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Cleveland installation has Detroit inspiration

If you happen to find yourself in Cleveland between now and early January, be sure to head to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) for an art installation that features Detroit.

Titled, "Unit 1: 3583 Dubois," the work by Anders Ruhwald recreates the a Detroit building's identity through a series rooms and corridors. "Using charred wood, ash, molten glass, found objects, and black-glazed ceramics, Ruhwald meticulously composes an immersive, richly sensorial experience that is at once dramatic, nostalgic, and uncanny," says a description on MOCA's website.

Model D's sister publication in Cleveland, Fresh Water, also visited the exhibit and came away with this fascinating description: "Unit 1 does include two sensual components the other exhibits lack," writes Erin O'Brien. "Not only does it smell of charred wood evocative of campfires as well as arson, visitors are encouraged to do something that might otherwise get them asked to leave a museum: touch all the interior components of the mysterious space, some of which offer a primal element of life: warmth."

At the end of its run in Cleveland, Ruhwald will transport the installation back to Detroit for permanent relocation.

"Unit 1: 3583 Dubois" will be on display at the MOCA until January 8, 2017. 

City of Detroit to develop two large, vacant Midtown sites; will include low-income housing

Demand for residential housing in midtown and downtown Detroit has increased so much in recent years that the city is seeing new building construction for the first time in a while.

Now, the City of Detroit is getting in on the action with two large parcels it owns in midtown. But these won't be typical developments—both will be upwards of 60 units, 20 percent of which will be dedicated to low-income housing. The city is seeking proposals to develop the property.

The larger of the two will be at the site of the former Wigle recreation center at 901 Selden Street, now "the largest publicly-held, contiguous development site in midtown."

According to a press release, "Competitive bids will include a well-designed, walkable, environmentally sustainable, mixed-income neighborhood of between 150-200 units, with open space that connects seamlessly to the Midtown neighborhood."

The city is accepting proposals for the second, approximately one-acre site just south of East Forest Avenue past Woodward, which will have ground-floor retail and 60 mixed-income residential units.

"The City expects to select developers based on the strength of their proposals by mid-December," according to the press release. "[The City's Director of Housing & Revitalization] Arthur Jemison said there will be a community engagement process that will allow residents of these areas to have a voice in the selection of the developers."

5 tips for growing a startup with Rocket Fiber's Marc Hudson

In the last three years, Rocket Fiber co-founder Marc Hudson has expanded an admittedly precarious and bold pitch for a high-speed internet venture into a successful, rapidly expanding Detroit startup in the face of major, multimillion-dollar competitors.
 
Hudson first pitched the idea for Rocket Fiber in 2013 while working as a software engineer for Quicken Loans. He says he thought of the idea while reading an article on Google Fiber in Kansas City, and the subsequent influx of technology and entrepreneurship following the launch.
 
Hudson says a light bulb went on, thinking it could be a "game changer" for Detroit. He pitched the idea through the Cheese Factory, Quicken Loans' internal ideas website where employees are encouraged to pitch concepts big or small that could improve the company.
 
This idea was definitely big and quickly caught the eye of Dan Gilbert, who backed the project financially.
 
The gigabit internet connection, which launched commercially in January, is 1,000 times faster than the average residential connection. The service is currently being used in both Detroit homes and businesses.
 
"Since January, we've been lighting buildings all over the central business district," Hudson says.
 
So far, Rocket Fiber has put down over 20 miles of fiber optic cable in Detroit. Various residential buildings in downtown and Midtown such as the Willy's Overland Lofts, Cadillac Square Apartments, and the Forest Arms Apartments already have Rocket Fiber connections available.
 
Hudson says Rocket Fiber is actively working to expand farther into Midtown, Brush Park, and New Center. They recently connected their first commercial customer in Corktown, as well.
 
"In 2017, we'll be setting our sights even bigger than just the downtown area," Hudson says. "We've always said that we want to expand, we want to grow, and we think there's a lot of opportunity to continue to build this company and network in the city of Detroit." 
 
Although solid plans aren't in place yet, Hudson says he hopes to eventually bring Rocket Fiber into the suburbs.
 
Beyond physical expansion, the company plans to soon break into the cable market, providing HDTV cable channels and on-demand services.
 
"We're still trying to work the bugs out," Hudson says. "TV is actually pretty hard to do--it's actually harder to do than the internet." Still, he says announcements regarding the new service will be made in the "not too distant future."
 
Hudson will be the keynote speaker at Southeast Michigan Startup's High Growth Happy Hour starting at 6:00 p.m. at Cafe Con Leche in Detroit. There will be time for networking and drinks, a casual chat and Q&A. The event is free, but advance tickets are required. Hudson will highlight Rocket Fiber's expansions and how the company has scaled an innovative tech startup across the city. To encourage this sort of growth from other ventures, Hudson has shared five of his tips for growing an innovative startup in the city.
 
Have partners
"I've been involved in a bunch of different startups, pretty much since I was in college, high school even," Hudson says. "One of the big difference makers for me in this startup environment was having partners. I tried to do a lot of it alone in the past, and it doesn't matter how well-rounded you are, there's always going to be some skill set that you just don't have."
 
Don't just have partners—have good partners
"For me, having Edi and Randy as my partners has been a huge part of the success of the Rocket Fiber story," Hudson says of Edi Demaj and Randy Foster. "They were the ones that we showing up, and doing things, and following through, and not just saying they were interested but showing they were interested. … So, to me, it's one thing if someone shows interest but if they actually jump in and roll their sleeves up and start building with you, that's a pretty good indicator that they want to be around for a while."
 
Trust the partners you put in place as you grow
"As a founder of a company, you have a vision, you have a dream, you have an idea and you want to do everything," Hudson says. "As you grow, you really have to trust in the people you put in place to pick things up for you because you can't be everywhere at all times. You have to have people you can trust to take and run with things. And you as a founder, a manager of those people, you need to be able to let go sometimes and let them go and build things. It might not be the exact same way that you would have done it, but that's OK."
 
Persevere
"Perseverance is one [tip] that is talked about a lot but is still understated," Hudson says. "There are so many times when this project, this idea, could have died along the way for different reasons. It was all about just rolling up our sleeves and just understanding, in our case, that this project was so important for the city of Detroit and for our organization that we weren't going to let the normal things that get in the way slow us down."
 
Ignore the noise
"We have a saying within our organization which is, 'Ignore the noise.' I think there's a lot of noise out there when you're building a business. It's other people trying to do something similar, it's your competitors dropping press releases, it's the naysayers telling you it can't be done. At the end of the day, it's really about putting the blinders on, focusing straight ahead on you, on your business, your dream, your vision, and shutting everything else out."
 
Lexi Trimpe is a freelance writer living and working in Detroit. You can find her on Twitter @LexiTrimpe or on Instagram @thewestvillageidiot.

Conference on preserving Detroit's musical legacy enters third year

Detroit has one of the greatest musical heritages of any city in the world. And a local conference is intent on preserving it.

Hosted by the Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) and presented by Lawrence Technological University, the 3rd Annual Music Conference will convene people integral to music preservation for the purpose of discussing how to harness the city's musical legacy.

The conference, which takes place on October 15, will have panels, a speech from Soul music legend Melvin Davis, as well as a remembrance of James T. Jenkins, founder of the Graystone International Jazz Museum and Hall of Fame, who would have turned 100 this year. 

The conference will be held at the Detroit Center for Design & Technology (DCDT).

"The DCDT prides itself on aligning with local initiatives, programs and organizations who look to foster and expand the role that art and design play among the local community, growing industry and educational pedagogy," says Karl Daubmann, DCDT interim executive director. "With the DSC's history of working towards increased awareness of Detroit’s musical heritage, along with their efforts in advocacy, preservation and education in the local community, the DCDT is proud to support our neighborhood partner in their endeavors to reinvigorate Detroit's ever present musical culture."

The DSC's 3rd Annual Music Conference takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 15 at the Detroit Center for Design & Technology. For more information on the conference schedule or to RSVP, click here.

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

International bike conference to take place in Detroit

With so much emphasis placed on non-motorized transit in Detroit, it's no surprise that a prominent bike conference would come to the city.

Bike!Bike!, an international conference for bike enthusiasts, will be hosted by The Hub of Detroit and held at various locations from September 28 to October 2, according to a Mode Shift article. Expected attendance is around 300 from 50 community bike projects around the world.

"The four-day event will offer a variety of workshops, rides and evening events for out-of-town visitors and local folks interested in learning more about the community bike scene," writes David Sands.

"Bike!Bike! got its start in New Orleans in 2004 and takes place in a different city every year. Detroit narrowly won over Winnipeg, Canada to host this year's  event during a vote that was taken at last year's gathering in Guadalajara Mexico ... Bike!Bike! participants were curious to learn more about what's happening bike-wise in a place that's become so famous for its automotive history."

If you're interested in attending or volunteering, contact one of the organizers on the The Hub's event page.

Michigan Science Center forum to pose the question, "Should we eradicate the mosquito?"

If you could eradicate the mosquito from the face of the earth, would you?

That's the essential question being asked at a forum taking place at the Michigan Science Center on September 22 titled, "Should We Engineer the Mosquito?"

The forum will be the first a series on on synthetic biology, a field that may soon give humanity the power to alter the genetic code through a technology in development called CRISPR. Other future forums will include topics like engineering "algae that can synthesize fuel or bacteria that can eat plastics."

To register for the forum, go here.

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."
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