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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.

Symposium stresses importance of higher ed to immigrant teens

Four inspirational speakers stressed the importance of higher education at the Immigration + Education = Economic Growth II Symposium on Friday, May 16 at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit. Nearly 100 high school students from Dearborn, Detroit, Melvindale, and Hamtramck listened intently, as they heard Kirk Mayes from Mayor Mike Duggan's office; Rabelani Makwarela, a recruiter from Henry Ford College (HFC); P.J. Dada, a successful entrepreneur; and WSU student Adonis Flores share their insights and offer advice and encouragement to the group. Ana Cukovic from the Archdiocese of Detroit was also on hand to explain the path to citizenship.

The event was presented by the Caribbean Cultural & Carnival Organization (CCCO) and the Jamaican Association of Michigan (JAM).

"We are trying to stimulate the kids and show them that education is a rite of passage, not only for economic growth but for personal development. The whole process is not just getting a formal education and learning in books. It's becoming acclimated to different cultures. If you aren't in a college environment, you can't learn about the people you are going to work with down the road," said Sophia Chu, CCCO President.

Each of the speakers shared a unique perspective on the importance of higher education.

"You can change your life and your community completely from education," said HFC's Makwarela.

An immigrant from South Africa, she shared her story and talked about the two things that are important to her: her family and her love of travel.

"My money makes it possible to fund my passion, which is travel," she said. "Some people are just naturally talented, like Michael Jordan," she explained. "Most of us aren't. We need help to get there."

She stressed education can help them reach their goals and get there. Makwarela said they can save a lot of money by attending a more cost effective community college their freshman and sophomore years, then spend their junior and seniors years at the more expensive university. She explained the highest number of unemployed are those with a high school education or less.

"Now is when you have to make the decision to make the choices for the rest of your life," she explained. "If you don't make your choices early in life that you keep later on, someone else will make them for you.Education is about keeping your options open."

P.J. Dada immigrated to Lansing from Laos as a young child. Her parents were so protective of her she was never allowed to play outside with other children. Her social skills suffered greatly, and she was often bullied in school. In spite of her difficulties, she graduated from high school and attended General Motors Institute (GMI) graduating with a degree in engineering. Her first position was with AMWAY where she made soap and makeup. She suffered greatly in the work environment because she was not taught to socialize with men. As an engineer, she was often the only woman in the group and struggled to learn the social rules when working with the opposite sex. She forced herself to network and get involved, which took her out of her comfort zone. She continued to receive promotions and eventually went to work for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. One year ago, she took a leap and opened her own consulting firm which is doing well.

She told the young people not go give up on their life's journey. "Each of us is different and takes different paths to get to our goal of success. Focus on the prize. Focus on what you want, so you can reset your goals as needed. Keep trying. Don't give up, and keep an open mind."

"Take your book," said Kirk Mayes' mother, a Jamaican immigrant. Mayes, the Deputy Group Executive of Jobs and Economy for the City of Detroit, explained it means much more than just those three words.

"It means to embrace your education and understand it for what it is. Absorb as much as you can in order to fill yourself with the knowledge that will build on you an asset no one can ever take away."

As Mayes told the group, he had no idea what he wanted to be when he graduated from Michigan State, but he knew he could do anything he wanted. He talked about the different jobs he took that weren't the right fit, and how he struggled to find the right position for himself. He finally formed Village Gardens with his friends, a nonprofit to help turn Detroit around. It was very successful, but it paid no money. He was so passionate about it, that at one point he was homeless and living in his car.

In 2010 he was approached by Skillman to be part of the Good Neighborhood Initiatives in Brightmoor. From there he was recently tapped by the new Mayor to take his present position where he is committed to improving the statistics that Detroit has 27 jobs per 100 residents. He is working to move businesses into neighborhoods that are sustainable.

He talked about the importance of being strategic and specific about who you surround yourself with.

"I wouldn't have been able to advance through a path unless I identified people along the way who I was confident knew more than me. If you have an opportunity, take on mentors and be active in that relationship. The best relationships I have had are the ones where I told them what I would like to learn and how I would like to grow. If you pick the right mentor and they are willing to invest their time in you, you will make them happy, and they will invest more in you when your success offers them a chance to do something for you again."

