| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Vimeo RSS Feed

Buzz

3242 Articles | Page: | Show All

Fitzgerald neighborhood receives $4 million grant to support revitalization efforts

The Fitzgerald neighborhood in northwest Detroit has seen a lot of abandonment and disinvestment in recent years.

While that's been devastating to the neighborhood, it's also what made it eligible to receive a $4 million grant from the "Reimagining Civic Commons" initiative, a collaboration between four major foundations, including Kresge and James L. Knight.

The initiative, which also pledged sums for neighborhoods in Akron, Chicago, and Memphis, "intends to be the first comprehensive demonstration of how a connected set of civic assets—a civic commons—can yield increased and more equitably shared prosperity for cities and neighborhoods."

A press release from Mayor Mike Duggan's Office states that, "The grant funding and local match is a critical element in advancing Mayor Mike Duggan's recently announced 20-Minute Neighborhood initiative … the Mayor has proposed investing in targeted communities to better link residents to key assets."

A recent City Lab article details other important pieces of the grant. "Detroit is partnering with the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College to improve a civic commons located between the two institutions: a roughly half-mile future greenway in the city's distressed Fitzgerald neighborhood," writes Kriston Capps. "Together, with these colleges and the Live6 Alliance, a nonprofit community-development corporation, Detroit aims to build a greenway through vacant or abandoned lots along the Livernois Corridor."

Detroit has also raised matching funds to bring the total investment in the Fitzgerald neighborhood to $8 million.

Elementary school in Southwest Detroit fights neighborhood blight

For eight years, the community around Neinas Elementary in Southwest Detroit has worked to transform the blight around their school. They're very close to bringing that vision to reality, but need a little more funding, and are looking to acquire it through an ioby crowdfunding campaign.

Three abandoned buildings in unsalvageable conditions stood near the elementary school. So the Friends of Neinas purchased the land and got the buildings demolished. Their last goal is to design nourishing spaces for children to play and learn, and they even enlisted the students to help with ideas.

Some of those ideas include a soccer field, butterfly garden, and exhibit space for student art.

The crowdfunding campaign, called Building a Brighter Neinas, ends on September 16 and has a goal of $10,000. To donate or visit the campaign, click here.

National startup boom reaches Detroit

Conditions are just right nationally and in Detroit for a startup boom, according to a Detroit Free Press article. And that's exactly what we're seeing.

The article begins at the business incubator and coworking space TechTown Detroit, where "the interest is so intense from start-ups seeking space there that the organization may need to find more to squeeze them all in," writes Frank Witsil. "The co-working space … is nearly full at 67 companies; many are start-ups. At this rate, it could eventually overflow."

The article then gives national figures demonstrating that startups are being founded at the highest rate in seven years.

Several economic conditions are just right for the recent startup boom: people have found greater work stability (unemployment has decreased 5 percent since 2009) and homeownership is on the rise. In Detroit, many grant-giving competitions and foundations, like Motor City Match and Hatch Detroit, have arisen to support the small business community.

The article concludes with this hopeful quote from Lester Gouvia, owner the food truck businesses Norma G's. "Detroit is coming back from such a place that it was in a few years ago that I think the excitement level and opportunity, while it's similar to the rest of the country, is even greater. There's so much to be done. There's a lot of opportunity here."

In surprising turn, classic Detroit venue may reopen

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press opens his article on the potential reopening of the Vanity Ballroom with these hopeful words: "Whenever I get discouraged about Detroit's redevelopment efforts I think about all the projects we once thought utterly impossible that eventually opened and thrived."

The glorious venue on the far east side of Detroit, whose facade is adorned with Aztec-influenced tiles, hosted many seminal musicians throughout the years before closing in 1988. Today however, it's "in rough shape," according to Gallagher. "Scrappers have been working, the ceiling is open to the sky, debris litters the floor everywhere. But it's still possible to glimpse the former glory."

Jefferson East Inc., the economic development organization supporting neighborhoods in and around East Jefferson Avenue, is putting together redevelopment designs and a funding packaging for the ballroom.

The plan is to have mixed retail on the ground level with the whole project as the centerpiece for much bigger development efforts along the Jefferson corridor.

