestones in recent years, including the launch of the QLine streetcar, conversion of the city's 59,000 streetlights to LEDs, adoption of green demolition practices for vacant home demolitions, securing $9 million in Federal funding to enhance the city's resiliency, opening a 10-acre solar array at O'Shea Park, and $11.7 million in investments to renovate 40 city parks and playgrounds. Howrani Heeres' appointment and the creation of a sustainability office will support and accelerate these types of projects."
 
Howrani Heeres has lived in Detroit for 13 years and worked in a variety of fields related to sustainability, including as a staff member for EcoWorks Detroit and as managing director of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

Details of Free Press Building redevelopment emerge

Among the numerous downtown redevelopments taking place in Detroit, perhaps none is more exciting than the old Detroit Free Press Building. 
 
The architecture and interior design firm Kraemer Design Group (KDG), in a newsletter, released some of the details of its renovation. There will be "structural updates, complete masonry restoration, new energy-efficient windows and a fresh interior design." The final result, which seeks to preserve the historic elements of the building, will be a mixed-use retail, office, and residential. 

Bedrock owns the building, which is expected to reopen in 2020 at a cost of nearly $70 million. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, "Asbestos and lead abatement, demolition and hazardous material removal will earn Bedrock about $7 million in brownfield tax abatements."
 
The Free Press Building is one of the more iconic structures in downtown Detroit. Designed by Albert Kahn, it has some impressive limestone carvings, statues, and reliefs done by Ulysses Ricci. It was constructed in 1925 and has been abandoned since 1998. (Source: Historic Detroit)

Artist Charles McGee, 92, paints 11-story-tall mural and opens exhibition

One of Detroit's most accomplished contemporary artists, at 92 years old, is still searching. 

That's the theme for his latest exhibition, "Charles McGee: Still Searching," which is presented by the Library Street Collective and opens on June 1. According to a press release, the exhibition "traces McGee's 70-year-long career through an array of works that encapsulate two of the artist's most enduring themes: chronicles of the black experience and a love of nature. The retrospective also reflects McGee's evolution across mediums, with works ranging from charcoal drawings and photography to avant-garde three-dimensional and multimedia pieces."

One block from the gallery, coinciding with the exhibition, McGee's 11-story-tall mural "Unity" will also be unveiled at 28Grand, a new micro-loft apartment building constructed by Bedrock. 

McGee has accomplished much over his 70-year career in art. His work is on permanent display at the Detroit Institute of Art and Museum of African American History. He's also one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. 

"Charles McGee: Still Searching" opens June 1 at 1505 Woodward Avenue, a pop-up gallery, with an artist reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

News and observations from QLine's opening weekend

The QLine's first weekend came and went. And Model D is here to recap opinions, observations, news, and more on the first streetcar to drive along Detroit's streets in over 60 years. 

Crain's Detroit Business put together a useful primer on the QLine in one of the publication's Special Editions. Check out articles on potential expansion, construction timeline, and safety, which has been a concern amongst transit experts.

There's even a safety video on the QLine's own website (see below). 

Riders could take the QLine as much as they wanted on opening weekend. They rode so much, in fact, that the system saw some delays, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press. Because of a few issues on opening weekend, the QLine will continue to be free all week, according to the Detroit News. 

During normal traffic hours, it will take around 20-25 minutes to ride the length of the 3.3-mile track. The QLine does not have right of way, must obey traffic lights, and cannot exceed Woodward Avenue's 30 MPH speed limit. 

Also, check out this blog post on all the destinations riders can visit along each of the QLine's 12 stations.

QLINE Detroit - Driver Safety from M-1 RAIL Detroit on Vimeo.

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