He stressed that you can do that here in the U.S. and then he shared his formula for success:
- Focus on yourself -- Get to know who you are. It makes you better able to focus on the right dream for yourself.
- Discipline -- Once you're focused on who you are and what your life will look like when you get there, you need discipline to stay on the path and complete the journey.
- Work Ethic -- That's the cap of this formula. You can focus and be disciplined, but you have to get up and go do it.

Mayes said to the young people, "You are in a City that is in desperate need of your vision! Don't let anyone take you off of your path."

Adonis Flores is a student at Wayne State University and an undocumented immigrant who came to this country from Mexico at age eight. He was active in the fight to pass the DREAM Act which would allow undocumented children to pursue their dreams and get an education. He has continued to encounter barriers to his education, but he has not given up.

In 2007 he received scholarships for school, but the recently passed law ending affirmative action prevented him from receiving those funds. They were for minorities. He couldn't renew his driver's license anymore after the law was passed, and he was forced to pay out-of-state tuition. He said his friend Gilbert came to the U.S. at age 17 and graduated from UofM Dearborn. He didn't qualify for the DREAM act because he was too old. When he recently lost his job, he was deported because of his undocumented status. However, because of his degree, he was able to obtain a position as an engineer at the Volkswagen Plant in Pueblo, Mexico.

"So, no matter what, education will definitely help you even when you think there is not hope," said Flores.

All of the speakers encourage the students to be true to their dreams. As they were leaving the event, students were heard talking about how inspiring the speakers were and how they were motivated to continue pursuing their goals in spite of any personal struggles.

In addition to the inspirational speakers, Ana Cukovic from the Archdiocese of Detroit gave some practical, step-by-step advice on how to apply for citizenship.

The event was sponsored by Global Detroit, Welcome Mat Detroit, ACCESS, Consumers Energy, AIS, MIC, Micron, and DES Electric.

Pop-up in Grandmont Rosedale: REVOLVE Detroit is seeking applications

REVOLVE Detroit is seeking applications for its pop-up retail program, this time in northwest Detroit's Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood. Over the last three years, REVOLVE has helped pop-ups open in vacant storefronts in Lafayette Park, West Village, Jefferson-Chalmers, and the Avenue of Fashion (Livernois at 7 Mile). Several of these businesses have made the transition from pop-up to permanent and several vacant storefronts that hosted pop-ups have taken on long-term tenants.

Now, REVOLVE Detroit is partnering with the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation and Charter One's “Growing Communities” initiative in seeking entrepreneurs to create two new pop-up shops on Grand River Avenue in Detroit’s distinguished Grandmont Rosedale community.

Applications are due June 15. For more information, visit REVOLVE's website.

Source: REVOLVE Detroit

Applications open for Write a House, a permanent writers residency in Detroit

Write A House is a different sort of writers residency. That's because it doesn't really end.

On May 15, Write A House began accepting applications for its inaugural writers residency, which will award an individual a home in Detroit to keep, forever.

Applications for the first Write A House residency may be submitted online between May 15, 2014 and June 21, 2014. There is no application fee. Writing quality is the most important part of the application, but judges will also look for the ability of applicants to contribute to the neighborhood and the wider literary culture of Detroit.

Eligible applicants must be low- or moderate-income writers with some history of publication. They must also be U.S. citizens and age 18 or over. Details about the application process and the Write A House program can be found at www.writeahouse.org/apply.

The process will be judged by a group of accomplished local and national writers, including Toby Barlow, Billy Collins, Sarah F. Cox, dream hampton, Major Jackson, and Sean MacDonald.

Write A House houses are located in Detroit just north of the enclave city of Hamtramck. The neighborhood is sometimes referred to as Banglatown for its sizeable Bangladeshi population.

Model D featured the Write A House residency and its neighborhood in a story that ran in January of this year.

Source: Write A House

Le Rouge footballers open regular season with win over Cincinnati

On May 7, Detroit City FC (DCFC) lost its first match of the year (only its third loss since 2012) to RWB Adria, a Croation American soccer club from Chicago, in a penalty shootout at the invitational U.S. Open Cup, the oldest tournament in American soccer.