Michigan leads Midwest in hop production, craft beer industry

Michigan has been a national leader in the craft beer boom. Brands like Founder's and Bell's can be found in many states across the country, and Detroit breweries like Jolly Pumpkin and Batch are getting plenty of acclaim, too.

Another piece of evidence that Michigan is uniquely thriving in the craft beer movement is by comparison to their Midwest neighbors. In that regard, there really isn't much of a comparison.

An article earlier this month in the Chicago Tribune identifies Michigan as the top hop producer in the Midwest with over 800 acres dedicated to the crop. Illinois has a paltry 30.

"Hop farms are popping up throughout the Midwest, a trend driven by craft beer's continued growth running parallel to the increasing popularity of locally grown food," writes Greg Trotter for the Tribune. "But in Illinois, unlike in neighboring Michigan, there's no state university-coordinated effort among brewers and growers to break down potential barriers to business. There's no research underway to determine the best varieties for Illinois farmers to grow that might give them a competitive edge."

The article then details the number of ways Michigan state government and institutions support its craft beer industry, whereas the same institutional support doesn't exist in Illinois. Trotter also writes about the industry's economic potential, which is already being harnessed to a large degree in Michigan.

Diversity increases amongst downtown business owners

About two-thirds of all businesses in Detroit are black-owned. But many feel that minorities have been left out of the economic upswing taking place in the greater downtown area. 

Perhaps, suggests a recently published article
 in the Detroit News, that disparity is shrinking.

Ian Thibodeau of the News writes about several minority, women business owners who've opened storefronts downtown, including Detroit Is the New Black owner Roslyn Karamoko.

That said, caveats do remain. Thibodeau spoke with House of Pure Vin co-owner Regina Gaines and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce Ken Harris, both of whom expressed cautious optimism at these recent developments.

"Gaines opened as one of the only retailers on her side of the street," writes Thibodeau. "In 2014, when she started negotiating with Bedrock for the space, Gaines said some African-Americans didn't feel included in the downtown boom.

"Her business challenges that narrative, she said. She feels now that some of the tension has subsided since 2014, though there's still plenty of room for better minority representation downtown.

"Harris says, 'We're finding African-Americans wanting now to be part of the benefits from the resurgence of business in the city.'"

New pilot program could rewrite zoning codes for the better

Detroit's outdated zoning codes slow development and prevent businesses from opening in locations they're best suited for. Fortunately, according to the Detroit News, a new "pink zone" pilot program, meant to ease zoning restrictions, could be on the way next summer.

Through a grant from the Knight Foundation, "three multidisciplinary teams will put together visions for walkable, mixed-use activity in three commercial sites in Detroit," writes Christine Ferretti. "Later, the concepts will be tested against the city’s zoning ordinance and building code to identify roadblocks and work with city departments and others to identify strategies for reforms."

Detroit planning director Maurice Cox is fully on board with the plan, and described Detroit's present zoning system as "crazy" and inhibiting development.

This, and other recent reforms, have "earned Detroit a nod in the Wall Street Journal this spring as one of five cities 'leading the way in urban innovation.'"

Detroit automakers and Silicon Valley app-makers increase collaboration

Detroit is teaching Silicon Valley a thing or two about technology in the arena it knows best: cars.

An article on MSN details all the ways the auto industry has grown and modernized since the Big Three went through reduced market share and bankruptsy. General Motors, for example, invested $500 million in the ride-share app Lyft and is one of the leaders in autonomous vehicle design.

Auto sales are up across the board for 2016 as well.

Meanwhile, write Matthew DeBord, "Silicon Valley has started to encounter some investor turbulence. Startups with hefty valuations don't see IPOs as a way to pay back their investors. That leaves getting acquired as an option, but a level of saturation with social networking and apps might have set in."

This has resulted in a surprising collaboration between auto and app makers. Perhaps though, it shouldn't come as a surprise, writes DeBord. "Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the early 20th century, a hotbed of entrepreneurship, fascinated with the most high-tech contraption of the time—the automobile."

