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Regional Transit Authority looks to learn from other cities' transit wins

Regional transit in Southeast Michigan took a major hit this month.
 
"Metro Detroit had an opportunity to vastly upgrade its public transportation system this past election," writes Aaron Mondry in a recent article on income inequality for Model D. "A proposal was on the ballot that would have collected a millage across four Southeastern Michigan counties to fund a Regional Transit Authority for the implementation of BRT lines, commuter rail between Detroit and Ann Arbor, commuter routes, airport routes, and more."
 
But the proposal failed by about 18,000 votes.
 
A recent article in Next City details how Metro Detroit can move on from this setback and learn from other cities with robust regional transit systems. "Michael Ford, CEO of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan—the group that sought the 20-year, $3 billion property tax for new and improved bus and train service—said the organization will look in particular at what made initiatives successful in Seattle and Los Angeles," writes Jen Kinney.
 
Some of those lessons include better advocacy for the plan and taxing districts instead of whole counties.
 
Click here to read the article.

Detroit-based journalist lists ways people can support journalism

Journalism as an institution, especially some of its most prominent national publications, came under intense criticism during the campaign. As if the industry's economic struggles weren't enough, the president-elect called coverage of him "unfair" numerous times and pilloried journalists.
 
But in a surprising twist, news organizations received a spate of new subscriptions in the wake of the election. There seems to be a new urgency around reviving journalism as a means of keeping public officials accountable.
 
One local journalist and Model D contributor, Anna Clark, has advice for those who feel similarly. In a post on her website titled, "How to Support Good Journalism," Clark lists seven potential ways to do just that, including "Subscribe, donate, and/or advertise," "Support the work of those fighting for a free press," and more for both members of the media and reading public.
 
"This near-erasure of a news infrastructure over huge stretches of the country has a serious impact on our democracy," writes Clark. "Omnipresent issues that might rise to the surface in, say, Michigan or Wisconsin, never does; the national press that is almost entirely clustered on coasts is never alerted. Locally, the news vacuum contributes to a profound cycle of disinformation that citizens are fed about what is happening in their disinvested regions, and why."
 
Click here for the complete post and list.

Y Arts fundraiser doubles as a celebration of '60s psychedelic rock

There's lots of good reasons to attend a fundraiser for Y Arts, the arts and humanities branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. Of course, it's an opportunity to support an important arts organization. But if that's not enough of an incentive, this year's theme, "Y Arts' Rockin' Art Bash," promises to be a thrill for fans of '60s rock music.
 
The fundraiser, which takes place on Saturday, November 26, will have a screening of Kresge Kresge Fellow Tony D'Annunzio's Emmy Award Winning rock documentary "Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story," about the east-side Detroit venue.
 
The Y Arts press release gives a great description of the classic venue: "The Grande Ballroom stood as the epicenter of the Detroit rock music scene in the late 60s Serving as the starting point for bands such as MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes, The Grande Ballroom not only influenced local Detroit musicians but inspired bands from all over the U.S. and Great Britain. Legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, B.B. King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, and The Who graced The Grande Ballroom main stage on a regular basis. This is the story of the hallowed halls that started it all, told by the artists who helped create The Grandes legend."
 
The poster artwork of Gary Grimshaw will also be featured. And there will be a live musical performance followed by a Q&A with the director of "Louder Than Love."
 
All proceeds from the event will support Y Arts Detroit and the arts programming they provide to youth and families throughout Metropolitan Detroit. Tickets are available at http://rockinartbash.brownpapertickets.com/.

Startup Story Night accepting submissions for Detroit storytelling event

Everyone has a story to tell. And Southeast Michigan Startup and the New Economy Initiative want to help entrepreneurs tell theirs.
 
The two organizations are presenting Startup Story Night, the first of its kind in Detroit. It'll be a night of storytelling, hosted by a nationally renowned storyteller, and will take place in a unique venue in the wonderfully diverse city known for creation, creativity, boundless ideas—and the resolve to never quit.
 
The night will shine a spotlight on five local entrepreneurs who will share their "a-ha" moment—when they realized their idea or product would work despite the challenges. And readers who have attended Southeast Michigan Startup's High Growth Happy Hours or followed coverage of entrepreneurs who are scaling their businesses will have the opportunity to share their story and learn from their peers.
 
Here's how the process will work:
  • Submissions for stories are open until Dec. 9. Stories must not exceed 10 minutes.
  • A local committee will narrow down the submissions to five entrepreneurs and their stories.
  • The five entrepreneurs will be announced Jan. 3, 2017.
  • Startup Story Night will take place Jan. 19, 2017.
In addition, Detroit native Glynn Washington will be the featured host and storytelling coach. Washington is the host and executive producer of the WNYC-produced podcast Snap Judgment. Washington, a University of Michigan graduate who also received a law degree from U-M's law school, has a background of supporting and working with entrepreneurs. From 2007 to 2010, Washington was the director of the Center for Young Entrepreneurs at Haas, also known as YEAH, a program at the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business that serves at-risk students in middle and high schools.
 
Washington has received national acclaim in publications like The Atlantic, which called him the "fastest-rising public radio star in memory."
 
In addition to his hosting duties, Washington will conduct a workshop exclusively for the selected entrepreneurs to help them polish their stories and advise them in the art of storytelling onstage, under the bright lights and in front of an audience.
 
To submit a story for consideration, head over to Startup Story Night and fill out the short submission form.

Project Green Light offers to help businesses save money, improve safety through lighting rebates

For business owners struggling with the expense of installing external lighting, Project Green Light is here to help.
 
A collaboration between the City of Detroit and DTE Energy, Project Green Light is now offering thousands of dollars in rebates to "Detroit companies who install high-efficiency LED lighting and other energy-savings equipment at their businesses." Those that undertake these upgrades are eligible to receive as much as 65 percent off their purchases for an average savings of $7,000.
 
The program hopes to not only improve energy efficiency in the city, but also safety, as external lighting of business plays a huge role in crime reduction.
 
"DTE has taken great pride in supporting organizations that share our commitment to neighborhoods by promoting safety and implementing programs to revitalize our community—and Project Green Light is just one more great example," says Trevor Lauer, president of DTE Electric, in a press release.
 
Project Green Light was launched early this year and has continued to add incentives, including affordable external video cameras provided by Comcast, and now the rebate program. The program claims that those enrolled since its inception have experienced "a 50 percent reduction in violent crime."
 
52 Detroit businesses are currently enrolled. 

Bedrock gives sneak peak of units in their micro-apartment building

Curbed Detroit recently released photos and details of Bedrock's micro-apartment building, 28 Grand, currently under construction in Capitol Park.
 
The apartments are quite small—a dormitory-sized 260 square feet on average. But they do come fully furnished, with a kitchen and free Rocket Fiber internet connection included in rent.
 
Another cool feature of the building, according to Curbed Detroit editor Robin Runyan: "There will be 218 micro-apartments total, with 133 market-rate units and 85 apartments for those who qualify for low-income housing tax credits."
 
Click here to see more photos of the construction and some of the finished units.

Fitzgerald community meeting brings community, city together

City officials and community members met on October 24th at the University of Detroit Mercy's School of Architecture to continue discussions about the forthcoming Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a city-led initiative to rehab over 350 plots of vacant land and houses in the Fitzgerald neighborhood of Detroit's northwest side.
 
This meeting was added after an October 4th meeting, where developers presented their proposed plans for Fitzgerald to community members. Questions and concerns that arose out of that meeting were part of the reason why the city wanted to give another opportunity for people to give feedback. Those at the October 24th meeting had the opportunity to vote on community priority areas for developers, which included issues like security, side lots, and affordable rentals.
 
Local hiring and workforce development was also a hot topic. This issue is particularly relevant in light of contractors for the Little Caesar's Arena being fined roughly $500,000 for their inability to hire the requisite 51 percent of Detroiters for the project.
 
"I want to make sure that the people who live there are well served by the project," said Frank Rashid, a University District resident. He expressed concern about the project fulfilling its intended purposes. "I want to make sure that the people who live there aren't priced out of their homes. I want to make sure whatever is done we're employing the people in the neighborhood."
 
On hand to field questions and feedback like those from Mr. Rashid were a number of city officials, including Alexa Bush, a senior planner with the City of Detroit, as well as Kim Tandy, the District Manager for District 2, which houses the Fitzgerald community.
 
Ms. Bush sees the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project as an opportunity for residents to take part in the future of their neighborhood and gain access to local jobs. "[W]e think that through the rehab of homes, through the transformation of some of these lots, that there's a real opportunity to find some of these jobs," Bush said. These possibilities, as a result, would benefit people living directly in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
 
She also wants people to stay connected as the process continues to move forward. "I would encourage people who have concerns to come plug in with us, come out to a meeting, call us, check the website. Part of why we wanted to start so many months ago was to give time to get the word out," she said.
 
Community members like Stephanie Harbin are looking forward to what is ahead. Harbin has been a Fitzgerald resident since 1969 and is heavily involved in local community groups, including the San Juan Block Club and the Fitzgerald Community Council. "We are at the point where we need some new life in this area," Harbin said.

Midtown program seeks to prevent residents from being priced out of neighborhood

Gentrification is an issue being talked about a great deal in Detroit. It's a problem that's especially acute in neighborhoods like Midtown, where rents are rising so fast even tenants with steady jobs are having trouble keeping up.
 
That's one reason why Midtown, Inc. has launched their "Stay Midtown" cash assistance program.
 
According to a Detroit Free Press article written by John Gallagher, "The pilot program is aimed at residents of Midtown with annual household incomes that are 50 to 80 percent of area median income levels, or as low as $23,450 for a single person or $30,150 for a single parent with two children. Residents qualifying for help would receive up to $4,500 over a three-year period to bring their total housing expenses down to 30 percent of their income, a level considered normal under federal guidelines."
 
Funding for the program comes from the Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation, and "the specialized lender Capital Impact Partners, which also helped design the program."
 
Midtown, Inc. hopes to help 100 households with the initial round of fund disbursements. 

New tool from Global Detroit demonstrates how immigrants can revitalize city's housing stock

In a recent column for The Renewal Project, Global Detroit director Steve Tobocman wrote about a new tool his organization helped develop for understanding the number of people that can afford a rehabbed home in a given city, and how many of these people are immigrants.
 
Global Detroit advocates for immigrants as a way to strengthen Detroit's economy. This tool was part of research conducted in collaboration with the Welcoming Economies Global Network and the Fiscal Policy Institute.

"[The results] suggest that immigrants represent some of the brightest potential for revitalizing urban communities, especially those with vacant and distressed properties," writes Tobocman.
 
Rust belt cities like Detroit represent a high percentage of these communities. The tool, meant for use by city planners, developers, and the like, "reveals that in 22 of 23 cities, immigrant households have the highest prospect among existing renters to be able to afford such a home."
 
Tobocman goes on to write: "While immigrants remain a smaller portion of the population of these cities (just 11 percent of the total), they remain a critical component for successfully revitalizing neighborhoods and stabilizing population loss. In fact, no great American city that lost population over the last 50 years has been able to grow its population without substantial increase in immigrant population."
 
[For more, check out Model D's article on the ways Metro Detroit is helping its immigrant population]

BizGrid Live! event to increase connection between entrepreneurs and service providers

If you're a Detroit entrepreneur in search of financial, consulting, or other business services (and what business isn't), you're probably familiar with the BizGrid. The resource, which comprehensively catalogues the organizations that constitute Detroit's business ecosystem, will supplement their directory with a resource fair that's "more like speed dating for business support."
 
Dubbed BizGrid Live!, the event will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market and feature networking, a happy hour, and the opportunity for service providers and entrepreneurs to connect.
 
"You can look forward to meeting face-to-face with service providers to help grow your business, networking among community stakeholders and entrepreneurs alike, educational small biz panel discussions, and a pitch session," according to a press release.
 
The BizGrid is a collaborative project between many organizations in the Detroit Business Support Network, including the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Bizdom, TechTown Detroit, New Economy Initiative, and more. It's regularly updated and available in both directory and infographic form. 

BizGrid Live! will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market. You can RSVP here.

Women innovators speak at next High Growth Happy Hour

The world of mobility is changing fast in Detroit. In recent years we've seen world-class incubators like Techstars mobility opening, and the big automotive companies investing in mobility startups like Lyft. What new technologies in transportation could be next?

Two Detroit startups are leading the way and the conversation at our next High Growth Happy Hour on Tuesday, October 25th in Midtown at Traffic Jam & Snug. Tatiana Grant Co-founder of Flash Delivery and Anya Babbitt Founder of SPLT will share with you how they’ve started up and are scaling in the region.

Tatiana's Flash Delivery just saw record growth, managing a fleet of drivers who deliver food and groceries to Detroit residents. Anaya's SPLT has won national and internationally honors for their ride-sharing technology.

Join us at this free, casual networking event to meet other entrepreneurs and learn from those scaling up in the city. RSVP to join us!

Live6 community meeting brings local business owners, residents together to discuss future of area

The Live6 Alliance hosted a meeting on Oct. 12, bringing together longtime residents, business owners, and property owners along the 6 Mile and Livernois corridor to discuss the future of their neighborhoods.

Over 20 people were in attendance at Detroit Sip, a soon to be opened coffee shop owned by Bagley resident Jevona Watson and located along the stretch of McNichols between Marygrove College and the University of Detroit Mercy. The gathering provided an opportunity for people to share information about upcoming events, as well as current development news concerning the area.

The group discussed an earlier community meeting with teams that proposed ideas for the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a city-backed initiative to rehab more than 350 homes and vacant properties in the Fitzgerald neighborhood

Investment is finally coming to the neighborhoods as the city looks to jumpstart growth in other parts of Detroit. Denise Kennedy of Martin Park, one of the Live6 Advisory committee members, notes that it was only a matter of time before interest expanded beyond the 7.2 square miles of the greater downtown area.

"People saw what was happening in Midtown, and they knew sooner or later the growth, the desire for other neighborhoods was going to be happening as Detroit came out of bankruptcy," Kennedy says. She emphasized that it was important to the people that live in her neighborhood and "stayed through thick and thin," that they weren't pushed out as development comes one step closer to becoming a reality.

Attendees also used the meeting as an opportunity to offer resources and tactical strategies to each other, particularly as services like lighting and trash removal takes time to catch up to the needs to the neighborhoods. One business owner said her nickname was the "Housekeeper on Livernois" because of all the extra work she's put in to make sure her building and the adjoining spaces around her building are clear of debris.

She and others encouraged newer business owners struggling with growing pains to stay the course, and reminded them of they support they have in the community.

All photos by Bree Gant

The Senate Theater launches crucial crowdfunding campaign

A classic Detroit theater needs your help.

The Senate Theater on Michigan Avenue, home to one of the largest Wurlitzer organs in the world, hopes to raise $150,000 in a GoFundMe campaign. The theater has opened and closed several times since it first opened in 1926, and is entirely volunteer-run today.

Most of the money will go towards repairing the rusted sign, both the steel and letterboard. It's difficult to tell that the Senate is even open for business without it.

Here's a brief history of the theater from Cinema Treasures: "The former theater was acquired by the Detroit Theater Organ Society (DTOS) in 1963 who renovated it and reduced seating from 1,200 to about 900. The Club moved the former Fisher Theater organ from the Iris Theater, where it was briefly kept in 1961-2, to the Senate Theater.

"Since then, the Senate Theater has been home to the DTOS, and features organ concerts. It no longer has its projection equipment, so unlike the Redford Theater, which features organ concerts and classic motion pictures, the Senate Theater became a concert hall only."

The crowdfunding campaign ends on November 5. To donate, visit the campaign page.

TechTown awards ceremony to recognize excellence in entrepreneurship

TechTown Detroit, a business incubator located in New Center, has done a lot to support entrepreneurship since opening its doors in 2004. And at The Salute! Awards, which takes place on October 13 at TechTown, they'll recognize a few of those standout entrepreneurs.

This year's winner of the "Entrepreneur of the Year" award will be given to Sean Ainsworth, CEO and founder of RetroSense Therapeutics, a biotech company that develops "life-enhancing gene therapies" based on research conducted at Wayne State University. Ainsworth and the company have received numerous accolades in the past, including being named one of the "50 Smartest Companies in the World" by MIT Technology Review.

The ceremony will recognize other people who've contributed to Detroit's business ecosystem. James Feagan IV will receive the "Business Champion of the Year" award for his consulting work with NEIdeas, Motor City Match, and more. Three current or former TechTown clients will receive Lab (technology) and Block (neighborhood) awards as well.

The finalists for the awards were nominated by a committee of "leaders in the startup and small business community."

"There is so much happening in Detroit's entrepreneurship and small business community, we could have given a hundred of these awards," says Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown, in a press release.

Food, dessert, and drinks from local businesses will be served at the event.

The Salute! Awards will be presented at TechTown’s annual Toast of the Town celebration of entrepreneurship on Thursday, October 13 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at TechTown, 440 Burroughs, in Detroit.

Living Arts commemorates Mexican tradition with month-long series of events

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday of Mexican origins that takes place on November 1 and is dedicated to the memory of relatives and loved-ones who have died. Living Arts, an organization that supports youth arts programming and does a lot of work with Southwest Detroit's Mexican-American community, will be holding an event on October 29 to commemorate the holiday.

Beginning with a procession across the Bagley Street pedestrian bridge, "Teatro Chico—Dia de los Muertos: Nuestras Historias, Our Histories" will culminate with a community meal, music and dance performances, and an exhibition of ofrendas (altars) at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

The performances will be given by some esteemed dance and mariachi groups, including Living Arts' own youth dance ensemble.

"Living Arts is proud to be able to contribute to this important conversation about Dia de Los Muertos among all the other wonderful contributions taking place in the Southwest Detroit Community as well as in the greater Detroit area and in Southeast Michigan," stated Erika Villarreal Bunce, Living Arts' director of programs, in a press release. "Through this project we hope to help uplift the ancient roots of Dia de Los Muertos through examining its long history and acknowledging its future. We hope to reconnect with the significance of the tradition as well as help others to learn about and engage on a deeper level with Day of the Dead."

Throughout the month of October Living Arts will also offer art workshops on papermaking, pottery, along with other traditional crafts, using those art objects to create a Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda. All activities will take place at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

The project is sponsored in part by Michigan Humanities Council, the Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Ideal Group.

Teatro Chico: Dia de los Muertos takes place on Saturday, October 29 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. beginning at the Bagley Street pedestrian bridge and moving to the Ford Resource and Engagement Center. The event is free of charge, but donations are encouraged. For more information about the event or workshops, visit the Living Arts event page.
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