But on Saturday, May 10, Le Rouge opened the National Premier Soccer League regular season with a 1-0 victory over the Cincinnati Saints on its home pitch at Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit.

The lone goal of the game came in the 37th minute when DCFC's Zach Myers received a cross pass from Colin McAtee and put the ball past Saints keeper Ben Dorn.

League play continues on Friday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. Le Rouge will square off against the Michigan Stars (formerly FC Sparta) under the lights at Cass Technical High School. Tickets are available on DCFC's website.


 

Preservation Detroit to host The Last Service, a memorial for the First Unitarian Church

On November 29, 1890, Unitarians in Detroit celebrated the first service at their new church at Woodward and Edmund, thereafter known as First Unitarian Church. On May 10, 2014, a massive fire destroyed the building. 

This Sunday, May 18, Preservation Detroit, along with community partners, will hold a final non-denominational service at the site of the church. The event is intended to provide closure to the community and to honor the building's 124-year history.

A candlelight vigil will be accompanied by music and readings, including a speech that was given at the first service of First Unitarian in 1890. 

The event is free to the public and will be held rain or shine. It begins at 7:30. 

Please contact Preservation Detroit with questions or visit the Facebook event page here.

Source: Preservation Detroit

Detroit Vacant Property Coalition empowers community groups to address blight

The Vacant Property Coalition was organized by Michigan Community Resources over two years ago to respond to the needs of communities facing challenges related to blight and the abandoment of property. The Vacant Property Coalition (VPC) promotes a policy agenda around vacant property issues. Composed of community groups and residents working to improve code enforcement and blight prevention policies and practices, the VPC raises awareness, shares best practices, and takes action to reduce the prevalence of blight and the harmful impact of vacant properties. Today, over 30 members that represent community groups across Detroit routinely participate in monthly meetings.
  
Watch the video “Meet the Vacant Property Coalition” to learn more about how community groups are joining the Vacant Property Coaltion to address some of the greatest challenges facing neighborhoods in Detroit.

Source: Michigan Community Resources

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative intern to live in city's first shipping container house

A lucky intern at the nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will become the first person to inhabit a house made from a shipping container, reports the Detroit News.

The container is currently being converted into occupiable housing in the parking lot of General Motor’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Once completed, it will be moved to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative's headquarters on Brush Street in New Center.

The nonprofit purchased the container for $3,000, but estimates that it will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to convert it into a home. According the News, "Local GM workers will volunteer to convert the container into a home and 85 percent of the materials will be scrap from local GM plants."

Read more in the Detroit News.

Celebrate National Bike Month with Tour de Troit

May is National Bike Month. It's also when Tour de Troit holds its annual Cycle into Spring ride. The ride will take place this Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m.

For the third year in a row, the 20-mile cycling event held in collaboration with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative will begin and end on the banks of the Detroit River at Maheras Gentry Park in Detroit.

Cycle Into Spring attracted over 500 riders in 2013 and has raised over $5,000 for the Conner Creek Greenway since 2012. Seven miles of this greenway are currently complete, and funds raised at this year’s Cycle Into Spring will support programming and the development of the final two miles.

The police escorted ride, which is also sweeper and SAG-supported, goes from the Detroit River to 8 Mile and back again along the Conner Creek Greenway (CCG), which boasts nine miles of cycling infrastructure that traces the original Conner Creek and links people, parks, green spaces, neighborhoods, schools and shops. Sites along the way include Coleman A. Young International Airport, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the Milbank Trail, the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant and Chandler Park.

Riders can register for ride at Eventbrite.

More information is available on Tour de Troit's website.

Rivera-Kahlo exhibit highlighting artists' time in Detroit coming to DIA

Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry murals are arguably the best know works of art associated with the city of Detroit. Between April 1932 and March 1933, Rivera and his wife, famed artist Frida Kahlo, lived in Detroit while Rivera worked on Detroit Industry. The Detroit Institute of Arts, where the murals are located, is currently preparing to host an exhibit highlighting Rivera and Kahlo's stay in Detroit, which is widely acknowledged as a creative period for the couple.

The Detroit Institute of Arts expects the "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit" exhibit it's planning for March 15-July 12, 2015 to draw large crowds from around the country. According to Crain's Detroit Business, "Planning for the exhibit began several years ago."

Read more in Crain's Detroit Business.
 

Exploring the Detroit-Berlin connection

The Detroit-Berlin Connection is a collaborative, transatlantic effort to bring together creative individuals and communities in the two cities with the goal of driving cultural and economic growth in Detroit. The group's first Conference for Subcultural Exchange for Urban Development will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) May 23, 2014. The conference is free and open to the public. It begins at 4 p.m.

Partners in the project include Tresor/Kraftwerk Berlin, re:publica/newthinking, Electronic Beats, De:Bug/Das Filter, Womex and others from Berlin; and Model D, Paxahau/Movement, Ponyride, and Underground Resistance from Detroit. The program will include presentations by several Berliners involved in art/entrepreneurship efforts key to the German capital's revitalization over the past 25 years. A panel discussion featuring Berlin and Detroit participants will follow, along with a Q&A session and a chance for the public to mingle with the speakers.

More information about the Detroit-Berlin Connection can be found on its Facebook page. Register for the May 23 event at MOCAD here.

The Design Observer explores the urban ecology of Detroit and other cities

While many look at the overgrown grass and a resurgent swamps sometimes found on Detroit's vacant land as blight, the Design Observer points out that these occurences are the result of a complex urba ecology.

Author Peter Del Tredici, associate professor in practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide, makes the following observation:

"While Detroit is clearly a tragic story from the socioeconomic perspective, it is a paradise for spontaneous vegetation."

It's always good to look on the bright side of things.

Regardless, this essay is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the ecology of cities.

Read more in the Design Observer.

Detroit City FC announces schedule, tickets now on sale

Tickets are on sale now for the Detroit City Futbol Club's third season. Judging by Le Rouge's strong performance last year, this season looks promising.

Season tickets can be purchased for $40. The club plays nine home matches on Cass Technical High School's football fied in downtown Detroit.

For the uninitiated, Detroit City FC is a minor league soccer team that plays in the National Premier Soccer League’s Midwest Great Lakes Conference. Founded in 2012, Detroit City FC has established itself as one of the most talked about soccer teams in North America and the grassroots embodiment of a resurgent city.

View DCFC's complete schedule here:

http://www.detcityfc.com/dcfc-schedule

Crash Detroit, a new festival of street art and bands coming to Corktown this July

Detroit is getting a new street festival this summer called Crash Detroit.

According to the festival's Facebook page, "Crash Detroit invites the community to come together by providing free access to music and the arts while encouraging joyous human connection. The festival will connect bands from across the country and build upon the rich culture of music in Detroit. The festival is a celebration of place that aims to give life to underused spaces in Detroit and promote local business."

Crash Detroit is currently scheduled for The event is scheduled for Saturday, July 19 in Roosevelt Park. It is all ages and free to the public.

Follow Crash Detroit's Facebook page for updates.

More foreign investment coming to Michigan?

"Our state needs outstanding talent to help drive the new economy. Immigrants are net job creators," said Gov. Rick Snyder in a recent announcement. "In return, Michigan offers a wonderful place to live, work, play, and raise a family."

On the heels of Gov. Snyder's announcement last week, Michigan has been granted status by the federal government to create its own EB-5 "Regional Center." Michigan is just the second state in the country to do so.

The Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA), in conjunction with Global Detroit, Aspire Lending, and Ogilvy PR, will be hosting the Immigration Investment Opportunities in Michigan conference on Wednesday, April 23 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Hills. Civitas Capital, a firm that has leveraged over $280 million in EB-5 investments into the Dallas regional economy on projects creating over 8,000 jobs, will present at the seminar.

Never heard of an EB-5 visa? You're not alone. EB-5 is the fifth of five "Employment-Based" visas that help foreigners legally work in the U.S. Known as an "investor" visa, the EB-5 is specifically designed to spur business investment that creates jobs in the United States with particular emphasis on areas of high unemployment.  The program began in the early 1990s, and is authorized by Congress to issue up to 10,000 visas every year, though that limit has yet to be reached.

EB-5 visas allow foreign investors to obtain conditional residency, legal permanent residency, and, eventually, full U.S. citizenship, as long as they invest $1 million in a U.S. business that they "control," and that business in turn creates 10 U.S. jobs. Foreign investments in "Targeted Employment Areas" (TEAs), meaning "high unemployment" areas or rural areas, lower the total investment threshold to $500,000.

So, what does Michigan's new EB-5 Regional Center mean for a state like Michigan, and cities like Detroit? "This approval is an important step in helping harness top talent and international direct investment into the state to continue and accelerate Michigan's comeback," Gov. Snyder said in his press release.

The Governor hopes Michigan's EB-5 Regional Center will act as a vehicle that connects foreign investment with development projects across the state, as well as help foreign investors gain permanent residency for themselves and their families. According to Snyder, investors will be identified from a variety of places, including individuals and contacts made through Michigan's colleges and universities who are working to retain and attract current and former students.

The Center will work in coordination with Gov. Snyder's Michigan Office for New Americans created in late January and will be housed at the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority (MSHDA).

Scott Woosley, Executive Director of MSHDA, said Michigan is eager to deepen relationships internationally and bring home investment, projects, jobs, and possible new residents critical to Michigan's future.

"It's anticipated that once it's up and running, the regional center will generate $30-50 million of new private equity for projects each year and create 600 new jobs in communities where they are much needed," Woosley said in Snyder's release.

So what about cities like Detroit? Can a tool like the EB-5 and a platform like the Michigan Regional Center be utilized to leverage more investment in Metro Detroit? Joe Borgstrom, director of the State of Michigan's EB-5 Regional Center says that MSHDA's "decades of housing and development experience," makes him feel very "optimistic about the role EB-5 capital can play in the revitalization of cities as well as potentially retaining existing foreign national students and new immigrants."

If cities like Dallas and Philadelphia are any indication, EB-5 investments can come together in a powerful way, especially if there is a desire for coordination between public and private actors. The Philly Welcome Fund, a privately run EB-5 regional center that operates out of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, has raised some $600 million of investment capital that has created over 19,000 jobs.

Several years ago, the City of Dallas and Civitas Capital Group came together to run the City of Dallas Regional Center, an EB-5 center that has helped shepherd nearly $300 million dollars in foreign investment in a range of real estate projects in and around Dallas that have generated over 8,000 jobs. Success in Dallas is one of the reasons why Civitas has been invited to next week's Detroit Chinese Business Association conference on EB-5 opportunities.

"We're excited about this event," said DCBA's President Jerry Xu. "It brings together the best of both the public and private sector to discuss how we can continue to bring top talent and foreign direct investment into the State of Michigan."

The conference will feature dynamic speakers, including Bing Goei, director of Michigan's Office for New Americans, Joe Borgstrom, director of Michigan's EB-5 Regional Center, and Texas State House Member, Rafael M. Anchia, who also serves as chairman of Civitas Capital Group's advisory board.

"Events like this are great mediums to exchange ideas and information about how we can continue to bring highly skilled, job-creating immigrants to the State of Michigan," Goei said. "This is a key pillar of our state's economic growth plan and we're working diligently to move the right policies forward to support this initiative along with creating a welcoming community and culture for immigrants."

Civitas Capital Group CEO Dan Healy added that he is looking forward to the event, the dialogue it will generate and the opportunity to deepen relationships with key stakeholders across the state.

"Our full-service asset management approach for global investors and unique expertise with public-private partnerships have created thousands of jobs at zero cost to American taxpayers. This model is a great fit for the comeback taking place in Michigan," Healy said. "We want to play an influential role in the state's efforts to marry high-quality investment opportunities with the appropriate risk-return profile of global institutions and individuals."

The EB-5 Immigration Investment Opportunities for Michigan Conference is also sponsored by Global Detroit and Aspire Lending and will take place from 3-6 p.m. April 23 at the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Seating is limited and tickets are $50 in advance or $75 at the door (if available), which includes dinner, beverages and a cash bar.  Please register online at www.dcba.com or call +1-248-918-0391.

Founded in 1995, the Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA) is a Michigan-based, non-profit organization. Its primary goal is to advocate, educate and form business relationships between American and Chinese companies. For more information about DCBA, please visit www.dcba.com
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