National business leaders bullish on Detroit, Kresge report indicates

The Kresge Foundation, a national nonprofit that supports America's cities and offers numerous Detroit-specific grants, recently released its "Detroit Reinvestment Index," which gathered data on what national business leaders think about Detroit and how the city compares to perceptions of cities generally.

Overall the document offers some hopeful conclusions. Perhaps the most encouraging is that 84 percent of those surveyed—senior leaders at global companies of over 250 employees—believe that Detroit "can become a great city again."

In a letter about the index, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson writes, "With caveats, I think it's fair to say that Business is very bullish on Detroit."

Other "key findings" include...
  • Business leaders believe Detroit has a number of assets, like "its racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, rich cultural history, effective local government, low cost of living and low taxes as key reasons."
  • Surprisingly, "Only 16% of business leaders are aware that Detroit is out of bankruptcy."
There's a lot more to digest in the 43 page report, which is available for download on the foundation's website.

Keegan-Michael Key to invest, spend more time in Detroit

Comedian and Detroit-native Keegan-Michael Key says he's going to invest more in his hometown.

According to an article in The Detroit News, "[Key] makes several trips a year to Detroit and is planning on spending even more time in the city." Part of that plan entails purchasing property here.

Key, most well-known for the groundbreaking comedy show, "Key and Peele" which he wrote with co-star Jordan Peele, has already engaged quite a bit with Detroit: he was one of the co-founders of Hamtramck's Planet Ant Theater and a member of Second City Detroit's mainstage cast (see Model D's article on the local improv scene). He recently filmed for a role in the upcoming Detroit-based comedy television series, "Detroiters."

Model D interviewed Key before his show at the Detroit Film Theater supporting the Detroit Creativity Project last year.

And there's more. "He also wants to tell Detroit stories; he says he's in the early stages of putting together a project that dramatizes Detroit's bankruptcy," writes Adam Graham.

Help select which mural gets painted at the Adams Butzel Recreation Complex

Every year, the 8-week Summer in the City program culminates in a celebration and mural painting. This year, they've chosen to adorn the Adams Butzel Recreation Complex in northwest Detroit with a hockey-themed mural.

And you can help decide which mural is selected. The Detroit Red Wings Foundation, along with the youth-led summer program, and the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department have come up with seven mural designs, all hockey-themed, as the section of the rec center to be painted is the Jack Adams Memorial Hockey Arena.

The mural that gets the most votes will be painted on the Finale Friday celebration, which includes more than just painting, and takes place on August 12. All are encouraged to vote for their favorite design and volunteer for painting.

Summer in the City is an organization that offers programming and volunteer opportunities in Detroit for youth. One project they commonly undertake is mural-painting—the organization says they've painted over 100 in the city.

Model D covered last year's Finale Friday at Crowell Community Center, also in northwest Detroit. An estimated 1,200 volunteers showed up.

To vote for your favorite mural design, click here.

Detroit Free Press strongly denounces county executives' efforts to derail regional transit

A prominent columnist at the Detroit Free Press, Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Henderson, and the paper's editorial board have come out staunchly against recent efforts to scuttle regional transit by county executives L. Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel, respectively of Oakland and Macomb counties.

"Twenty-six times this region has tried to create functional transit across three or four counties, and 26 times, we've come up short. Way short," writes the editorial board. "Until 2012, when the state Legislature created a Regional Transit Authority for southeast Michigan. This time, with state support and a rock-solid structure built to harness cooperation among the various parties in the region, things would be different. This time, we would get it right."

But then the two county executives objected to the plan, which had been in the works for many months, two weeks before the millage needed to get approved for the November ballot.

Here's what the editorial board thinks of the last-minute antics: "[R]epresentatives from Oakland and Macomb objected, blindsiding RTA officials and other board members who'd negotiated in good faith. Oakland's representative delivering a 19-page list of grievances, ranging from the quasi-legitimate to the asinine."

Part of their argument is that Oakland and Macomb fail to see the region as a cohesive whole—they are stuck in a balkanized mindset.

Henderson's column, titled "Hackel, Patterson trying to build a wall in S.E. Michigan," demonstrates he feels similarly. Like the editorial board, he questions the timing, and goes point by point through their objections, which he calls "selfish." But again, county executives fail to see that the "dividends pay back region-wide."

He ends the column with a plea: "Time is short. For this to get onto the November ballot, something has to be approved by early August. If that doesn't happen, we're looking at 2018 before another opportunity comes up. And that would be near-criminal neglect. Think of the stranded and isolated lives, kept from opportunity by our lousy transit, that will unfold over those next two years."

A Model D article from last year speculated whether the suburbs would buy in to regional transit. Perhaps, sadly, we have our answer. 

Small businesses multiply, crime declines along Jefferson Avenue corridor

A recent article in Crain's Detroit Business details the rapid growth of five neighborhoods extending along Jefferson Avenue, stretching all the way to the Grosse Pointe border.

A number of new businesses have opened up along the Jefferson Avenue corridor recently. "Beautiful Bridal, along with a new Caribbean restaurant, a Christian yoga center, women's clothing boutiques, a casual branded clothing store, a used record store, and a coffee shop and bakery, are a few of the more recent businesses that have planted roots along the eight miles between downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park," writes Marti Benedetti.

Some significant numbers accompany these developments. The most salient is the approximately $1 billion in new investment since 2009.

Also notable, writes Benedetti, "Since 2014, crime along the Jefferson corridor declined more than 31 percent. In 2015, there was a 38 percent drop in auto theft and a 22 percent reduction in robberies, according to JEI's 'Safe Jefferson' program."

In addition to new businesses, several apartment and housing developments are finished or underway. Lakewood Century Apartments, for example, is a $7 million, 35-unit project at Lakewood and Jefferson—no opening date was mentioned.

There's also the Jefferson streetscaping, which will include the first protected bike lanes in the city.

Josh Elling, Executive director of the economic development organization Jefferson East, Inc., credits economic development in Detroit's greater downtown area, as well as "business-supporting" institutions, for the economic spillover taking place in the Jefferson corridor.

U.S. cities, Detroit included, are rethinking the alley

An article in The Atlantic's City Lab begins on a poetic note:

"The alley is dark no longer.

"In the United States, these almost-accidental spaces between buildings have existed in a sort of limbo: not quite streets, but still thoroughfares; not private, but not public enough to feel protected; backdrops to crime, or filled with trash heaps."

The article continues by detailing the way cities, including Detroit, are creatively rethinking use of these "almost accidental" spaces. For years, writes Eillie Anzilotti, "[alleys] were a place to conduct activities considered unfit for the main street," like big deliveries or trash collection.

But urban planners are beginning to recognize how much untapped space exists in alleys. One of these new approaches was adopted by Detroit's own Tom and Peggy Brennan. The Green Alley, adjacent to their business-incubator and coworking space the Green Garage (profiled in Model D), is a prototype for the green alley movement being adopted by many U.S. cities.

The Green Alley, writes Anzilotti, "incorporates permeable surfaces and gardening space, and has transformed a space once filled with mattresses and hypodermic needles into a community gathering place."

There's many other interesting cases mentioned in the article, and one wonders which alleys in Detroit would make for promising redevelopment opportunities. 

Next High Growth Happy Hour focuses on real estate

Detroit's rapidly fluctuating real estate market has no shortage of entrepreneurs breaking into it. There's an opportunity to hear from two fast growing local startups at the next High Growth Happy Hour, August 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m., in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.

The speakers will be David Alade of Century Partners, a real estate development company with a holistic revitalization and innovative funding approach, and Max Nussenbaum, CEO & co-founder of property management startup Castle (read Model D's profile on Castle and their rapid growth). David and Max will share insights into Detroit's real estate market, including how they have broken in and created a new model for their businesses.

Agenda

6:00 - 6:30: Networking & Drinks

6:30 - 7:30: Casual chat and Q&A with attendees

7:30 - 8:00: Networking

RSVP here to attend. Space is limited for this free special event. Drinks and light appetizers will be served, and you’ll also get to be the first to see a brand new space Century Partners is redeveloping into a restaurant at 9425 John R Rd., Detroit.

Learn more about the High Growth Happy Hour series, which connects entrepreneurs and inspires them to scale in Metro Detroit.

Subscribe to our sister publication Southeast Michigan Startup to follow more companies scaling in Detroit.
3242 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts